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Cutting Edge -

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in northern Iraq, The road to the oil city of Kirkuk of insurgents attacking and the threat this road at night is very real. This man is on a sensitive mission.

of thousands of Kurds He's investigating the case never to be heard of again. who disappeared 23 years ago, He's Dr Mohammed Ihsan, Minister for Human Rights in northern Iraq. in the Kurdish Regional Government DR IHSAN: Some 8,000 Barzani Kurds government camps in Kurdistan. were taken from four find out where these people are I think my main role is to and how they did it. I am looking for an answer for it. will take him on an 800-mile journey And Dr Ihsan's quest

on the edge of civil war. through a country teetering (Men speak Arabic) is putting together The case which Dr Ihsan against Saddam Hussein. is a vital part of the indictment is particularly significant. But this case All the missing men and boys one powerful Kurdish clan - were members of the Barzanis. when his regime Their abduction marks the point to mass murder. moved from isolated acts of brutality (Man speaks Arabic) a former Iraqi secret policeman Dr Ihsan is meeting a few miles from Kirkuk. like this, In countless secret meetings the evidence he needs he's been gathering of the missing Barzanis. to unravel the mystery and provide crucial evidence The documents are explicit about the fate of the Barzanis. This is a very important document. to the Director of Political Affairs It's from Colonel Hakis Ma'il in Iraqi General Security Office. of August 1983, It says that at the beginning in Busayyah area Barzani were executed which is near Saudi border. That's where we have to go our investigation. in order to complete the Barzani families But first, Dr Ihsan has to meet who survived the abduction. deep in the Kurdish mountains Some of them now live to meet them. and he travels to Hardan village (Speaks Arabic) All lost sons, fathers and husbands. may one day return to them. All believe their loved ones The suffering of these women behind Dr Ihsan's investigation. is the driving force

The search for the missing Barzanis was authorised by Masoud Barzani. president of the Kurdish region. He's the clan leader and now He lost 37 members of his own family. occurred after he decided The attack on the Barzani clan in the early 1980s. to ally with Iran against Iraq an important role in the conflict, During the war, his partisans played in the north. helping to pin down the Iraqi army Saddam never forgave him. on Barzani civilians He took his revenge like this one. who were living in government camps after the Barzani Kurds were taken, Just one month Saddam admitted publicly in their disappearance. that his regime was involved in September 1983. DR IHSAN: This is Arbil to listen to his speech. These Kurds were summoned by Saddam all over Iraq Really, this was broadcast and recorded off-air at that time.

beyond doubt. It establishes Saddam's guilt

APPLAUSE Saddam's abduction of the Barzanis of his infamous Anfal campaign. was the precursor thousands of Kurdish villages, In 1987 and 1988, his forces attacked often using poison gas. women and children were killed. More than 100,000 Kurdish men, Dr Ihsan is launching an expedition from Arbil in northern Iraq near the Saudi border. to the southern deserts evidence in the case against Saddam - He's looking for crucial forensic the bodies of the missing Barzanis. even at the outset. It's a dangerous journey SIRENS WAIL just round the corner from the hotel. There's been a bomb explosion the main thing is clearly over here. I can't see anything, but SIRENS WAIL

There's another bomb, I think. They're worried... HORN BEEPS CONTINUOUSLY (Men shout in Arabic) and injures 120 A suicide bomber kills 70 waiting to join the police. in a queue of young Kurds the expedition gets under way. Despite the danger, will take four weeks. It's May and our journey our convoy heads south. Leaving Arbil behind, We have to drive first by Sunni insurgents through areas controlled along the route - who regularly ambush vehicles at will. kidnapping and killing passengers we travel past Kirkuk On the way to Baghdad, of Iraq's petroleum reserves. whose oilfields hold 40% of our journey, really. Here, the most part...dangerous part Between Hamrin to Khalas. have been attacked here One day, I, myself, six terrorists' cars. by roughly about They attacked us. and we were well-prepared. They found out we were well-defended They ran away. Just here.


HORNS HONK the outskirts of Baghdad. Four hours later, It looks so normal. are at a record high But insurgent attacks a car bomb kills 17 people. and as we drive to the centre,

and we're worried about our security. We're staying at the Hotel Babylon is the Green Zone - Across the River Tigris a heavily guarded area and the US Embassy. housing the Iraqi Government provide our own protection. We're outside this area and have to Azad, Dr Ihsan's brother, is head of security.

come to this floor, I tell them, "Anybody after 12:00 "I gotta kill them - no excuse." They say, "OK. No problem. "Nobody come.

