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Chronology for Shi'is in Iraq

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Shi'is in Iraq, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38a61e.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1918 The British capture Iraq from the Turkish Ottoman Empire during World War I.
1921 The British created a constitutional monarchy in Iraq and installed Fisal ibn Hussein as Meccan Prince.
1932 - 1921 Iraq formally became an independent state but British influence over Iraqi public officials continued for another 28 years.
1933 King Fisal died and Iraq experiences a series of coups until 1939.
1958 In a military coup King Fisal II was assassinated and a new regime was established ending British influence in Iraq.
1961 The Kurds launched an armed rebellion against the government, Persians fought a protracted conflict with Arabs, Turks fought with Kurds, and Shi'as fought with Sunnis. Out of this the Pro Syrian Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (Ba'ath) established itself politically and seized control of the government.
1963 The Ba'ath party lost power to a pro-Nasser group that favored a confederacy with Egypt.
1968 - 1963 A coup brought the Ba'ath party back to power. Al-Da'wa al-Islamiya (The Islamic Call) was formed. This group did not take any overt political stance on how the government should be run or who should run it. Al-Da'wa al-Islamiya was an organization that promoted strict adherence to Shi'a doctrine as a guide for every facet of life. The Ba'athist regime founded this organization.
1970 A special branch of the secret police was formed to watch the Al-Da'wa al-Islamiya. Members of the group were routinely arrested, questioned and harassed by the authorities.
1974 Barzani and the KDP attacked Iraq.
1977 Religious demonstrations were held in the Shi'a holy cities of Najaf and Karbala with tens of thousands of Shi'as taking part. The Iraqi army forcibly broke up the gatherings killing 7 people. In addition over 2,000 Shi'as were arrested. This event served to harden the anti-Ba'athist sentiments among the Shi'as.
1979 Saddam Hussein became the Ba'athist President of Iraq.
1980 Iraq invades Iran with the objective of securing the long disputed Shatt al-Arab waterway and toppling the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Iraq announced that death sentences would be imposed on all persons affiliated with the Al Da'wa Party. Over 40,000 Iraqi Shi'as were deported to Iran and another 96 were executed.
1982 The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI) was formed in Iran with the aim of providing an opposition to Iraqi aggression against Iran. Following the Iran-Iraq war the organization continued to operate with the aim of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. The SCIRI is an umbrella organization for 6 Shi'a opposition movements.
1988 Iraq and Iran agree to a cease fire.
1989 - 1988 Hussein announced plans for Iraqi political reform.
Jan 26, 1990 Iraq was accused, by exiled opposition sources, of unleashing a two week military campaign against Shia villages in the south killing or injuring up to 10,000 people. The operation was said to have involved artillery attacks, helicopters, gunships, and special forces gunmen. The operation was said to have been undertaken to create a secure border zone on the frontier with Iran.
Jan 30, 1990 Iraq dismissed reports that they had recently attacked Shi'a villages in the south killing and injuring as many as 10,000 people.
Aug 3, 1990 Amnesty International reported that Iraqi troops had arrested hundreds of Iraqi exiles in Kuwait after house to house searches in predominantly Shi'a areas.
Aug 14, 1990 Dr Sahib al-Hakim, a prominent Shi'a and Secretary General of the Organization of Human Rights in Iraq, asserted that Hussein's call for a Jihad against the allied troops was illegitimate because such a call can not come from a politician and also because this call clearly had "sinister political motives".
Aug 15, 1990 Shi'a leaders in exile in Iran asserted that they would be able to mobilize as many as 50,000 men to fight against Saddam Hussein's army when the time is right.
Aug 21, 1990 Naji al-Hadithi, Iraq's director of information said in an interview that Shi'as were voluntarily enlisting to fight against the Americans at the same rate as Sunnis in Iraq's heartland.
Sep 24, 1990 Leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish, Shi'a, and communist groups asserted that they had solved their differences and were working to provide a unified front against Saddam Hussein.
Dec 6, 1990 Iraq began to issue passports allowing Shi'a Moslems from Iran to visit the Shi'a shrines in Iraq.
