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Iraq: The War & Human Rights Violations

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Being a founding member of the United Nations as well as of the non-Aligned Movement, the IMF, OIC, and the Arab League, the Republic of Iraq is the 58th largest country of the world with an area of 437,072 km or 168,754 square miles. It has the fifth-largest oil reserves in the world with 142,503 million barrels, despite political and other issues in the country. Inhabited by as many as 38.27 million people (2017) World Bank, this is a Western Asian country, bordered by Iran to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south, Kuwait to the southeast, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and Jordan to the southeast, with Baghdad as its largest city and capital.

An invasion by the United States and its allies in 2003 ended the 35-year control of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party of Saddam Hussein, starting in 1968 until its overthrow in 2003. The country is a federal parliamentary republic, containing 19 governorates (provinces) and one autonomous region (Iraqi Kurdistan).

The area comprising modern Iraq is referred to as ‘The Cradle of Civilization’ in history. Saddam Hussein took control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), and, then, controlled the supreme executive body of Iraq in July 1979.

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Saddam Hussein declared war on Iran in September 1980, commencing the Iran-Iraq War (or First Persian Gulf War). It is said that, after ending in 1988, the Iran-Iraq War did colossal damage to both the countries, and killed as many as between half a million and 1.5 million people or took about 500,000 to 1.5 million lives, as a result.

It is reported that the Iran-Iraq War was still in its final stages/phases when the Ba’athist Iraqi regime, controlled by Saddam Hussein, began a campaign of genocide (known as Al-Anfal Campaign) against the Kurdish population of Iraq, leading to deaths/killings of, approximately, as many civilians/Kurds as 50,000 to 182,000.

There are also reports of using chemical weapons, targeting the Shia/Shiite civil population of Iraq during uprisings in Iraq in 1991, killing about 100,000 people.

The First Gulf War, 1990 – 1991, (2nd August 1990 – 28 February 1991), leading to the US-led military operation against Iraq was the result of attacking and annexing Kuwait by the Iraqi forces, initiated and decided by Saddam Hussein, in a bid to occupy neighbouring Kuwait.

The 1991 Gulf War left Iraq with many combatant and non-combatant casualties and fatalities, along with a massive economic loss and infrastructure damage to the country.

The Second Gulf War (known as the Iraq War) started in 2003 that led to so many civilian casualties and destroyed the country a lot. Among other human rights violations, there were a series of killings of unarmed Iraqi civilians on November 19, 2005, committed by a group of United States Marines, who killed some 24 unarmed Iraqi people brutally, including women, children, and men. This is one of the war crimes scandals, made public, and is known as the ‘Haditha Killings/the Haditha Massacre or the Haditha Incident, and is named after Haditha, a city, situated in the western Governorate/ province of Al-Anbar of the country, where these killings took place.

So many human rights violations and abuses occurred in 2004 in Iraq, where Shia/Shiite and Sunni militants were fighting against the coalition forces, against the new Iraqi Interim Government, established in June 2004, and even against each other.

Since 2008, many innocent people have been tortured, maltreated and killed during various conflicts between Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni factions and groups. Numerous human rights abuses and violations, including executions, mental and physical torture, rape, kidnaps, forced marriages and such other heinous acts, have been conducted by the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other combatant groups during the Iraqi Civil War (2014 – 2017).

Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives, and many others have suffered a lot, including attacks on their honour, properties, and lives in Iraq during the violence, in relation to the role of ISIL, in various parts of the country.

The Yazidis/Yezidis are recognized as an ethnic group in certain regions of the world, like Georgia, Armenia, and Iraq, but they are considered ethnic Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan. They have experienced and undergone genocide, extermination and all sorts of torture by ISIL, due to which the Yazidis have been forced to flee their ancestral lands in Northern Iraq and live in exile.

Similarly, about 400 civilians have lost their lives and hundreds of others wounded in the coordinated bomb attacks in Karrada (Baghdad) in 2016.

Likewise, more than 200 civilians have been killed in an airstrike, carried out by the US-led coalition in Mosul on March 17, 2017.

The statistic, given by Statista (a German online portal for statistics), shows that there were some 206,211 documented civilian deaths in the War of Iraq between 2003 and May 31, 2019.

Besides civilian casualties, a large number of women and young girls have been kidnapped, sexually assaulted and violated (raped), harassed and tortured. For instance, it has been reported by Yanar Mohammed, the Co-founder and President of Global Fund for Women grantee partner Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, on June 24, 2014, that women were being taken for Jihad Nikah or Sex Jihad by young armed members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or DA’ESH. Thus, 13 such cases have been documented by women’s rights activists in just three days from June 9, 2014, to the 12th of June, 2014, where women were kidnapped and raped by such militants. Consequently, several of the 13 victims of rape took their own lives and committed suicide because of such brutal attacks on their honour, self-esteem, and lives.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer, and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or

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  1. I one of your biggest fan you always write on the issue that people try to ignore it once again thanks for such a nice article

  2. This was and is a big disaster in the world on any aspect and I appreciate your article that there’s is some that still have the strength to write on this kind of issues

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