nobody come to the ninth floor. "After 1:00, "Especially your side room." I got to kill them. Nobody. Anybody come after 12:00, No excuse. Yeah? I tell them. Last night, I speak to him. Straight on. The search takes us to insurgents' strongholds in the suburbs. Dr Ihsan is looking for material directly linking Saddam Hussein to the murder of the Barzanis. These are no-go areas for foreigners who, if caught, risk being ransomed and then killed. But even for a Kurdish minister, it's dangerous. Dr Ihsan is trying to track down shops selling secret documents - once the exclusive property of Saddam's regime. (Speaks Arabic) Yeah. We go? We go? These documents were looted after Saddam's downfall from one of the city's main intelligence headquarters. All are for sale. Are you hoping to find information on the missing Barzanis here? This is what I've been looking... I'm going around to different shops of documents here, really. Here, international organisations... There is so many places, they are holding documents. Tell me, how much do you pay for the pleasure? Oh, really, we paid a lot of money. A lot of money? A lot of money. We paid a lot of money. We bribed these people. Otherwise there is no chance for you to get it. Yeah. But wouldn't it maybe be better to destroy all these documents - just begin again? I don't agree with that approach. We should face it. We should study it. We should reveal... Let people... We should tell the truth to the people. This is Iraqis and this is Iraqi... how they behaved in the past. We should...tell the truth. This is the truth. This is what we did. This is what all Iraqis involved... the majority of Iraqis, involved in. The Iraqi secret police were trained by the East German Stasi and had a mania for recording everything they did - on paper, in sound and on videotape. We found evidence of this in the market in central Baghdad. These videos come from the vaults of the Iraqi secret police. They were often distributed publicly to extend Saddam's rule of terror and, extraordinarily, this still appears to be going on. They show every form of cruelty imaginable - from throwing prisoners off rooftops, to beatings, beheadings, amputations, and even blowing up prisoners with explosives. Why do they sell this stuff in video stores?

What's the...what's the purpose? You know, this film has been leaked to the market by Iraqi intelligence, by Iraqi Mukhabarat, really. I think this is the way they are selling their terror to people, and reminding them that "We are still here "and this is the way we did it." And will continue to do it. Definitely. They are doing that now, every day. Seriously. Is there any way they could break this cycle of violence? No way. Seriously, no way. You need to change... You need the mentality within two or three generations, and even that is questionable - how we can do it. It became too dangerous now.

You cannot... You know it makes... You don't know who is with you, Seriously. You don't know who is with you, who is against you. You don't know who is criminal or who is not. You don't know who is your friend, who is your enemy. DR IHSAN: Really, we get some important documents today regarding the case of our Barzanis. For example, this one. It's a very critical one, really.

It establishes direct link between Saddam Hussein and the murder of 8,000 Barzani. This document is dated 24 August 1987 and the topic of this document is Barzani families. It's very clear and direct. It's from the special secretary for Saddam Hussein to Ali Hassan Majid, 'Chemical Ali'. It's here, for example, it's been mentioned... (Reads in Arabic) ..which means "No-one knows the fate of these families "except the leadership of the state. "And the main issue is much bigger "than the case of these families." Clearly, this document establishes the direct link

between Saddam Hussein and the murder of 8,000 Barzanis. But this document is not enough. Dr Ihsan needs to find the bodies of the missing Barzanis. But ahead lies a 500-mile journey to the southern desert through the 'Triangle of Death', just south of Baghdad. Fully briefed, the convoy prepares to move on to Diwaniyah - a Shiah town three hours south of Baghdad. Dr Ihsan has learnt that a mass grave, apparently containing Kurds, has just been discovered on a farm there, which belonged to Ali Hassan Majid - 'Chemical Ali', Saddam's cousin. Could at least some of the missing Barzanis be buried on his land? To find out, the convoy has to travel along the most lethal stretch of road in the world. SIREN WAILS HORNS HONK

Over the past seven days, 43 Shiah travellers have been beheaded near here. Al-Qaeda terrorists, sometimes operating in groups of up to 100-strong, ambush cars here. They prey on traffic jams, and Dr Ihsan orders his drivers not to stop at any cost. DR IHSAN: Look, look, look, look. There's something serious taking place here. The Americans are showing interest in our convoy and there's concern that they could strike without warning.

Being a Government minister offers no protection from American friendly-fire attacks. American, when they move around, through a dangerous area, they have, by their rule, 150m between each car, and they drive roughly 40km/h, which is totally wrong. You should drive very fast. If you are going to be attacked, you have a chance to go through it and save yourself. How much distance do we have to keep from the Americans? 150m. And if you go closer than that, they'll shoot? They shoot you. In this area, the insurgents are getting stronger each week

and there are rumours of an alliance

between al-Qaeda and Ba'athist groups. DR IHSAN: We cannot stop at any police checkpoints because sometimes the terrorists themselves, they wear police clothes and they do their own check points.

