This article examines the Iraqi regime’s policy, under Saddam’s rule, towards the Iraqis of Iranian origin. It shows the view the regime holds towards them, and outlines the extent of the war it did wage against them. An attempt to explain the driving force for the campaign is also provided.
“They were uprooted from the Iraqi soil, so that they won’t dishonour the Iraqi soil, the Iraqi air, and won’t dishonour the Iraqi blood when their blood mixes with the Iraqi blood through marriage.
Thus, the revolution uprooted them from the roots to end them… So that the pure Iraqi nationalist, the honourable, remain with his forehead high forever…” 1
Saddam Hussain 1981
In the early seventies, and throughout the eighties about 200,000 people were stripped of their Iraqi nationality. Their properties, businesses and capitals were confiscated and they were forcibly expelled to Iran. This was because they were Tabbayyah Iranieah (of Iranian origin).
The deportation of Tabbayyah is the least studied event in the modern Iraqi history probably, because it occurred in a period when Saddam’s regime was regarded as friendly to the West, add to this is that those people were regarded as Iranian Shia, at a time when Islamic revolution was at its height with all it’s anti-western slogans. Thus, the fate those people faced at the hands of Saddam received very little sympathy, if any at all.
Not only that, but the majority of writers 2 accepted Saddam’s claim that they were Iranians, and thus they constituted a potential threat to the stability of the regime when it went to war with Iran, therefore the deportation of those people may be understandable.
This study is part of a bigger attempt to make a psychological profile of president Saddam. Here we look at one aspect of his personality, his ruthlessness, by presenting the fate of a sample of his victims, the Tabbayyah.
The Iraqi nationality:
Recording people descent in Iraq was the result of the historical events at that time. After the end of the first war the treaty of Lausanne, dated 24 of July 1923, between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies, decided on the fate of the people who lived in the vast area previously controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
Clause 30 of that treaty stated ” Citizens ordinarily residents in a region separated from Turkey, according to this treaty, will be considered citizens of the state to which the region will be transferred to, in accordance with the new state local regulation”3.
The first Iraqi nationality law was act number 42 of 1924. According to paragraph 3 of the above act “Ottoman subjects habitually resident in the territory of Iraq on August 6th, 1924, shall be deemed to have acquired on that date the Iraqi nationality to the exclusion of Ottoman nationality in accordance with Article 30 of the Lausanne Peace Treaty “3. In then the new Iraqi nationality certificate, a section recorded the origin of it’s holder “Tabbayyah”. The origin of citizens of the new formed state, Iraq, accordingly was recorded as Othmani. (Of Ottoman origin).
The above law did not take into consideration the group of people who lived in Iraq who held the Persian nationality, the other nationality option some of the population could hold. Some were Persian but others were Arabs who chose to hold the Persian nationality as a mean to evade the ottoman military service.
The descendants of that group (in thousands) could apply for the Iraqi nationality based on law of 1933 if they were born in Iraq, and had a father born in Iraq3. The origin section of their citizenship certificate would be recorded as Tabbayyah Iranieah.
The second nationality act, enacted by the first Baath regime, replaced the 1924 act. According to that law, numbered 43 of 1963, ” the minister of interior can grant the Iraqi nationality to the individual who was born in Iraq and lived in it until maturity, if he is the son of foreign father who himself was born and was resident in Iraq when his son was born”3. But, the act was limited by the period of enforcement of two years, as stated in paragraph 3 of act 206 of 1964. Those who did not apply during this period were unable to gain the Iraqi nationality. Those who gained the Iraqi nationality certificate based on that decree had their origin still be recorded as Tabbayyah Iranieah.
Thus, by the time Saddam came to power an unknown, but still a large population in Iraq were either unable to apply for the Iraqi nationality or were holders of the Iraqi nationality, but had their citizenship certificate read as Tabbayyah Iranieah .
What apparently look like an attempt to solve the problem of statelessness in Iraq, The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) issued decree no. 180 of 3/2/1980 4 that stated:
“The minister of interior can grant the Iraqi nationality to an adult foreigner according to the following conditions:
a-resided in Iraq before 14/7/1958 revolution, and is still residing before the end of the resolution of this decree.
b-one of his relatives, in the first or second degree, holds the Iraqi nationality.
c- his presence should not be detrimental to the peace and security of the republic of Iraq.”
The next two important paragraphs in that decree were, first the period of its effectiveness was limited to six months from the time it was published in the official gazette, the second was “any foreigner resided in the country for more than ten years before the issuing of this decree should, during the period of the effect of this decree, declare his intention to gain the Iraqi nationality or leave the country”. This meant that such people had to apply for the citizenship not only for the sake of gaining it but, also to escape the risk of being expelled.
The question is why the six months period? If the intention was to solve the problem of statelessness, why limit the effectiveness of the decree to six months? In fact, it was less than six months, as for the people of Tabbayyah Iranieah it was less than two months before they were excluded from any benefit, if present, in RCC decree no.180. As the RCC issued decree no. 518 dated 10/4/19805 which stated: “the foreigner, of Iranian descent, is to be excluded from the right to apply for the Iraqi nationality.”