Feb 17, 1991 Iraqi officials stated that 250 Shi'as from the city of Najaf were killed as a result of allied bombings.
Mar 3, 1991 Official reports from Iran, Syria, and Western officials claimed that demonstrations and clashes between government forces and opposition groups, including the Shi'as, had spread from Basra to several towns in southern Iraq.
Mar 4, 1991 In the worst civil unrest since the beginning of president's Hussein's rule, uprisings continued in Basra and many other southern cities as well as in Kurdish areas to the north. Reports alleged that Iraqi soldiers had joined Shi'a fighters in battles against Republican Guard units. Some 7,000 Iraqi soldiers were moved from the Turkish and Iranian border in order to protect Baghdad.
Mar 7, 1991 In an effort to quite the uprising President Hussein offered the Shi'a and the Kurds shares in the central government in exchange for loyalty. Both groups rejected the proposals and the rebel offensives continued. Meanwhile, Republican Guards using tanks and artillery gained ground on the rebels in the city of Basra.
Mar 12, 1991 Refugees leaving Iraq accused the government of using napalm in their efforts to quell the uprisings.
Mar 13, 1991 U.S. President Bush warned Iraq not to use helicopters or fixed wing aircraft as part of the effort to put down the uprisings. "Massive" demonstrations were reported in Baghdad by Teheran radio and "several" deaths were reported when the army broke them up. Clashes continued between government forces and the rebels in the south.
Mar 15, 1991 According to an article in the New York Times, for two week Iraqi soldiers had been attacking some 10,000 Shi'a fighters and 200,000 displaced persons hiding in the southern marshes. The report said that the government had prevented food and supplies from reaching people in the marshes.
Mar 17, 1991 The Iraqi army went on the offensive against the Shi'as in the south attacking the rebel held city of Karbala and killing 400 people. Two Shi'a shrines were reported damaged in the fighting. Meanwhile rebel forces took partial control of the cities of Kut, Jessan, and Zorbaiyeh.
Mar 19, 1991 In Safwan, 5,000 refugees (mostly Shi'a) arrived fleeing the fighting in the south and seeking refuge and basic humanitarian care. The US military agreed to distribute food and water on a temporary basis.
Mar 21, 1991 Exiled Iraqi opposition groups claimed that Iraqi forces were crushing the uprising in the south through widespread killings and the establishment of concentration camps for civilians to deter further unrest. The Iraqi government declared a state of emergency in Baghdad.
Mar 23, 1991 A US Department of State report claimed that Iraq dumped toxic chemicals in the waters of the marshlands in the south in an effort to drive out the Shi'a. The report also described military attacks on Shi'a villages that have resulted in "hundreds" of deaths. The report went on to say that the Iraqi government have severely restricted access by foreigners to southern Iraq, so information on death and injuries was difficult to come by.
Mar 26, 1991 Iraqi and international sources agreed that the Shi'a uprising in the south had been quelled.
Mar 28, 1991 SCIRI leader Hakim conceded that rebel forces had withdrawn from all southern cities in the preceding week and that fighting was limited to rural areas.
Apr 5, 1991 The UN Security Council approved resolution 688 which condemned the Iraq's oppression of the Kurds.
Apr 12, 1991 The US military initiated Operation Provide Comfort designed to set up safe havens for Kurds in the north.
Apr 20, 1991 Guerrillas from SCIRI began to launch hit and run strikes against Iraqi government positions in the south.
Apr 21, 1991 According to a report by SCIRI, government troops had launched a large scale offensive against Shi'a dissidents hiding in southern marshes near Amara, Basra, and Nasiriyya.
Apr 23, 1991 Iraqi Shi'a rebels claimed to have captured and put to death nine Iraqi Army executioners. Hit and run military operations by the Shi'a had been increasing in the past few days.
Apr 24, 1991 An estimated 15,000 Iraqi Shi'a were camped out at the border between Iraq and Iran who wished to cross over.