Are they likely to open fire if you go past them? Yes, they can take you as hostage, and they kill you immediately there. This is why we are not going to stop at any checkpoint at all. ALARM WAILS HORN HONKS It's 150 miles from Baghdad to the town of Diwaniyah. The convoy is now entering the Shiah areas of Iraq to check out stories that some of the Barzanis may have been killed near here. We're going to meet farm workers who know the whereabouts of a mass grave but who, until recently, were too scared to talk about it. This land was once owned by Ali Hassan Majid, who is facing trial in Baghdad. Polish coalition forces based here are unaware of the significance of the location. Within 20 minutes of arriving at Majid's farm, Dr Ihsan makes a discovery. I think these bodies are not laid down and being killed. They are standing up and then killing them just... ..putting some matter there. So they've just covered them with earth, full stop. Suffocated them. Do you know if it is Kurdish or Shiah or what? Definitely Kurds, because the guy here confirmed that they were Kurds. They were wearing Kurdish clothes. And most of them, they were young - it seems they were young people. How do you know that? From looking at the skeleton. Yeah, that looks like a small... Yeah. It's not really young. Roughly 15, no more.

But these are not the missing Barzanis. Dr Ihsan believes that these Kurdish Anfal victims were buried on Majid's land in 1988. By then, the regime felt it could commit mass murder with impunity, and secrecy was no longer a priority. Our quest to solve the mystery of the missing Barzanis takes us deeper into the desert and close to the Saudi border. Nugra Salman has been used as a prison since the 1960s. Thousands of Kurds, imprisoned here during the Anfal campaign, are said to have died of thirst, starvation, and torture. The Barzanis were apparently held briefly at Nugra before being moved deeper into the desert. Few survived this death camp, but those that did, now back in the north, give us a clear idea of what they suffered. Children were treated the same as adults. The documents collected by Dr Ihsan show that amongst the abducted Barzanis were boys as young as eight.

Just five miles west of the prison lies the isolated desert town As Salman. At the local registry office, Dr Ihsan finds records detailing the deaths of Kurds at Nugra, evidence of the former regime's obsession with documenting its own brutal activities. Nearly all these files are regarding Kurds who were at some stage in As Salman but some very interesting points here. For example, like this guy, Rashid Ali, she was from Tuz, Tuz Khurmatu, between Kirkuk and Diyala. Date of birth is 1 July 1986. Date of death - 1988, which is only two years old. Mohammed Ahmed Rassool, who is from Chamchamal, Sulaymaniyah. His date of birth is 1 July 1890. Date of death is 21 May 1988, which is roughly 98 years old. They actually documented Kurds who had been taken in the Anfal. Isn't that extraordinary? It is, but for them they were not expecting, or they were not imagining one day they will be out of power. They thought they would be controlling the country forever. Dr Ihsan's investigation has revealed that the Barzanis were executed in the Busayyah region, about five hours drive south-east of As Salman. And it's to there the convoy heads. Dr Ihsan is looking for eyewitnesses who can lead him to the Barzani graves.

Busayyah - the last Iraqi outpost before the Saudi border,

and a village known to have been once run by Saddam's secret police. It's inhabited mainly by the Sunni Jasham tribe, once amongst Saddam's closest supporters. This is a region where the majority Shiah live alongside Sunni communities, and distrust runs deep. Dr Ihsan finds an important witness, a shepherd called Abu Naif, who's a Shiah, and who worked as an army driver in Busayyah in 1983. He says that the Barzanis were executed nearby. A local shopkeeper, also Shiah, remembers the day the executions began. The Shiah are helpful, but the local Sunnis are not cooperating with Dr Ihsan's search. He arranges a meeting with the Sunni elders in Busayyah to try to buy their assistance. He suspects that they once worked closely with Saddam's secret police and know the exact location of the Barzani graves. There's one conspicuous absentee - the village headman, the mukhtar. For 25 years, he was Saddam's main representative in Busayyah and the community's main link with the security forces, the Mukhabarat. His absence from the meeting underlines the Sunni community's distrust of our group. The question now is, will money break their silence? 800 just for that guy who was helping us till now, and 500 for the guy who said, "I will help you." 400 for another guy, 500 for the guy who will be prepared for the next trip. And 400 for the guy to go back to Nasiriyah to get the tanker driver. Next day, two Sunni bounty hunters come forward to claim their share of the reward. (Man speaks indistinctly over radio) The bounty hunters lead us to Abu Jid, a Bedouin encampment in the middle of nowhere. They say they're convinced the Barzanis were executed and buried here.