One explanation for issuing decree no.180 was not the intention to grant the Iraqi citizenship for those who did not hold it, but the ulterior motive of the security authorities was to estimate the number of people who lacked the nationality and who would fall into the category of Tabbayyah Iranieah, prior to the deportation step which took effect two months after the issuing of RCC decision no 180.
Four days after issuing RCC 180, The RCC issued decree no. 200 of 7/2/19806 in which, all those who were unable to meet all the requirement present in RCC 180 would fall into the category of being illegal aliens, as the decree stipulated that: “Its not permitted for the foreigner, who resided in Iraq before the issuance of this decree or is currently residing, to stay for a period of more than five years.” This decree could provide a legal basis for the campaign of deportation which started in April of the same year.
The process for applying for the nationality certificate was also tedious, especially for people who lived in Iraq’s remote and distant areas in which a significant percentage of them did not hold the nationality certificate. Application for the nationality certificate required the following proof: that the applicant, his father and grandfather were born in Iraq, his father and grandfather were living in Iraq during 1921-1926 period and were both of Othamni descent. The whole intention of the state legislature was to exclude a significant proportion of people from the society.
While it was hard for the thousands of people who were born and lived in Iraq for generations to gain the Iraqi nationality, for Arabs and even foreign nationals it was much easier to gain it.
As RCC decree no 5 of 11/1/1975 stated “the Minster of interior have the right to grant the Iraqi nationality for any adult Arab who applies for it excluding Palestinians”. Its one example, of several, in which Saddam gave privileges to the Arabs over the rest of the people in Iraq. The likely motive is pure propaganda, to enhance his status in the rest of Arab countries. For Arab citizens he ordered his employees to expedite the process of granting citizenship to be completed in one week, he also issued RCC 1096 of 14/9/1985 which provides incentive for Arab citizens to apply for the Iraqi citizenship as it granted them” free real estate in any governorate except Baghdad after three years of gaining the citizenship” not only that, but they can, unlike the rest of Iraqis, “transfer money outside Iraq, and can travel once a year outside Iraq”.
While one may argue that Iraqis are Arabs and hence legislating laws to allow other Arabs to gain the Iraqi nationality and to exclude non Arabs, Tabbayyah, from gaining it is understandable, especially since the slogan of the Arab Baath Socialist Party is a pan Arabic one. But, Arabic descent is not a factor in granting the Iraqi nationality in fact paragraph 5 of RCC decree 180 of 3/2/19803 mentioned earlier made it compulsory, for all foreign women married to Iraqis and resident in the country for five years, to apply for the Iraqi nationality within six months of its issuance, otherwise they will face deportation. Thus, an American woman living in the country for only five years had to acquire the Iraqi nationality; otherwise she would face deportation while the people who resided in the country for generations and who possessed the nationality lost it and were deported. Others were, of course, not allowed to gain the nationality.
For the Tabbayyah women they were first excluded from the naturalization, as set forth in paragraph 5 of RCC decree 180, by RCC decree no.518 of 10/4/1980, which excluded those of Iranian descent, form the right to apply to the Iraqi nationality as mentioned previously. This was modified two months later by RCC decree no. 958 of 15/6/19807 which gave the Tabbayyah women the chance to apply for the Iraqi nationality as set forth in RCC decree 180, provided the marriage had occurred prior to 10/4/1980.
The six months period that paragraph 5 of RCC no. 180 gave to foreign women to apply for the Iraqi nationality was later extended to a further six months by RCC decree no. 485 of 21/4/1981 with the exclusion of Tabbayyah women.
As we shall see later the RCC issued decree no. 474 on 10/4/19818 that encouraged the Iraqi husbands of the Tabbayyah women to divorce them by offering money as preliminary step to deport them.
It would be naïve to believe that people who possessed the Iraqi nationality were immune from losing it, on the contrary the regime used the issuing of citizenship document as a means of pressure on political opponents, as law 35 of 1977 that reformed “the legal system took the care to exclude from citizenship all person who take a political, economical or intellectual attitude hostile to the revolution and its programmes” 9. Thus a citizen of Iraq is a person whose believes, not only behaviour, was the one that was acceptable to the regime.
The Iraqi citizenship, thus was withdrawn from political opponents, like some members of the communist party, as stated in general security directorate no.5410 of 24//1/1984 which ordered “the withdrawal of the Iraqi citizenship from four members of the Iraqi communist party who escaped to Iran and resided in Sweden ”10. Members of the Dawa party were deported and thus treated like Tabbayyah, as stated in RCC Directive no1808/23/22 of the Iraqi secretary bureau of 11/3/1980 “ it was decided to deport the Iranians, and even the holders of the Iraqi citizenship, in case they were involved in activities against the revolution and the party, or if they were members of the Dawa party and were sentenced by the revolutionary court”11.
Then the RCC issued decree no 363 of 27/4/1986, which legalized the withdrawal of citizenship for political reasons as the decree stated “To abrogate the Iraqi nationality from any Iraqi if it was proved that he is disloyal to the country and to the people”.12
This decree is one of many decrees in which the wording is so vague as the legal definition of disloyalty to the people and to the nation is not clear and left open to interpretation..
