Towns like Erbil and Dahuk, in the Kurdish north of the country, were abandoned save for the elderly who roamed the streets in search of food. Phot. Norbert Schiller
This April marks the 30th anniversary of the Iraqi civil war which broke out following the liberation of Kuwait by allied coalition forces on 28 February 1991.
Dozens of Iraqi government soldiers lie dead near the border with Iran. The soldiers were captured, blindfolded and executed by Iranian- backed Shi’te rebels (L). The Iraqi army uncovers a shallow grave full of hundreds of dead Iraqi government soldiers who were captured and executed by Kurdish separatists above the northern Iraqi town of Sulimaniya. Phot. Norbert Schiller
After the war in Iraq had ended and Kuwait liberated I was one of the first journalist to return to Iraq and I found a country embroiled in a civil war. In the south, the Iraqi armed forces were fighting against Shi’ite Moslem insurgents, and in the north, they were at war with Kurdish separatist. The leadership was eager to show the outside world that they were in control of the entire country. Nearly every day, the ministry of information would take the international press on government-sponsored trips to either of the two hotspots to show that the fighting only amounted to minor skirmishes. In all the towns and cities that we visited, Iraqi soldiers looked to be in control, but it was obvious that significant fighting had taken place. The centers of Karbala and Najaf, the two holy Shi’te Moslem shrines, had been so shot up that they resembled Swiss cheese. In the Kurdish north, terrified refugees wandered the countryside, living in make-shift camps.
A public square in the center of Karbala, leading to the Imam Abbas mosque, bares scars of heavy fighting. Internally displaced Kurdish refugees, mostly women and children, are rounded up by Iraqi military in northern Iraq and taken to camps. Phot. Norbert Schiller
In order to deceive the visiting press, Iraqi soldiers would hand out food, claiming that these civilians were fleeing internecine fighting within the Kurdish ranks. Above the town of Sulaymaniyah, we were taken to a shallow grave that was being unearthed. Inside lay hundreds of dead Iraqi soldiers, most of whom had been shot at close range after being captured by Kurdish separatists. Towns like Erbil and Dahuk were all but abandoned, save for the women, children, and the elderly who roamed the streets in search of food. During my entire time in the north, there was never any sight of young men. It seemed all the men aged 16 to 40 had vanished. The following is a link to a story I wrote about my 10-month long journey covering the 1990-91 Gulf War: Gulf War Snapshots 1990 – 1991