August 1, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1910

Jordanian Reformist Shaker Al-Nabulsi on the "Kurdish Holocaust" and the Crisis of Conscience

August 1, 2008
Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 1910

The prominent Jordanian-born reformist Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi is known as a forceful advocate for secular democracy and human and civil rights in the Middle East. Dr. Nabulsi, who now resides in the U.S., has published writings on the issues of civil society, contemporary politics and society, the media, and Islam, and has been a harsh critic of Islamist extremism.

In an essay posted April 24, 2007 on the Arab reform website, Dr. Al-Nabulsi marked the 20th anniversary of the attacks launched by Saddam Hussein against Iraq's Kurds – attacks that Saddam and his associates labeled the "Anfal" ("Spoils") campaign. His essay is a meditation on the lessons and meaning to be drawn from the Saddam's "Kurdish Holocaust," and on the duty to stand with the victims of dictatorship and tyranny. He compares Saddam and Hitler, and observes that in the case of both tyrants, the world's conscience awakened belatedly (for the original Arabic version of this essay on, visit

The following is the translation of the essay:

"Dictatorships Leave Behind Only Tragedies, Disasters, Destruction and Ruins"

"1. It is the 20th anniversary of the infamous Anfal campaigns led by the tyrant Saddam. Much has been said in the past 20 years about these campaigns – eight campaigns in all – which began in the spring of 1988 and continued until the end of 1989. That is, the regime was not satisfied with one or two campaigns, or a month or two of attacks on the peaceful and innocent, but sent wave after wave of death and destruction, month after month, campaign after campaign.

"2. We do not want to go into the history or the details of these campaigns, because writers and intellectuals of different tendencies and inclinations – including a small handful of honorable Arab writers – have written about them at length. What is important about this holocaust, and the lesson that must draw from it and always remember, is the certainty that dictatorships leave behind only tragedies, disasters, destruction and ruins. And further, it is the duty of all of mankind – not only of those directly afflicted by dictatorship and who tasted its tyranny and oppression – to fight dictatorship, and to stand firmly against it for the benefit of all of mankind."

The World's Silence Emboldened Both Hitler and Saddam

"3. Had it not been for the silence of the European conscience, and the world's conscience, at the Nazi crimes inside Germany and the preparation for the Jewish holocaust, Hitler would not have risked invading Europe and [carrying out] the destruction, killing and imprisonment of millions...

"Likewise, had it not been for the silence of the Arab conscience, and the world's conscience, at the crimes of the later Nazi, Saddam Hussein, and the crimes he committed in Iraq before the Anfal campaigns – the arrests, the killing of the elite of society, and expulsion of others of the elites from Iraq – he would not have risked carrying out the Anfal campaigns or the holocaust against our Kurdish people, and the repetition of what Hitler did.

"4. Hitler regarded the aggression and tyranny that he carried out after the holocaust of the Jews as proper, and he devastated Europe and parts of Africa, and if the conscience of the world had not been awakened, and America had not intervened in World War II and stopped the Nazi advance, Hitler might have overrun the whole world, with the exception of North America."

"Saddam Hussein Read This History, But He Did Not Understand It – Or Understand It Well"

"Saddam Hussein read this history, but he did not understand it, or understand it well. And his example in this is the same as that of many Arab leaders who did not benefit from the study of history. Among them was Mu'awiya bin Abi Sufyan [the caliph who succeeded Ali, and the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty], who used to read a history book every night and put it under his pillow, but in the morning, did the opposite of what he had read. Saddam Hussein did likewise.

"5. The silence of the Arab conscience, and then of the world's conscience, at the crimes of the Anfal campaigns in 1988-1989 emboldened Saddam Hussein to press on with his criminality [and] to advance with his invasion of Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia, hoping to overrun the whole Arab Gulf after that, swallowing it up like a tasty morsel.

"Kuwait was fortunate in that it was an essential source of petroleum in the world, and the conscience of the world was awakened in defense of its interests in Kuwait, and America took over the leadership of the allies – as it did in World War II – in defense of its interests in preserving the security of energy sources in the Gulf, and expelled Saddam from Kuwait and liberated it. And if Iraqi Kurdistan – aside from Kirkuk – had been a producer of petroleum like Kuwait, would it have been more fortunate in its security and in awakening the Arab and international conscience – and especially of America?"

"What Is Important Is Not to Awaken the Conscience of the World.... [But] to be Vigilant"

"6. Twenty years after the "Kurdish holocaust," America was able to retaliate against Saddam and against those who carried out these heinous crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan. But that was after these crimes were committed and hundreds of thousands of innocent victims died...

"What is important is not to awaken the conscience of the world – what is most important is to be vigilant, and to deter the criminals before they commit their crimes."

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