As every thing became later in Iraq, with lack of the rule of law, citizenship could be withdrawn for trivial reasons not only political or intellectual attitude, as it is clearly stated in the Northern Bureau Command of the Baath party directive 435 of 8/9/87 12:
“ Any person who fails to participate in the 1987 census without a valid excuse shall lose their Iraqi citizenship”.
Not only that but “they will be regarded as army deserters and as such shall be subject to the terms of RCC decree no.677 of August 26/1987” this meant that they would face the death penalty by an army squad.
This directive will be discussed later in my work on the Anfal operations but the point I want to make here is, trivial reasons could lead to loss of citizenship.
Abrogating the nationality was not limited to the individual whose behaviour doesn’t match what the state accept, his family lost theirs too as stated in the orders issued by saddam himself through the directive of the presidency office to the Ministry of Interior no. 16/7415 on 7/6/1983 13:
“1-The families of the criminals that hold the Iraqi nationality of non-othmani descent shall lose their nationality according to RCC decision 666 on 7/5/1980.
2- regarding the families of the criminals that hold the Iraqi nationality of othmani descent, please provide us with a list of their names, so that we can write to the concerning authorities to issue a decree from the honourable RCC to strip them from their Iraqi nationality.
3- A family means the wife and the children only..”
The same decree also points to the consequence of the loss of citizenship; deportation.
Another directive issued in the mid eighties also stripped the families of “saboteurs” who chose to relocate with their sons in what was regarded as prohibited areas in the north of Iraq from their Iraqi citizenship. This was stated in minutes of meeting directives of the Arab bath party Erbil regional branch reference no. 60/2648 dated 12/9/1987 14:
“ The meeting addressed the following issues:
To strip the families who joined the saboteurs with all their family members of their Iraqi citizenship and to confiscate their movable and immovable property”
As we saw from above abrogation of the Iraqi nationality was easy, it was not limited to persons of Iranian descent but included political opponents, their families and even those who failed to abide by trivial state regulation like participation in a census or physical presence in certain areas.
The consequences of being Tabbayyah
If the father of a person was a Tabbayyah Iranieah the consequences could be apart from statelessness, deportation, confiscation of property, imprisonment for young men, and possible disappearance.
Deportation was in the form of two waves:
The first wave of deportation begun in the early 70s the group targeted were faili Kurds, who unlike the majority of Kurds are Shia Muslims, who were living in Baghdad. The targeted neighbourhood in Baghdad were: Qanbar Ali, Al-Qishla, and Bab Al-shaikh, Gahwat Shaker, Al-khulani, Aqd Al-Akrad 15. This appeared as a response to the seizure by Iran of the three Arab islands in the straits of Hurmuz.
Then the campaign slowed down to trickle, and might even stop altogether. The improvement in political relationships with the shah of Iran as a result of signing the Algiers Accord might played a role in stopping the campaign.
The number of people deported was estimated to be around 20-30,000 people.
After the Iranian revolution the relationship with Iran deteriorated again. What appeared to trigger the second wave of deportation was the assassination attempt on the Deputy Prime Minister Tarek Aziz in AL-Mustansyriah University on April 1980. Few people were killed and some were injured. The assassin (Sameer Mir Ghulam) ,who was arrested, was said to be Tabbayyah.
As I heard it from one high ranking Baathi, in a meeting headed by Saddam, he asked for the opinion of the attendee regarding the assassination incident, the first one to speak was a Sunni women who believed that the incident should not be blown out of proportion, and that only those responsible should be prosecuted. But she was alone, in fact as the storyteller told it, it appeared that the decision was already made to deliver the harshest treatment to the whole community of Tabbayyah and not only to the individual person responsible for the assassination attempt.
Publicly Saddam delivered the following speech 16:
“Yesterday, precious drops of blood were shed by the young men and women of Mustansiriyah- the cause was a contemptible lackey called Sameer Mir Ghulam. He and his masters thought they could achieve something great. But we say to them, and to all those foreign imperialist forces who think they can overcome this revolution let them try. The Iraqi people are now a large and powerful mountain that they cannot shake with all their bombs. By God, the innocent blood that was shed at Mustansiriyah will not go un-avenged.”
The revenge was RCC decree no. 666 of 7/5/1980 17r which outlined Tabbayyah fate:
“1-Any Iraqi of foreign origin shall lose his Iraqi nationality if he is disloyal to the country, to the people, and to the higher national and social goals of the revolution.
2-The minister of interior should order the expulsion of any individual who lost his Iraqi nationality as outlined in paragraph 1 of this decree.”
As we can see the first paragraph of the above decree is not clear on what could be considered as “disloyalty to the higher national and social goals of the revolution” and how such disloyalty could be assessed. Also it’s not clear which governmental body would determine what disloyalty meant.
While this decree conditions disloyalty on the part of the accused before deportation, the realty was that those people were deported based on what their citizenship papers read, Tabbayyah Iranieah or not.
Although the above decree did not specify The Tabbayyah Iranieah as the targeted group, we could find who was targeted by this decree elsewhere.
