The Feyli Kurds Part 3: The Feyli Kurds of Iraq

As a continuation of my discussion about Feyli Kurds and about Kurds in general I would like to finally get to the persecution suffered by these people by Saddam Hussein’s regime and their prospects since the fall of this regime.  While Feyli Kurds get along fine in Iran (or at least as well as other Shiite minorities like the Lurs or Azeris), they have faced decades of brutal discrimination in Iraq.

An interesting source (although likely biased given the name) that I found describing the history and current situation of the Feyli Kurds in Iraq can be found here.

It appears according to various sources including this map that the Feyli Kurds can be divided to two geographic areas.  I have zoomed in on the part of the map relevant to the area of interest although the entire thing is fascinating and worth inspection.

Note: Kurds form the minority population in some of the areas shown in the map and in some areas they have been forcefully removed relatively recently (20th century).

Here is the full map:

Kurdish_Tribal_Confederacies_lgI have zoomed in on the relevant area.  Names of tribes in large, capitalized, red letters describe major tribes in the area while names in smaller, non capitalized, black letters describe minor tribes.  Feyli Kurds, spelled “Fayli,” are found as a major tribe in Iran near the border with Iraq.  They are also found as a minor tribe in a curious strip jutting towards Baghdad.Kurdish_Tribal_Confederacies_lg_zoomed

Notice the border areas of Iraq with Iran where Shiite Kurds known as “Faylis” live.  In fact the Kaid, Arkuwaz, Khizil, Chachan and Bajalan are shown to live in the border areas with Fayli Kurds not actually living along the border, but instead close to the center of Iraqi power and culture, Baghdad.

In fact, looking at an alternate tribes and clans map that lists all the tribes in Iraq instead of just the Kurdish ones, the “Fayli” tribe is not mentioned at all.  I got this map from a list of Iraq maps at the University of Texas.  So what gives here?

iraq-majortribes2

At least this helps answer the question of the peculiar location of the Feyli Kurds jutting towards Baghdad.  It appears to be, in fact, the area around the Diyala River  after the Alwand River meets with it and continuing some distance further, definitely stopping before the city of Baqubah.

This also helps me to form a hypothesis of the question as to the nomenclature of Shiite Kurds in Iraq.  Any one who knows the actual answer can correct me, but my hunch is that in fact this is a similar situation to the Greeks.

The Greek people actually call themselves “Hellenes” and always have.  The name Greece actually comes from the Romans, who first encountered Greeks in the Italian peninsula in a region they called “Magna Graecia.”  This name came about because one of the first Greek tribes to colonize the Italian peninsula were called Graecians.  As the Romans conquered the entire Mediterranean basin (including the Greek polities) and is seen as the foundation of Western culture that has come to dominate the world, the name has stuck.

Interestingly, while researching the matter I found out that most Middle Eastern and South Asian languages as well as Indonesian (influenced heavily by the Middle East and South Asia) name the Greek people after the ancient region of Ionia where Greeks formed their first major colonies in Asia.  This would make sense as this is the first place where the Greeks would interact with Asian peoples (especially the Persians) and the name would propagate from there.

All this information can easily be found under etymology of Greece on wikipedia and also here.

Now as to the Feyli Kurds they are, in fact, the closest group of Kurds to the millenia old center of Iraq, Baghdad.  As a result of this I expect a similar phenomenon regarding Shiite Kurds in Iraq.  Feylis are the first and closest group to the elites of Baghdad (and many Feylis have moved to Baghdad for economic opportunities and the fact that it is so close to their homeland) so I would expect the name to stick for all Shiite Kurds in Iraq.

