‘In the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyeh, there is a building known as “Red Security”. Once it was the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services. Now it is a museum. Prison cells have been left as they were found: dimly lit with a few dirty rags on the tiled floors.
The most haunting section holds the interrogation rooms – now filled with life-sized sculptures of Kurds undergoing torture; one man is seen dangling by his handcuffs from a hook, another having the soles of his feet whipped by guards. A large room at the end of a corridor is known as “the children’s cell”. This was where some of Kurdish victims of Saddam’s regime were held until 1991 when the fate of the Kurds began to change.
In February of that year, in the middle of the first Gulf War, George Bush Senior called upon the Iraqi military and people to topple Saddam. The Kurds of northern Iraq responded to Bush and rose up to storm the strongholds of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party- including the Red Security headquarters. Saddam’s forces retreated. Erbil and Kirkuk both fell in to Kurdish hands.
The Gulf War ended later that month. Washington was keen to bring its troops home as quickly as they’d been dispatched. With America’s mission accomplished in Kuwait, its interests were no longer aligned with those of the Kurdish rebels. Their plight was just another internal Iraqi affair.
When Saddam began his reprisals – after the Americans had departed – the Kurds were left at the mercy a dictator who just three years earlier had used poison gas to massacre tens of thousands of civilians. The Kurds fled to the mountains in their thousands, seeking refuge in neighbouring Iran and Turkey – but many did not survive the journey.’