Apr 25, 1991 Iraqi Shi'a leaders expressed dismay over the peace negotiations between Druze leaders and Saddam Hussein. They claimed that the talks could hamper the efforts of the anti-Hussein opposition in Iraq.
May 2, 1991 Iraqi Shi'as rebels claimed that they had killed as many as 180 government troops in 9 different attacks in the south.
May 12, 1991 Iraqi officials took journalists to view the corpses of 100 men in a mass grave near the Iran Iraq border. The officials alleged that the men had been killed by Iranians and Shi'a rebels in the south.
Jun 11, 1991 Iran's U.N. representative submitted a letter to the Security Council warning that the Iraq Army was "preparing for a general moping up operation" of Shi'a refugees in the south.
Jun 13, 1991 Iraq denied reports that they were planning an offensive against Shi'as who had sought refuge in the southern marshlands.
Jul 10, 1991 The U.N. announced plans to open a humanitarian center in Hammar to care for Shi'a opposition members hiding in the southern marsh lands.
Jul 11, 1991 Iran reported that Iraqi forces were massing on the edge of the marshlands were most Shi'as fled during the unsuccessful Shi'a revolt against Hussein.
Jul 19, 1991 The UN reported that Iraqi forces were not allowing UN relief workers into the swamplands or Shi'as out of the swampland in an effort to cut them off from food and supplies.
Oct 7, 1991 Iraqi forces closed in on the remanents of the Shi'a rebellion in the southern marsh lands.
Nov 19, 1991 A UN human rights report accused Iraq of strapping men and children to tanks used in the effort to put down the Shi'a uprising following the Gulf War. The report also claimed that Iraq had used torture and murder against perceived enemies.
Jul 2, 1992 According to western and Iraqi sources, the government had begun trying to drain the southern swamplands as part of their efforts to control the Shi'a dissidents in that region. They allegedly were relocating civilians from the area.
Jul 22, 1992 Iraq used fixed wing aircraft to bomb Shi'a dissidents in the south killing 30 people. The Washington Post reported that during the first two weeks of July, the government had ordered the residents of Adl and al-Salaam in the southern marshes to evacuate. The Iraqi army them moved in and burned down the homes there to prevent them from returning. A 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM curfew was being enforced throughout the south.
Jul 30, 1992 Iraqi troops had surrounded Shi'a stronghold in the southern marshlands and were using ground attack aircraft in their efforts to defeat the rebels.
Aug 10, 1992 Iraq cut phone lies and imposed a curfew on the holy city of Najaf in an attempt to prevent thousands of mourners from turning out for the funeral of the worlds most senior Shi'a Muslim scholar, the Grand Ayatollah Abdolqassem al-Khoei.
Aug 11, 1992 At a special meeting of the UN security council, Britain, France, and the United States accused Iraq of conducting a "systematic military campaign" against the Shi'a in the southern marshlands. They further warned Iraq to halt the campaign or face possible intervention.
Aug 22, 1992 Shi'a Moslems came under attack by Iraqi forces in the very area that was about to be declared a no fly zone. No information was available on casualties or injuries. US President George Bush announced that the United States and its allies had ordered Iraq not to fly any aircraft south of the 32nd parallel. Bush said the flight ban was needed to protect Shi'a dissidents from attack by the government and was sanctioned by UN Security Council Resolution 688, which required Iraq to respect the human rights of its citizens.
Aug 27, 1992 Iraq reported that they would continue to fly planes and helicopters over the southern no fly zone.
Aug 30, 1992 There were several reports in the preceding week of Iraqi government forces arresting and moving large numbers of Shi'a out of the south and into military camps.
Mar 2, 1993 A UN investigation reported that the Iraqi government had executed hundreds of Shi'a from the southern marshes in the preceding months. The report asserted that the army's behavior in the south was the most "worrying development (in Iraq) in the past year". Following the formation of the no fly zone the army switched to long range artillery attacks. Among the tactics attributed to government forces were artillery attacks on Shi'a villages followed by ground force attacks resulting in "heavy casualties" and widespread destruction of property. There were allegations of mass executions.