Fadel Al-barrak then the head of the security service, in a book he wrote in the mid eighties, defined a Tabbayyah Iranieah as a person who was linked ” historically, psychologically, socially, politically and economically with the Iranian homeland”18 . In other part of his book he wrote “The Tabbayyah community played a role in antagonizing the national development and aspiration of the Arab nation, and tried to stop the national government from reaching power in Iraq.”19 Thus it’s the Iraqi of Iranian descent that was targeted by decree no. 666 as their community was “antagonizing the national development and aspiration of the Arab nation”. Saddam’s speech that “those people were uprooted to prevent their blood from mixing with the Iraqi blood” 1 meant that personal believes were irrelevant it was that person’s blood, his genealogy that was relevant and unwanted.
By defining who was a Tabbayyah through descent rather than through personal believes, Saddam succeeded in establishing an inescapable status, one’s biological ancestors could not be changed.
Person’s politics revealed that person’s biological makeup. By implications a non -Iraqi was inherently subversive to the state and because politics was determined by biology, persuasion was useless against political opponent the opponent had to be eliminated from the society.
The first group to be deported were a group of merchants. They were invited to meet a government official; however they were rounded up taken into trucks and thrown into the border, between Iraq and Iran, and forced to walk to Iran. Those who attempted to return back were shot, as directed by the minister of interior directive no 3884 dated 10/4/1980 20 which ordered the security forces to fire on those attempting to return back to Iraq.
The next targeted group were, probably those who first came forward and applied for the citizenship based on what RCC 180 promised them, as discussed previously. The task for finding the rest of the Tabbayyah Iranieah community was not an easy one. One option was to look in the files of the Department of citizenship in the ministry of interior, which was responsible for issuing the citizenship certificate, but to look for the files of every family back to the early 30s, when the whole process was established and in the absence of a computer system, was not an easy task.
An easier option to them was to ask every governmental employee to present his certificate of citizenship to his superior. Every school child was asked to present, to their teachers, their father’s certificate of citizenship. Every member of Alb’ath party, Amn (internal security), army, and mukkabarat (intelligence), despite being an adult, was required to present both their mother’s and father’s certificates. Not only that, but they were asked to fill a very detailed questionnaire about their family tree. They had to report to which tribe they belonged, to which division of the tribe and who was the head of the tribe. Many found that expectation to be formidable. A Tabbayyah to Saddam was always a Tabbayyah, for when it was discovered that a person was a Tabbayyah, they would open that person’s file in the directorate of citizenship and they would look for the files of the whole family members. Brothers, sisters, children, cousins all would be regarded as Tabbayyah, and at risk of being deported, if not being deported already.
A family was regarded as a Tabbayyah if the father was Tabbayyah, regardless of the state of the mother, and this would make all of his children Tabbayyah.
If one brother was Tabbayyah Othmanyah and the other Tabbayyah Iranieah, the former would be regarded as Tabbayyah Iranieah. He with all his children would be Tabbayyah, and thus would risk deportation. This is clearly stated in the minister of interior directive no 3884 dated 10/4/198020 “ If there is a family, that some members of which obtained the (Iraqi) citizenship and the rest did not, the principal of “uniting the family outside the border” should apply”.
People in whom it was found that their mother, not their father was Tabbayyah and were members of the army or Amn, Mukkabarat, or Al’baath party despite being still Iraqis were forced to leave their positions. In the eyes of the Saddam, they were not trusted.
Then, probably to close any holes that might exist, Baath party members began to knock on the doors of nearly every house in Iraq, requesting from the head of the family to present his citizenship certificate.
The scenario of deportation was the same, security officers would knock on the door of the Tabbayyah family, tell them to get into a truck which would take them to Amn headquarters for a night or so and then they would be taken to the borders. They were not allowed to take anything at all with them, except the clothes they wear.
The intensity of the deportation campaign varied during the war, probably depending on Saddam’s mood and on what was happening in the battlefield. Nevertheless it went on well during the war and even after the war with Iran ended. The Presidency office directive no c/7/4248 of 5/2/1986 which was during the war stated “it has been decided, to continue the deportation outside the country of Tabbayyah who were not included in the previous deportation measures, with the abrogation of their Iraqi citizenship if it’s proved that they:
1-Were member of a hostile party.
2-Formed a racist aggregation.
3-If they spread rumors detrimental to the party and the revolution.”21
As we can see the above directive like RCC 666 introduced considerable opportunity for arbitrariness at the hands of those who carried it, especially its third paragraph.
After the end of the war with Iran the campaign of deportation continued as stated in the Presidency directive no. c/40268 of 9/11/1988 ” The leader president, may god protect him, has ordered to continue to deport the one’s whose citizenship is not proven. Coordinate with the military authorities for adequate forces and available avenues, there is no room for hesitation or stopping, any one hesitates to perform his duty will be held accountable “. This gives an idea on how long and intensive the war against Tabbayyah was.
Despite this, not all the Tabbayyahs ,were included in the deportation though, those exempted included according to RCC security command council meeting 31 of 25/12/1981:
“1-A Baath party at the member level or above, their wives and their first degree relatives.
2-Wives, and first and second degree relatives of martyrs in Qaddisyyahat Saddam.
