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New Left Review I/175, May-June 1989

Mohammed H. Malek

Kurdistan in the Middle East Conflict

In March 1988 the Western media once again shocked their audience by bringing home horrific stories of the extensive and indiscriminate use of chemical weapons on the civilian population in remote Kurdistan. As two reporters visiting the area put it: ‘Neither side in the Gulf War has ever been particularly scrupulous about observing the accepted norms of international conflict. But what has been happening in the past year, and especially the last week, in the remote corner of north-eastern Iraq reveals previously unplumbed depths of savagery.’ [1] Andrew Gowes and Richard Johns writing in the Financial Times, 23 April 1988. However appalling these pictures were to Western observers, to the Kurds they were neither unexpected nor without precedent. Some twenty-five years earlier, in August 1963, another reporter had sent an almost identical account of the Unequal War, in almost the same area: ‘The Iraqi army appears bent on breaking the Kurds’ will to resist by methods of total war. In addition to bombing and machinegunning some villages . . . crops have been burned. Villagers have been deported to a zone south of Kurdistan. The economic blockade of the north has been imposed more vigorously. As a result by next spring some Kurds may face starvation.’ [2] New York Times, 2 August 1963.

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Mohammed H. Malek, ‘Kurdistan in the Middle East Conflict’, NLR I/175: £3

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