But today survivors and family member of the victims of Saddam Hussein’s military campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s, which led to the death of as many as 150,000 people and the destruction of nearly 4,000 villages, are demanding compensation from Iraq’s central government.
The President of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, recently called for Baghdad to pay US $8 billion in reparations for the crimes committed by Saddam.
The call comes on the back of a survey conducted by the Ministry of Martyrdom and Anfal Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) assessing the rights and needs of survivors and relatives of victims of the military campaign.
In an interview with Niqash, the Minister of Martyrdom and Anfal Affairs, Chnar Sa'd Abdullah, said that compensation is a legal issue and that the compensation appeal has been divided into four parts: settlement, education, agricultural improvement and general improvement.
"We expect Prime Minister al-Maliki to approve the project and the Iraqi government to pay compensation over five to ten years as al-Maliki has on many occasions affirmed that he will help the families of Anfal victims," she said.
Abdullah also stated that the ministry has asked Baghdad to construct 80 villages for the survivors and families of Anfal victims, many of whom lost all they possessed during the assault.
In 2007, the Iraqi High Crimes Tribunal recognized the Anfal campaign as genocide against the Kurdish people.
For those that lived through the Anfal campaign, compensation would represent a small measure of justice.
"The Iraqi government must compensate us, our villages were destroyed and we lost our farm lands," Omer Ali, a survivor of the campaign told Niqash. Ali who lost his home now lives in the Rizgari Camp for the families of Anfal victims in Suleimaniya province.
Yet even as the KRG has called for financial compensation, some Arab parliamentarians have rejected the claim saying that the current Iraqi government should not be held responsible for the damage inflicted by Saddam. Two MPs have compared the Anfal compensation campaign to that of Kuwait, which still demands financial reparations for Saddam’s invasion of the country in 1990.
But, Abdullah, the KRG minister says that justice must be done.
“It is a matter of rights. The Iraqi government should compensate the families; and we are not dealing with a poor government, the Iraqi government is a rich government," she said.
In addition to the matter of compensation, the KRG is also facing growing calls to bring Kurdish collaborators with Saddam to justice. Known throughout the region as ‘Jashes’, these people worked with the Iraqi army in the Saddam era, but many have yet to be brought before authorities.
"I would prefer to be blind than to see these Jashes walking among us every day," said Ali, the Anfar survivor. "Every day is an Anfal for us seeing the killers of our families."
Likewise, Abdullah has demanded that collaborators be brought to justice and that families of victims be allowed to file law suits against them.
For many in the region, however, this is a very sensitive subject. While some have fled the region, others accused of collaboration continue to live in Kurdistan and are well integrated into society through family and tribal ties, making attempts to expose them a potentially painful affair.
Even as Anfal survivors increase their calls for justice, many of them face a difficult future, struggling with the trauma of the past. Housing problems, lack of job opportunities and marriage problems all afflict Anfal families.
At the same time the Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs is currently threatened with closure as the KRG seeks to reduce the number of government ministries by half. Many families depend on the work of the ministry - today it looks after half a million people and pays monthly salaries to more than 72,000 families – and its loss would be a devastating blow.
"I am concerned,” said Abdullah. “I hope that the ministry remains for another 20 years because it’s very important for Anfal families."