DR IHSAN: Most of the Barzanis, they've been here. How do we know that? Talking to villagers around and talking to people around the area. Interrogating them, they tell you that they were here before taking them through Busayyah and then to their final destination, to their death. The bulldozer, however, throws up no sign of the missing Barzanis. A more reliable tip-off takes us 30 miles further into the desert. DR IHSAN: Why we are digging at night, not at daytime? Because the weather is too hot, because it is very hard for anybody - shovel driver, for our security or for anyone can start work in the middle of the desert. Yeah. It's getting really hot now. It is really very hot. After digging late into the night and finding nothing, a mood of desperation sets in. DR IHSAN: I think it is "We will try, let us try." You're going to do this bit here, yeah? I will do this bit here too. The bulldozer finds nothing. DR IHSAN: Most of the information which we have so far is second-hand information. Because none of the informer himself dares to stand up and tell how this is what's happened. Because most of them, they were taking part in it. The majority of them, they were part of the regime, and they were working for the regime at that time through police department, through customs, through border guards. Do you think some will have participated in the killing? I am sure. Definitely. This is why they don't dare to face us. After 12 days of digging for the bodies of the missing Barzanis, there's a breakthrough - Busayyah's village headman, the mukhtar, offers his help and for a moment, Dr Ihsan's hopes are raised. But despite the mukhtar's offers of help, nothing. Dr Ihsan is running out of options. We're short of food, water and hope. Back in Busayyah, he confronts the mukhtar behind closed doors and there's unwelcome news. Insurgents are circling the village, monitoring our movements. We're forced to abandon our search and return to the north. Dr Ihsan's investigation, which has lasted 14 years, seems to have come to a halt. You had a final meeting with the mukhtar. I told him I am sure, 100%, he knows everything. "Because you, Mukhtar, you've been mukhtar since 1965. "I am not going to accuse you that you are part of it. "But you know what happened. "All that I need - I need my bodies back. "I want my people back. That is what I am searching for."

Five months later, Dr Ihsan is called back to Busayyah. His Shiah contacts have finally managed to locate three mass graves, all of them just a few hundred feet away from where he'd searched back in May. The remains of 500 Kurds are recovered,

all of them believed to be Barzanis. I think this is concrete evidence

that this belongs to Barzani Kurds because this is what they wear in the old days.

Even today they are wearing the same clothing. The name is 'shal u shapik'. All of this will be used as evidence in Saddam's trial in Baghdad. DR IHSAN: I think there will be no way with this country after all that we've been through. Forget it. I personally don't think there's any hope, any hope that we can live together. I would like to compare the situation of Iraqi society to a sick person who is not accepting his sickness. You can see that he's been blindfolded. I think this is another male that has been blindfolded before killing. Thousands of Barzanis, and more than 100,000 Anfal victims, still remain unaccounted for. Their families still cling desperately to the hope

that their loved ones will one day be returned to them. Supertext Captions by the Australian Caption Centre Captions copyright SBS 2006

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We lived on top of a hill between the village and the lake next to the cemetery. The cemetery had lovely wild flowers for my mum. To get there I had to walk very fast past Gipsy George and family. The Gipsies lived in the cave under the graves and I was pretty spooked as I imagined the skeletons

sticking out through their ceiling. One day I watched in horror as young Joe and his brother next door

tried to put their sick old dog out of its misery. When the dog refused to die quickly, they let it go. It lived for another three years.

Our chooks slept in the open on the lower branches of a tree. But they weren't safe. A fox would spin and dance underneath the birds until they got dizzy and fell. MELANCHOLY VIOLIN Sam, our black pig, was my friend. He loved me spending time looking after him. Winter came and white snow covered everything. One crisp morning I heard wild shrieks fill the... SHRILL VIOLIN The butcher had come to slaughter the pig. Sam ran bleeding on the white snow.

I felt sick. Little did I care for the lovely sausages my friend would make. After the long winter nights we welcomed the warm rays of the sun. I was glad winter was coming to an end.

A Gipsy boy practised his Fox Dance routine. This was a ditty of rhymed obscenities accompanied by jerking movements. He would amuse summer tourists with his performance

just for a few coins. Some summer nights my brother and I sneaked through the back fence of the garden cinema. We had to keep low and hide behind the bushes. It was so exciting to watch forbidden films. MERRY PIANO MUSIC Zika, my mother's beautiful and scandalous friend, lived by the lakeside. She would go swimming naked in the lake at dusk. MERRY PIANO MUSIC Half the population of the village was watching her... much to her delight. Summer was the best time. My mother loved to go to the beer garden where bright lights, music and dancing filled the night. I could dance too. Grown-up shoes. TANGO PLAYS TANGO WINDS UP Captions (c) SBS Australia 2005