Jul 21, 1993 A UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokes person announced that during the past several weeks, more than 3,000 Iraqi Shi'a had fled to Iran to avoid Iraqi Army attacks and poor economic conditions brought about by the government's drainage of southern marshlands.
Jul 27, 1993 Iranian official appealed to the world to sen aid to help Shi'a refugees who had fled from Iraq to Iran. Over 4,000 Shi'as had crossed the border by this point. The drainage of the marshlands and continuing attacks by the Iraqi army forced most of them out.
Oct 22, 1993 Several unconfirmed reports from refugee camp workers near the border of Iran and Iraq allege that nerve gas had been used during an Iraqi army attack on the Shi'a city of Basra
Nov 17, 1993 Iran reported that as a result of the drainage of the southern marshlands, Iraqi Shi'as could no longer fish or grow rice. Since 1991 over 60,000 Shi'as had reportedly fled to Iran. Meanwhile unconfirmed reports surfaced that the Iraqi army had used poisonous gas had been used against Shi'a villages near the border of Iran.
Nov 23, 1993 The UN reported that 40% of the marshlands in the south had been drained.
Dec 27, 1993 In a US Department of State report of human rights Iraq was accused of "indiscriminate military operations in the south, which included the burning of villages, emplacement of bombs in village areas, and forced relocation of non-combatants". They reported that in 1993 numerous Shi'a civilians were reportedly arrested and moved to detention centers in the central part of the country. There were also reports of executions.
1994 The UN estimated that since mid 1993 over 7,000 Iraqi Shi'a had fled to Iran and a total of 50,000 had lost their homes in the marshlands.
Feb 23, 1994 Iraq diverted waters from the Tigris river to Shi'a areas south and east of the main marshlands producing floods of up to 10 feet of water. This had the dual effect to rendering the farmlands there useless and of driving rebels who has been hiding there to flee back into the marches which were being drained of water.
Mar 7, 1994 Following an investigation the UN found that there was no evidence that Iraq had used chemical weapons in its efforts to repress the Shi'a uprising following the gulf war. They did not rule out the possibility that Iraq could have used phosgene gas which would not have been detectable after the attack.
Mar 17, 1994 A team of English scientists estimated that 57% of the marshlands had been drained and than in 10 to 20 years the entire wetland ecosystem in southern Iraq will be gone. The report included satellite images of Swamplands on fire which lent support to the theory that Iraq was deliberately draining the mashes in an attempt to snuff out Shi'a rebels.
Apr 25, 1994 Iraq announced that it had completed work on the "Mother of all Battles Irrigation Canal". The canal which diverts water from the Tigris and Euphrates was said to be used for irrigation purposes, will have the effect of totally drying out the southern marshlands inhabited by the Shi'as.
Apr 29, 1994 Reuters reports that US officials say Iraq is still launching a military campaign in Iraq's remote southern marshes against the Shi'i.
May 18, 1994 Reuters reports that some members of the UN Security Council, including the US, are demanding that Iraq end its persecution of its Shi'i population as part of the requirements for the easing of the UN sanctions on Iraq. Throughout the period covered by this update, the UN Security Council as well as several other international organizations and individual countries condemn Iraq's treatment of its Shi'i population. Such condemnations will not be further noted unless otherwise noteworthy.
May 20, 1994 The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shi'i resistance group, says that Iraq has launched a heavy attack on the Shi'i populated southern marshes in the Amarah province. This attack includes the heavy artillery bombardment of civilian areas.
Jun 24, 1994 SCIRI says that a new canal through the southern marshes is part of Iraq's efforts to crush the Shi'i opposition by depriving the Shi'i of their means for making a living and driving them from the region. Throughout the period covered by this update Iraq is repeatedly accused of a scorched earth policy in the southern marshlands that is turning them into desert. Such accusations will not be further noted unless otherwise noteworthy.
Jul 22, 1994 The Iraqi government is blamed for causing a car accident which kills a leading Iraqi Shi'i cleric. Sayyed Mohamed Taghi al Khoei, the son of a Grand Ayatollah who died in 1992, had been running Shi'i affairs since his father's death and had lobbied for the release of over 100 Shi'i clerics detained since 1991. He had been constantly harassed by the Iraqi authorities and had been twice summoned to the Security Headquarters in Baghdad in the past week. Iraqi President Hussein is widely believed to eliminate many opposition leaders in "accidents."
