Crimes of Saddam Hussein

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein shouts as he receives his guilty verdict during his trial on November 5, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein shouts as he receives his guilty verdict during his trial on November 5, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Pool/Getty Images

Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq from 1979 until 2003, gained international notoriety for torturing and murdering thousands of his people. Hussein believed he ruled with an iron fist to keep his country, divided by ethnicity and religion, intact. However, his actions bespeak a tyrannical despot who stopped at nothing to punish those who opposed him.

On November 5, 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity in regards to the reprisal against Dujail. After an unsuccessful appeal, Hussein was hanged on December 30, 2006.

Though prosecutors had hundreds of crimes to choose from, these are some of Hussein's most heinous.

Reprisal Against Dujail

On July 8, 1982, Saddam Hussein was visiting the town of Dujail (50 miles north of Baghdad) when a group of Dawa militants shot at his motorcade. In reprisal for this assassination attempt, the entire town was punished. More than 140 fighting-age men were apprehended and never heard from again.

Approximately 1,500 other townspeople, including children, were rounded up and taken to prison, where many were tortured. After a year or more in prison, many were exiled to a southern desert camp. The town itself was destroyed; houses were bulldozed, and orchards were demolished.

Though Saddam's reprisal against Dujail is considered one of his lesser-known crimes, it was chosen as the first crime for which he was tried.

Anfal Campaign

Officially from February 23 to September 6, 1988 (but often thought to extend from March 1987 to May 1989), Saddam Hussein's regime carried out the Anfal (Arabic for "spoils") campaign against the large Kurdish population in northern Iraq. The purpose of the campaign was to reassert Iraqi control over the area; however, the real goal was to eliminate the Kurdish people permanently.

The campaign consisted of eight stages of assault, where up to 200,000 Iraqi troops attacked the area, rounded up civilians, and razed villages. Once rounded up, the civilians were divided into two groups: men from ages of about 13 to 70 and women, children, and elderly men.

The men were then shot and buried in mass graves. The women, children, and elderly were taken to relocation camps where conditions were deplorable. In a few areas, especially areas that put up even a little resistance, everyone was killed.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled the area, yet it is estimated that up to 182,000 were killed during the Anfal campaign. Many people consider the Anfal campaign an attempt at genocide.

Chemical Weapons Against Kurds

As early as April 1987, the Iraqis used chemical weapons to remove Kurds from their villages in northern Iraq during the Anfal campaign. It is estimated that chemical weapons were used on approximately 40 Kurdish villages, with the largest of these attacks occurring on March 16, 1988, against the Kurdish town of Halabja.

Beginning in the morning on March 16, 1988, and continuing all night, the Iraqis rained down volley after volley of bombs filled with a deadly mixture of mustard gas and nerve agents on Halabja. Immediate effects of the chemicals included blindness, vomiting, blisters, convulsions, and asphyxiation.

Approximately 5,000 women, men, and children died within days of the attacks. Long-term effects included permanent blindness, cancer, and birth defects. An estimated 10,000 lived, but live daily with the disfigurement and sicknesses from the chemical weapons.

Saddam Hussein's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid was directly in charge of the chemical attacks against the Kurds, earning him the epithet, "Chemical Ali."

Invasion of Kuwait

On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops invaded the country of Kuwait. The invasion was induced by oil and a large war debt that Iraq owed Kuwait. The six-week Persian Gulf War pushed Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991.

As the Iraqi troops retreated, they were ordered to light oil wells on fire. Over 700 oil wells were lit, burning over one billion barrels of oil and releasing dangerous pollutants into the air. Oil pipelines were also opened, releasing 10 million barrels of oil into the Gulf and tainting many water sources.

The fires and the oil spill created a huge environmental disaster.

Shiite Uprising and the Marsh Arabs

At the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, southern Shiites and northern Kurds rebelled against Hussein's regime. In retaliation, Iraq brutally suppressed the uprising, killing thousands of Shiites in southern Iraq.

As supposed punishment for supporting the Shiite rebellion in 1991, Saddam Hussein's regime killed thousands of Marsh Arabs, bulldozed their villages, and systematically ruined their way of life.

The Marsh Arabs had lived for thousands of years in the marshlands located in southern Iraq until Iraq built a network of canals, dikes, and dams to divert water away from the marshes. The Marsh Arabs were forced to flee the area, their way of life decimated.

By 2002, satellite images showed only 7 to 10 percent of the marshlands left. Saddam Hussein is blamed for creating an environmental disaster.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Crimes of Saddam Hussein." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2021, September 8). Crimes of Saddam Hussein. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Crimes of Saddam Hussein." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 5, 2023).