3-Holders of masters or PH.D degrees in science with their wives and their first degree relatives.
4-The Iranian women who hold the Iraqi citizenship and married to an Iraqi of Othmani descent.
5- The Iranian who holds the Iraqi citizenship who was decorated with Rafideen medal or medal of valor, and their wives and his first degree relatives.
6-The Iranian who holds the Iraqi citizenship who provided a great service in the security field.
7- The Arabs of ArabStan.
8-The Iranian Assyrian and Armenian.
9-The Iranian Kurds in the autonomous region and to look in their situation after the end of the war with the Persian enemy.
10 –The deported Iranian who were exempted from the deportation and retuned by special a decision by the higher authorities.” 22
We can see that the law was legislated in a way to eliminate certain individuals from the society. The targeted group for deportation was not all the individuals of Iranian descent, but selected shia of Iranian descent, as the above directive excluded the Iranian Assyrian, the Armenian and Kurds. Of the targeted group those who were deemed useful to the society, like PhD holders, were excluded whereas those who were regarded as expandable were deported.
Two persons two my knowledge were able to prevent deportation of families, the first, was most obviously Saddam himself, and the second was his-half brother Barazan Al-Takritiy, head of the Mukkabart at that time, this is hinted to in the above directive as “Iranian exempted from the deportation by a special decree from the higher authorities” 22.
People at that time became suddenly aware of the possibility of losing all what they possessed and built, not on the basis of what they did, nor on the way they behaved but because of having a grand father or a great- great grand father who was a Tabbayyah Iranieah. One way to get out from such dilemma, was to provide proof that their ancestors were Arabs. One family was able to provide the proof that their ancestor originated from Saudi Arabia and to present such proof to Saddam who recognised the “true Arab” origin of that family and gave them their citizenship back. This was shown on television, when Saddam himself met the family members and restored their nationality back to them 23.
Others attempted to change their origin on the papers from “of Iranian descent” to “Othmani descent”. Some were caught by the authorities as is the case mentioned in ministry of interior directive no. 10048 of 22/7/1984 which state that” according to what you discussed and since the following subjects obtained the Iraqi wittiness of citizenship because they were Tabbayyah othmanyah when in fact they were of Tabbayyah Iranieah. We decided to withdraw their Iraqi citizenship certificate “24.
Some Tabbayyah were able to flee the country before they were rounded up by the authorities. Mistakes in the campaign of deportation did occur in which Iraqis were deported as stated in Ministry of interior telegram no.34233 of 19/4/1980 “since Hayat Hashim Hassan is a holder of Iraqi citizenship was deported with her children by mistake, please inform all control borders to allow her to return with her children”.
B-Disruption of family ties:
“They were uprooted from the Iraqi soil so that they won’t dishonour the Iraqi soil, the Iraqi air, and won’t dishonour the Iraqi blood when their blood mixes with Iraqi blood through marriage.
Thus the revolution uprooted them from the roots to end them. So that the pure Iraqi nationalist the honourable remain with his forehead high forever…”1.
To prevent Tabbayyah blood from mixing with the “Iraqi” blood, deportation was not enough, existing families had to be separated.
If the wife was an Iraqi and her husband was a Tabbayyah Iranieah, she would be offered the choice of being deported with her husband or to stay in the country. The regime encouraged women to ask for divorce and to stay in the country by offering them the sum of 10,000 Iraqi Dinars 25. However, women who chose to stay were not allowed to work in governmental positions as stated in RCC 150 of 28/1/1980 “To ban from serving in any governmental, semi governmental offices and social sector institutions any Iraqi woman married to a foreigner”. If the wife was herself a Tabbayyah Iranieah and her husband was an Iraqi man, she was allowed to stay. However, the regime encouraged the men to divorce their wives by offering them 4000 Dinars, if he was a soldier or 2500 Dinars if he was a civilian as it was stipulated in RCC decree 474 of 15/4/1981 26. The latter decision was not only to disrupt pre-existing marriages, but also to try to prevent Tabbayyah women from staying in Iraq. As some families tried to prevent their daughter’s from being deported by arranging false marriages with Iraqi’s.
Directive no. 31/12/2464 on 22/4/1981 signed by, then the secretary of RCC, Tareq hamd Al-Abudulah outlined the fate of the divorced women 27:
“In case of divorce, the Ministry of Justice should inform the Ministry of Interior, in order to expel the divorced wife outside the state”.
And to discourage those men, who probably divorced their wives for other reasons than for the sole reason of being a Tabbayyah, from marrying other Tabbayyah women the directive continue:
“The person who benefit from the said decree (474) should not marry again an Iranian women, otherwise the sum should be returned”
C-Prison and disappearance
Before the Iraqi-Iranian war the entire family males, females and children were deported, but as the war broke up the regime found that the men that they deported joined the Iranians in the fight against them. While continuing the campaign of deportation the regime begun to detain males aged between 16-40 while deporting the rest of the family to Iran.
This was clearly stated in the Ministry of Interior directive 3884 on 10/4/1980 20:
“military personnel of all ranks……… and those between the age of 18-28 years shall be detained until further directive”
While some were released years later, an unknown number disappeared. Amnesty international report the number to be in thousands 28.