Aug 1994 An Iranian official says that 8,000 Iraqi marsh people have fled to Iran over the previous 18 months.
Aug 26, 1994 The Iraqi Vanguard for National Salvation (IIVNS), a newly formed Shi'i resistance group with close ties to Iran, claims responsibility for a car bomb in Baghdad, saying that it is the start of a campaign to "get rid of the unjust regime of the criminal [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein.]" The IIVNS appears to have been established some time earlier this month.
Aug 31, 1994 SCIRI accuses the Iraqi government of deliberately polluting the Tigris river which flows into the Shi'i populated southern marshlands. This pollution is said to be responsible for the spread of serious disease among the Shi'i living there.
Sep 4, 1994 Baghdad accuses Iran of providing refuge for Iraqi Shi'i dissidents who cause instability in the southern marshlands with hit and run attacks on targets in southern Iraq. Iraq makes such accusations, with considerable justification, throughout the period covered by this update. Such accusations will not be further noted unless otherwise noteworthy.
Sep 7, 1994 A CIA estimate claims that over 100,000 of the 150,000 Shi'i believed to have sought refuge in the Hawr al Hamman and Al Amarah marshes have been driven out by Iraq's scorched earth policy, mostly across the border to Iran.
Sep 8, 1994 SCIRI announces that 5 Iraqi Shi'i children and 2 adults have died from disease and hunger in marshes on the Iranian border. This situation of starvation and disease is indicative of the situation of thousands of Iraqi Shi'i refugees. Such reports will not be further noted unless otherwise noteworthy.
Oct 8, 1994 The Movement for Islamic Concord, which is a part of the SCIRI, proposes that the international community give the Iraqi opposition control of an area in Southern Iraq as a first step toward overthrowing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Over the next few weeks Iraqi Shi'i organizations make several similar demands in the context of an Iraqi military buildup on the Kuwaiti border. This situation makes several foreign powers, including the US, receptive to the idea but nothing, as of yet, has been done to implement such a plan.
Oct 12, 1994 The SCIRI reports clashes between opposition groups and Iraqi forces in the Diwaniya province between Baghdad and Basra. They also accuse Baghdad of transporting chemical and biological weapons to the southern areas of Iraq.
Jan 16, 1995 The UN refugee agency asks Iran to move a group of 4,000 Shi'i refugees away from an area bordering Iraq due to concern over conditions in the camps. Iran eventually complies. Iraq has accused the Iraqi Shi'i opposition of using this camp as one of its bases for attacks against targets in Iraq.
Mar 5, 1995 The Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella organization for Shi'i, Kurd and Sunni opposition to the Iraqi government, reports fighting between Shi'i fighters and Iraqi troops in Qurna, 450 km (250 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
Aug 2, 1995 Syrian President Assad meets with SCIRI leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.
Aug 15, 1995 The SCIRI denounces the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein who had recently defected to Jordan as a killer and says that "dealing with this person is completely out of our calculations."
Sep 17, 1995 The SCIRI announces that it has attacked 3 Iraqi army positions in Baghdad earlier this month.