As for what the Saddam regime did to these people I will post an excerpt that comes straight from the first link in this post:

Decrees Number 666 of 7 May 1980 started the Plight of Faylee Kurds
The decision to strip hundreds of thousands of Faylee Kurds of their Iraqi citizenship, confiscate all their documents and property and the deport them keeping thousands of their young women and men in detention camps was taken by the Revolution Command Council (the highest executive and legislative branch of the State of Iraq, at the time) in Decree No. 666 dated 7 May 1980 signed by Saddam Hussein Chairman of the Council, President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Iraq. Decree No. 666 is obviously a political decision directed against a whole section of the Kurdish people in Iraq, stigmatizing its members as being of “foreign origin” and accusing them of “disloyalty to the people and fatherland and to the political and social principles of the Revolution”, an accusation tantamount to treason.

As a consequence of this arbitrary and unjust decree hundreds of thousands Faylee Kurds (as well as other Iraqis such as, Kurds from Kurdistan living in Baghdad as well as Turkomans, Arabs and from other ethnic groups) were forcibly and inhumanely deported to Iran starting with Faylee Kurd big merchants from Baghdad on 7 April 1980. The deportees were not allowed to take with them anything apart from the clothes they were wearing when they were picked up from homes, schools, government offices, work places, shops and military units. Thousands of young Faylee Kurds, women and children were detained and then disappeared without a trace. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some of them were use in the chemical and biological experiments and the others were emptied of their blood and vital organs during the war.

The plight of Faylee Kurds in Iraq is part of the overall plight of the Kurdish people in Iraq. The mass forcible deportation of Faylee Kurds from Iraq was an integral part of the policy of Saddam Hussein’s regime of ethnic cleansing.
The forcible deportation of Faylee Kurds in 1969-1971, sending returnee Kurds after the collapse of the Kurdish movement in 1975 to the south in small number scattered among Arab communities, the mass forcible deportation of Faylee Kurds starting April 1980, the Anfal campaign at the end of the 1980s (killing 180.000 Kurds, destroying over 2200 villages and communities, forcible displacing Kurds from Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Sinjar among others), and Decree Number 199 issued by the Revolution Command Council on 6 September 2001 – the correction of ethnicity – giving every Iraqi aged 18 years or more “the right” to change his/her ethnicity to Arabic, are all parts of a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

While the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his regime has done much to end the persecution of Feyli Kurds it has not done much to restore the lands they lost, now inhabited by Arabs.  Unlike Sunni Kurds who control the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and an impressive military force of soldiers known as peshmerga, Shiite Kurds are not in a position to take any of the lands that they’ve lost.  The weak central government in Baghdad is certainly in no position to evict the current Arab occupants from their new homes even if it wanted to.  Although the government of Iraq has offered citizenship to returning Feyli Kurds and many have returned as a result, even that is often a long and arduous process.

As a result, places that used to be inhabited by Iraqi Kurds such as Muqdadiyah and Mandali are now primarily inhabited by Iraqi Arabs.  One notable exception is in Khanaqin, which is close enough to the KRG for the KRG to have a serious claim to the area

This map shows the areas disputed between the KRG and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.

Disputed_areas_in_Iraq.svgRed is non disputed areas controlled by the KRG, pink is areas disputed and officially controlled by the KRG, and orange is areas disputed and not officially controlled by the KRG.  Many of the areas in orange have a large peshmerga presence and are de facto controlled by Kurds if not officially by the KRG.

I doubt the long southern tip envisioned by Kurdish activists to be their southern border with Iraq will ever happen.  In fact, most of the attention and effort is being placed in controlling, or at least splitting, the Kirkuk governorate with its huge oil reserves.

Khanaqin may serve as the focal point of the Feyli Kurds in the future as the center of the only part of their historical lands that they may have local control over.

A map of Iraq showing both ethnic and religious divisions demonstrates the perilous position of Shiite Feyli Kurds in Iraq.  This map appears to be outdated and the situation is likely even more perilous position today.

Iraq_Religions_lgPerhaps Feyli Kurds will one day have their own small, semi autonomous region centered around Khanaqin as a compromise between the KRG and the central government.  The same concept appears to be taking shape in the Nineveh plains which has become a focal point for fleeing Assyrians since the fall of Saddam.

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