D-Confiscation of property
Lands, bank accounts, businesses, properties, however small, were confiscated from the deported Tabbayyah. They were not allowed to take anything, except the clothes they were wearing. Saddam’s view as it was conveyed to me by one Baathi, was that their ancestors arrived to Iraq on their feet having nothing, therefore their grandchildren should be send back on their feet, having nothing.
RCC decision 1131 of 17/7/1980 gave the Minister of Internal Affairs the power to sell the movable property and all the rights that belonged to the deported “Iranians”.
Committees were established in each governorate to liquidate the possessions of the “deported Iranians” all worked under the umbrella of The General Secretariat for the liquidation of the deported Iranian possession. The latter was linked to the first deputy Prime Minister office. The period of time given to the committees by the general secretariat to finish its work was the 30/4/1982.
The committees, were also responsible for the liquidation of the movable and immovable property of the “Iranian included in the deportation”, but managed to flee the country.
Presidential cabinet letter no. 15227 of 25/12/1980 provided instructions on how to deal with the property of the deportee if the wife of Tabbayyah was an Iraqi “1-the house of the deportee should be vacated within a maximum period of six months of the expropriation. The state is not responsible for providing housing for the family of the deportee.
2- The current measure of allowing the wife and the children to stay after the deportation of the husband is incorrect this is because the children are Iranian. So, either to deport the wife and children or the wife joins her family if she is an Arab.
3- The house would be rented to the family of the Iranian deportee if they want to stay in the house. Unless the Ministry needed the house or a decree was issued to allocate to another party.” This meant that the state expropriated the house and would decide if it would allow the wife to stay in it, but even after such decision the wife had to pay rent to the state for her husband’s property.
Property confiscation was a key element in the campaign against Tabbayyah. It’s aim was to destroy, by it victims of deportation were denied the means by which they can buy food or provide shelter and be reduced to wretchedness.
Barrak 18who wrote on the criminal record of Tabbayyah implied that their property was gained criminally and thus could be rightly confiscated by the government without compensation. The confiscated property businesses, were distributed to members of Amn and Mukabarat.
While waiting for their deportation, Tabbayyah people were prevented from transferring their property to their Non-Tabbayyah spouses. As RCC no.1610 in 1982 29 prohibited women married to non-Iraqi (Tabbayyah) from transferring ownership of their movable or immovable property to their non-Iraqi husbands. It also stipulated that if they die before their non-Iraqi husbands, their property and assets revert to their legal heirs, and their non-Iraqi husbands are denied their share of stake. This decision has a retroactive effect since it apply to legal acts and occurrences proceeding the date of its entry into force.
The whole idea was to prevent the spouses of Tabbayyah men from selling the property, and leaving the country to join their spouses in a third country.
E-Those who were not deported
Not all the Tabbayyah were deported, as a significant number of them lived in Iraq when the regime was still in power, however their exact number is unknown.
For those remained, the Directorate of Citizenship withdrew their certificates from them and replaced it with a new one similar to what other Iraqis had, however it has a special number only those people working in that department are able to identify it 30
The head of the Directorate of Security in his directive no.18518 of 7/3/1987 requested that “all applications for Iraqi citizenship form those of foreign descent, especially Iranian descent, should be submitted to him via the foreigners branch no.15 for a final decision” and “he will take into consideration the applicant’s and his family social relationships and their political stance” the directive went on “the information needed will include the father, mother, sisters, wife and children of the principal applicant. We also find it necessary to meet the applicant to win him and his family to our security work”30. That is to say, the director wants after careful checking, people to work as informers to him before he would grant them the Iraqi citizenship.
Those lived in Iraq, before the fall of the regime, could not join the police, Amn or Mukabart or be officers in the Army. They also could not reach a high civil position, nor could they be teaching in a university 31.
Army officers, Amn, or Mukabarat members were required to present the certificate of citizenship of their wives. If she was a Tabbayyah, the husband would certainly lose his position, if he did not divorce her. As encouraged to do so by RCC decree 474 of 1981 mentioned earlier. Men in such positions were later prevented from marrying a Tabbayyah by RCC resolution no. 978 of 4/8/1984 which stipulated” A minimum imprisonment of five years and a maximum of ten years for those officers who marry a foreigner or a naturalized Iraqi”32. Thick dossiers in Amn headquarters were devoted for checking the authenticity of citizenship certificates and the origin of future wives of its employees.
Some of the Tabbayyah who were allowed to stay in Iraq, were not only excluded from the right to be in certain positions inside Iraq, but were also not granted permission to work outside the country. This was stated in the general security directorate directive no. 2223 of 7/4/1988 ” not to grant permission to work outside the country to members of the Tabbayyah who are in the country:
1-if any member of his family has been previously deported, because he would act as a messenger for many things causing security defects.
2-if any of his relatives, to the third degree, is a hostile member that was executed or sent to life imprisonment.
3- if there is a negative observation on him or his family”.