Dec 16, 1995 Jordan's King Hussein offered to sponsor discussions among all Iraqi opposition groups to allow them to discuss the future direction of their country. (Reuters)
May 20, 1996 Iraq and the UN signed an agreement easing the embargo imposed on Iraq in 1990, allowing Iraq to resume the sale of oil in return for food and medicine. (Kaliedoscope)
Sep 3 - 13, 1996 The US launches air strikes on Iraq in response to the aid Saddam's regime provided to the KDP attacks in the Kurdish enclave of Iraq. Iraq responds by firing missiles at American, British, and French planes patrolling the no-fly zone in northern Iraq. (The Economist, September 7; September 21)
Sep 11, 1996 Diplomats in Kuwait deny SCIRI reports of the buildup of Iraqi forces in southern Iraq. (Reuters)
Sep 17, 1996 Kuwait agreed to allow 3300 more US soldiers intended to be stationed within Iraq in order to maintain military pressure on Iraq. (New York Times)
Dec 12, 1996 Members of outlawed Iraqi Shiite party al-Daawa claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein's oldest son Uday, who was critically wounded (but not killed) in an attack in downtown Baghdad using gunfire and grenades. (AFP)
Dec 29, 1996 Al-Daawa announces that the attack on Uday Hussein would be the first of many against Iraqi officials. (AFP)
Feb 9, 1997 SCIRI claims that several officials have been executed following an attempted coup against Saddam Hussein. (Rueters)
May 13, 1997 105 Iraqi soldiers are killed in clashes with members of the Bani Said tribe in southern Iraq. (AFP)
Jan 1 - Feb 28, 1998 Saddam Hussein's refusal to grant UN arms inspectors access to suspected weapons sites in Iraq causes increased tension, as the US threatens to launch the most severe air strikes since the Gulf War against Iraq in order to force its compliance with UN demands. Russia objected to the US strategy and pursued independently a diplomatic approach to dealing with Baghdad.
Feb 23, 1998 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan brokers a deal with Saddam Hussein, insuring UN weapons inspectors access to all suspected weapons caches in Iraq. The conclusion of this deal ended the threat of another round of US air strikes on Iraq. (New York Times; The Economist, February 28)
Oct 23, 1998 The US Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, a bill allotting $97 million for weapons, training, and financing Iraqi opposition groups. This represents the first public move by the US to pursue the ouster of Saddam Hussein, a goal it has apparently been unable to achieve working clandestinely. (Christian Science Monitor)
Nov 29, 1998 Representatives of Iraqi Shi'ias expressed concern and doubt about US and British efforts to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Such a movement should come from within Iraq, they argued. (AFP)
Dec 16 - 20, 1998 The US and Great Britain launch air strikes on 89 different targets in Iraq after UN arms inspectors reported Iraq's refusal to grant inspectors access to suspected weapon sites. Russia and China objected to the attacks. (New York Times; The Economist, December 19)
Dec 28, 1998 - Sep 30, 1999 The US launches a series of attacks on air defense systems and communication networks in northern Iraq. Between late December and early March, bombs were dropped on 30 different days. (New York Times)
Jan 4, 1999 Iraqi opposition leaders revealed that Iraqi officials, led by Saddam Hussien's son Qusai, had executed more than 100 Shi'ite dissidents in November 1998. Most of the executed prisoners has been arrested during Shiite uprisings after the Gulf War. (Kaliedoscope; AFP, March 22)
Jan 21, 1999 SCIRI leaders rejected US military and financial assistance to help them oust Saddam Hussein. (AFP)
Feb 18, 1999 A leading Shi'ite cleric--Ayotollah Sadr--and his two sons were murdered in Najaf. Deadly riots broke out in Baghdad and throughout southern Europe following the announcement of this event. (AFP)
Feb 20, 1999 SCIRI officials accused Baghdad of being responsible for the murder of Ayotallah Sadr, alleging that it was part of a plot by Hussein to eliminate all Shiite opposition. (AFP)
Feb 21, 1999 Iraqi security forces killed 20 people participating in Shiite protests in southern Iraq, and more than 250 others were arrested at anti-Saddam demonstrations across the country. Later in the day, Shiite protestors attacked a government building in Nassiriya, leading Iraqi forces to shell the town. (AFP)
Mar 3, 1999 SCIRI leader Hakim reported that it had attacked a series of government buildings in the southern Iraqi town of Kerbala as revenge for the murder of Ayotollah Sadr and his sons. (AFP)
Mar 9 - 10, 1999 Clashes occured between Iraqi security forces and SCIRI fighters in two southeastern Iraqi provinces. SCIRI reported that over 100 people were killed and that 8 Iraqi tanks were destroyed. (AFP)
Apr 24, 1999 Clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and members of the opposition in southern Iraq. (AFP)

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