Crimes Against Humanity

Saddam Hussein Iraq, a country found in Southwest Asia bordered by Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, has been constantly featured in the news in recent years. Iraq received its freedom from Britain following World War I in 1932 and in 1958 was converted into a republic (Iraq). However, since becoming a republic, Iraq has been controlled by military leaders from Abdul-Karim Quassim to Saddam Hussein (Iraqi Rulers’ Page). The most recent ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, leader of the Ba’ath political party, drew attention to the country with his various crimes against humanity.

From his ascension to power in 1979 to his execution December 30, 2006, he has been responsible for numerous atrocities, including, but not limited to, executions of communists, murders of Shiite Muslims, tortures and killings of political prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison, Hussein’s most frequently used prison for tortures and murders (Kadragic 85), the Iran-Iraq war, murders of ethnic Kurds, the Gulf War, destruction of Iraq’s marshes, and therefore the destruction of marsh Arabs’ habitats and homes, the control of news as propaganda (The New Global Society), and the deaths of many others.

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After a rough childhood living with his mother, three stepbrothers, and an awful and immoral stepfather, Hussein moved to live with his uncle, who was an Arab nationalist, when his uncle was freed from jail in 1947 (Saddam Hussein). It was his uncle who introduced Hussein to politics (Saddam Hussein). Hussein joined the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party at the age of 20 in 1957 (Saddam Hussein). He started out as a member of low importance whose chief duty was to organize and fuel riots among his classmates (Saddam Hussein).

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In 1959 he was promoted to the assassination squad (Saddam Hussein).

October 7, 1959, he, along with the rest of the squad, attempted, but failed, to assassinate Abdul Karim-Quassim (Saddam Hussein). This failed attempt resulted in Hussein receiving a shot in the leg and exiling himself from Iraq for over three years to escape prison (Saddam Hussein Ex President of Iraq). Only when the Ba’ath Party staged a coup and took over the Iraqi government in 1963 did Saddam return to the country. However, the Ba’ath Party only remained in power for nine months and Hussein was arrested in 1964 for his affiliation with the Ba’ath regime’s attempt to regain power (Saddam Hussein).

During his eighteen months in prison before his escape in July 1996, Hussein was tortured as well as named a member of Ba’ath Party’s National Arab Leadership in 1965 (Saddam Hussein). Hussein gradually gained power in the party, becoming Deputy-Secretary General of the Ba’ath Party Leadership September 1966, and being a key leader in the July 17, 1968 coup that overthrew the Iraqi monarchy and made Hussein’s second cousin, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, the Iraqi president (Saddam Hussein).

Following this incident, Hussein was made Vice President of Iraq (Saddam Hussein). Eventually, Hussein forced al-Bakr to resign and took over the position as president of Iraq (Saddam Hussein). The first crime committed under the rule of Saddam Hussein was the execution of 7,000 Iraqi communists that began the year of 1978 and lasted until 1979 (Saddam Era: The Death Toll). Hussein was not in charge of the Ba’athist regime during 1978, but was in power for the latter part of the brutal executions carried out against the communists of Iraq.

Though the Ba’ath Party was vaguely built on the idea socialism in the 1940’s and the Iraqi Ba’ath Party of Saddam’s time had an important alliance with the Soviet Union, the Ba’aths of Saddam’s time were very much opposed to communism. The execution of the Iraqi communists strained the Ba’athist Party’s relationship with the Soviet Union considerably. In the 1980’s Saddam had 148 male Shiites murdered in the village of Dujail.

This crime in particular is the atrocity that Saddam was convicted and executed for December of 2006. The motivation for this crime was the attempted assassination of Hussein while he traveled through the small town of Dujail. After said attempt at assassination, almost 800 people, women and children included, were detained. An unspecified number were tortured during the period of time in which they were detained. 400 of those detained were sent to internal exile in a southern part of Iraq, away from their homes in Dujail.

The aforementioned 148 men and boys were convicted of some crime, sentenced to death, and executed in 1985 (Judging Dujail: The First Trial before the Iraqi High Tribunal). During the 1980’s Saddam instigated the Iran-Iraq war. This war lasted from 1980 to 1989 and was the cause of nearly 1. 7 million deaths of both Iranians and Iraqis (Saddam Era: The Death Toll). Saddam’s motivation for this war was his fear that the new radical leadership of Iran would upset the Sunni-Shia balance in Iraq (Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988)).

As the Shia Muslims of Iraq are concentrated on and around Iraq’s only access to a body of water, a fifty-eight kilometer coast on the Persian Gulf, dissension among Iraq’s Shia population would cut off Iraq’s access to water, effectively limiting Iraq’s ability to trade as far as exporting and importing goods by ship (Muslim Distribution (Sunni and Shia)). Another of the many influential factors that prompted Saddam to initiate the bloody war was water claims to the Shatt al-Arab waterway which serves as part of the boundary between Iraq and Iran (Iran-Iraq War and Waterway Claims).

Again, the Shatt al-Arab is Iraq’s only waterway to the Persian Gulf and is vital to the country as a means for transporting goods. During the Iran-Iraq War, a Kurdish Iraqi, Masoud Barzani, leader of the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), along with the KDP, sided with the Iranians (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). The Kurdish Democratic Party was an ethnic Kurdish revolutionary political party that actively fought against the Ba’athist regime (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein).

As retaliation for their actions, Hussein had around 8,000 KDP members, including defenseless women and children, abducted in 1983 (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). Though many remain unfound, thousands are known to have been murdered and are now located in mass graves along with thousands of fellow victims (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). In 1984 about 4,000 political prisoners were tortured and murdered in Abu Ghraib prison. Saddam used this particular prison as a center for tortures and killings. Some of Hussein’s favorite methods of torture included castration, eye gouging, and acid baths.