The remaining male Tabbayyah were still required to serve in the army as regular soldiers. During training, they were separated from other soldiers, but they still had the same training. A significant number of them were put in the front line, to test their “loyalty”. As stated in a telegram from the military intelligence dated 27 of July 1984 to the army corps, which orders ” To put all the Tabbayyah soldiers of Iranian origins and other foreign origin under secret surveillance” and “To provide the military intelligence with regular reports on their readiness to perform the duties assigned to them.”33
As stated earlier those Tabbayyah who already have higher degrees, like in medicine, or nuclear engineering, were allowed to stay 27. This is stated in the meeting of the national security council on 15/12/198 “to exempt from deportation the holders of postgraduate qualification masters in science and above, PhD holders in arts and their relatives from deportation”28.
The regime tried to persuade two of the biggest literary figures in Iraq, Mohammed Mahidi Al-Jawahiri, the famous Iraqi poet, and Jaafar Al-Khalili, an Iraqi novelist, both of them were Tabbayyah and lived outside Iraq, when the campaign of deportation started, to return to Iraq by giving them a monthly payment of 250 Iraqi Dinars 34. Neither of them returned to Iraq, and both of them died outside Iraq.
What was the psychological impact of being Tabbayyah on those who remained in Iraq?
Those who did not know whether they will be deported or not, what was the impact of being treated as a second class citizen on the people who did not know any other country apart from Iraq? Questions we don’t have answers to yet.
How many people were deported?
According to Mattar 35, who wrote the semi-official biography of Saddam Hussien, the first wave included 40,000 people, the second wave included 30,000 people.
On the other hand, Iran during the war period, put as a condition for a cease-fire the return of 200, 000 Iraqi deportees. However, the Iranians were only referring to those deported during the early eighties and not to those who were deported during the early seventies, which according to Mattar, were in the range of 40,000 people. It is likely, that the total number of people deported will never be known.
Very few Tabbayyah were allowed to return to Iraq, only Saddam and his half brother Barazn were able to allow it. I know one incident in which the daughter of a Tabbayyah family, who was married a false marriage to prevent deportation to an Iraqi and thus stayed in the country while the rest of her family were deported, was able to reach Saddam himself and was weeping in front of him so he ordered the return of the deported family.
The Iranian condition on the return of the Tabbayyah was never met.
Why such punishment?
The answer is in Saddam’s mind and probably, like many other decisions taken in Iraq, we may not be able to provide a clear answer.
The official explanations can be summarized by these lines:
1-“We deported them because we did not want their blood to mix with the Iraqi blood”. This meant that in their blood they possessed a quality, which by its own nature is of threat to the security of the state. This argument is of a very clear reminiscent of the attitude Hitler held towards the Jews.
2- In the previously mentioned Fadel AL-Barrack’s the head of the directorate of security book, he implied the involvement of these people in crime 18.
3-In Fuad Mattar’s book 35 “deportation was seen as a necessary measure taken by Saddam, apparently as a response to the assassination attempt on Tarek Aziz life”.
4-These people were regarded as a fifth column that threatens the people of Iraq 32.
Given the hazardous effects that a Tabbayyah were thought to have on the individual, and on the society and given that such hazard was believed to be an inherent biological characteristics of Tabbayyah and could not be eliminated from them, the only solution was to eliminate the disease carrier from the society. The treatment was deportation “to uproot them” as Saddam said.
The likely reasons for such harsh treatment were Saddam’s hate, ruthlessness and unchecked power. The seed for such hate was planted in his childhood by his uncle Talffah, who raised him and likely played a major role in the shaping Saddam’s personality.
Talffah’s view of the Iranians and hence of Tabbayyah was expressed in his book “The dissection of kominai religion” which he wrote in the early 80s36. In that book he bitterly criticized the Shia sect of Islam, a sect practiced by both Arabs and Persians.
He denounced every aspect of Shia practices, including the way Shia pray, the temporary marriage and even the way they practice sex. Claiming they practice sodomy which is forbidden in his views. Most importantly, Talffah raises the question that “at times, he found it difficult to understand the wisdom (of god) in creating three things, Jews, flies and Persian”. Jews because according to him disobeyed god, flies because it transmits disease and Persians because according to him, they did not believe in Islam, and they entered Islam only to destroy it.
It was in Tallfah’s house that, young Saddam was nurtured. It’s likely that he heard these words, which crept into his blood. Consciously and even unconsciously, these words were absorbed by him. Persian and their descendants are subhuman creatures, equated with flies. They are a disease carrier, like flies, these creatures’ attempts to destroy Islam and Arabs.
As a result, his hatred was not limited to the individuals but extended to what might even vaguely hinted of some kind of association with them. For he ordered to change the name of Abu Nuass street, one of the famous streets in Baghdad, during discussion with Iraqi architects planning street development, for the mere reason that Abu Nuass was of Iranian origin.
Despite the fact that there was nothing that point to the street as to be an Iranian street, Saddam looked at the nature of the person associated with the street. The street is tainted by the descent of Abu Nuaas grandparents, it’s beside the point that Abu Nuass died more than 500 years ago, he was a Tabbayyah and this was unbearable to Saddam. The name has to be changed.
A whole neighborhood in Baghdad, near the former Iranian Embassy, was expropriated by RCC decree no.798 of 19/12/1989 37without equitable compensation. Courts were prevented from looking into cases arising from this decision. Seventy two homes were demolished; the official claim was to build an opera house, which was never built. When a high-ranking Baathi asked about why the families were not given equitable compensation, the reason given was that those people loyalty was under suspicion as they neighbored the Iranian embassy.
Hate was the driving force to use descent, to hold people accountable for the actions of others. It made it easy to rationalise punishing innocent people in lieu of perpetrators who are inaccessible. Through such a policy authorities demonstrate they are more concerned about releasing tensions of rage through pursuit of sacrificial victims than about protecting society through the pursuit of justice.
Hate needed power and the mentality of aggression to carry out the act of deportation and these requirements were present in Saddam. The victims were transformed from being the enemy of a man, Saddam, into the enemies of the state.
The power of the state was mobilized to trace every single member, men, women and childern. Laws were legislated, to separate existing families, to confiscate properties and to authorize expulsion. The Tabbayyah were “uprooted”.
The Victims were ordinary persons including women, children and elderly persons. They were the victim of Saddam’s hatred, racism and unchecked power. Nothing differentiated them from other people in Iraq.
They reflect, however a small sample of Saddam’s victims which included a limitless pool of Iraqis and extended to people in neighbouring countries.
Notes and references :
1 Saddam’s speech with a group of popular army soldiers going to the front. Al-thawra on 16/2/1981.
2 See for example M. Khadduri in his book the “gulf war”, he in his interview with Fadel al- Baraak, the head of security at that time, accept Baark’s claim that the majority of Tabbayyah have been engaged in propaganda against the Baath regime. He also said that the Iraqi government first warned them against participating in subversive activities, later it deported 40,000 after hostilities begun. The deportation was carried out as a measure of internal security.
This was incorrect. Because first no warning was provided, and second deportation started before the war with Iran begun.
3 Mohammed Anouz. The jurist. Issue no.4, 2001 p.
4 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.p72.
5 International Commission of Jurist. Iraq and the rule of law (Chenôve: Imrimerie ABRAX, 1994) p41.
6 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.p76
7 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.p88
8 International Commission of Jurist. Iraq and the rule of law (Chenôve: Imrimerie ABRAX, 1994) p42.
9 Makiya, Kanan [Samir al-Khalil]. 1990. Republic of Fear. New York: Simon & Schuster.
10 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.p109
11 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.108.
12 Middle East Watch1994. Bureaucracy of repression. p81.
13 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.p114.
14 Middle East Watch 1994. Bureaucracy of repression. p82.
15 Kanan Makiya. Cruelty and Silence ,War tyranny and the Arab world. (New York: W.W Norton & company) 1992.
16 Mattar F. Saddam Hussein the fighter the thinker and the man.1990. p132.
17 Faili kurd web site. http://home.bip.net/faili.kurd/.
18 Al-Baraak fadel, almaddaras al yuhudiah wa alayraniah fi al-iraq. 1985.p265
19 Al-Baraak fadel, almaddaras al yuhudiah wa alayraniah fi al-iraq. 1985.p265
20 Al Zamman newspaper vol3, issue 615 8/5/2000.p8
21 Author own collection.
22 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.p72
23 This was shown on Iraqi TV at that time, and I remember it very well. The family was al Haidari family.
24 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991.
25 The offering of money to women to divorce their men was regarded as a sensitive issue, I knew about it from a high-ranking Baathi.
26 International Commission of Jurist. Iraq and the rule of law (Chenôve: Imrimerie ABRAX, 1994) p43.
27 Faili Kurd web site. .A copy of the original document is present there.
28 Amnesty International Report “Disappearance unresolved cases since the 1980s”1998.
29 International Commission of Jurist. Iraq and the rule of law (Chenôve: Imrimerie ABRAX, 1994) p42.
30 Based on information from an officer in the Directorate of Iraqi Citizenship.
31 Al-Ansari, M. “Deportation operations in Iraq”. Documental center for human rights in Iraq. Tehran 1991
32Author own collection.
33 From web site.
34 This was announced on the television I remember it very well. Jafar Al-Kallili lived for the rest of his life in Jordan. King Hussein gave him a house to live with his daughter. Al-Jawahire lived in several places including Eastern Europe, Syria and Jordan. His son Furat was not deported, he as a journalist writing in Al-Jumahria newspaper in support of Saddam, the man that his father opposed.
35 Mattar F. Saddam Hussein “The fighter the thinker and the man”.1990.p132
36 This statement was repeated in several western writers’ books as the title of a book, which was not the case, as the title of the book as I said was “The Dissection of Khomiani religion” apparently none of them read the book. I could trace the original mistake to K. Makiya book “Republic of fear” he was the first one to report that in a western book. He apparently did not read the original book but referred to a pamphlet distributed by an Iraqi opposition group in the west.
37Author own collection.
مرسلة بواسطة د.محمد مجيد في 12:06 م
The case of Iraqis of Iranian origin
This article examines the Iraqi regime’s policy, under Saddam’s rule, towards the Iraqis of Iranian origin. It shows the view the regime holds towards them, and outlines the extent of the war it did wage against them. An attempt to explain the driving force for the campaign is also provided.