Mass killings at an Iraqi prison occurred again from 1993 to 1996 when 3000 prisoners were killed by machine gun at Mahjar prison in central. That was one of the last crimes committed under Saddam’s rule before he went into hiding Baghdad (Saddam Era: The Death Toll). The al-Anfal campaign, known by many as genocide, was one of the cruelest and bloodiest initiatives taken by Saddam Hussein. It lasted from 1986-1989 and resulted in the brutal deaths of about 182,000 Kurds, a group of people that make up Iraq’s largest non-Arab ethnic minority (A Kurd from Salah ad Din).

Hussein may have felt that the Kurds were a threat to the Sunni, Arab Iraqis as the Kurds are generally Shiites and make up about 19 per cent of the Iraqi population (A Kurd from Salah ad Din). Also, many Kurds were concentrated in Kirkuk, an area of Iraq that is very rich in oil (A Kurd from Salah ad Din). Hussein commanded that any living organism in the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq be killed. Chemical weapons were implemented in carrying this out. Previously, Iraq had been the only country, besides the Soviet Union, known to tolerate the Kurds and their cultural differences.

Though Iraq instituted arabization as a way to suppress and contain Kurdish nationalism, the Kurdish people were not persecuted on a large scale by Arab Iraqis until the rise of the Ba’athist regime (Shelton 636). In 1988, however, a campaign named Operation Anfal, anfal meaning spoils of war, was initiated and more than 182,000 Kurds were killed with the use of chemical weapons or buried alive in mass graves (Shelton 636) (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). In addition, 4,006 villages were utterly destroyed, displacing thousands of Kurdish villagers, and many were arrested and made to live in extremely unhealthy conditions (Shelton 636).

In a small town called Halabja alone, 5,000 people were killed with a mixture of mustard gas and a nerve agent called sarin that was dropped from planes on March 16, 1988 (Kurds Look Back with Fear) (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). There is evidence that the chemicals used against the Kurds are still affecting people today, as there have been increasing amounts of birth defects, and cases of cancer, respiratory ailments, miscarriages, eye problems, skin problems, and other medical disorders in the affected areas, like the town of Halabja (Kurds Look Back with Fear).

People who survived the attacks have recently developed problems that doctors attribute to the chemicals used in the attacks (Kurds Look Back with Fear). The Gulf War was a short war that started on January 16, 1991 several months after Iraq’s invasion of its neighboring country of Kuwait in August 2 of 1990(Saddam Era: The Death Toll) (Gulf War). The invasion of Kuwait occurred after the Iraq and Kuwait’s disputes over oil production and the debts that Iraq owed Kuwait for Kuwait’s aid in the Iraq-Iran war (Gulf War). The war ended when President Bush Sr. rdered a cease fire on February 27, 1991 (Gulf War). Hussein’s objectives in invading Kuwait are said to have been to force the smaller country to pardon the debts owed to it by Iraq, to acquire Kuwait in order to obtain Kuwait’s rich oil fields, and expansion. The justification that Saddam used was that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq in the first place (First Persian Gulf War). The US under the Bush Sr. administration became involved and formed a coalition made up of several Arab countries to achieve a quick victory over Iraq because of fear for Saddam’s ulterior motives.

It is estimated that 25,000 Iraqi troops and as many as 200,000 civilians died as a result of the Gulf War (Saddam Era: The Death Toll). Also, many Iraqis civilians suffered because of a lack of food, as a UN trade embargo was put on Iraq when it invaded Kuwait (First Persian Gulf War). After the US won the Gulf War in 1991, Shiites, a Muslim religious minority in Iraq, and the ethnic Kurds were encouraged by the US to rebel against Saddam and the Ba’athist regime.

However, when Saddam killed more than 100,000 Shiites and made more 200,000 Marsh Arabs homeless or dead, US support was nonexistent (Saddam Era: The Death Toll). Saddam is said to have ordered 2,000 Kurdish rebels to be killed each day (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). The Marsh Arabs were made homeless when Saddam began having Iraq’s marshlands intentionally and ruthlessly drained by 30 dams after the 1991 Gulf War, causing the marshes to dry up and practically decimating the way of life of thousands of marsh Arabs that has existed for at least 5,000 years (Hassig and al-Adely 46).

Iraq’s marshlands now make up less than 770 square miles of Iraq, when they once had an area 7,700 square miles, meaning that 95% of Iraq’s marshes have been destroyed (Hassig and al-Adely 46). Also, the number of marsh Arabs has decreased from 250,000 to 30,000, but to this day it is unknown how much of the drop is due to migration or starvation, as the lack of food producing marshes means a lack of food (The War Crimes of Saddam Hussein). Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was a truly vile and despicable man for all of the suffering he inflicted on those he was responsible for as the dictator of Iraq.

Saddam repeatedly broke rule after rule of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by subjecting prisoners to “torture or cruel, inhumane punishment,” as he intentionally did with the many tortures committed in the Abu Ghraib jail in particular, by subjecting others to “arbitrary arrest, detention or exile,” as he did to those of the town of Dujail that were not among the 182 that he killed. In addition, Hussein violated the UDHR by forcing many an Iraqi to be “arbitrarily deprived of his property” when he decimated the marshes of the marsh Arabs and destroyed 4,006 villages in the Anfal campaign.

Furthermore, he violated the UDHR by depriving Iraqis of their “right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives,” when the Ba’ath Socialist Party took over Iraq’s government by force. Saddam was responsible for several more violations- not only of human rights, but of basic human morality. Saddam’s term of leadership in Iraq from 1979 to 2003 has been an ugly, dark, bloody stain on Iraq’s history.

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Crimes Against Humanity. (2018, Oct 01). Retrieved from

Crimes Against Humanity

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