Egyptian TV series sparks criticism in Iraq over Anfal victims

An Egyptian TV series called “Neeran Sadeeqa” (Friendly Fires) has stirred controversy in Iraq as the series has reopened the sensitive case of the detention of thousands of Kurdish families in 1988 as part of a military campaign by Iraqi authorities against an opposition movement known as Anfal.

The series portrays Iraqi authorities forcing 18 women from the opposition group to work in Egyptian nightclubs, sparking anger in Iraq.

Fouad Othman, spokesperson for the “martyrs ministry” in the government of northern Iraq, said the issue requires closer examination. “There was a follow up on the issue after an Iraqi intelligence document was obtained after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. The document detailed correspondences between 18 women from detained Kurdish families who were going to be sent to Egypt to work at nightclubs.”

“A delegation from the martyrs ministry will head to the Egyptian consulate in Arbil on Tuesday to request its help in finding those women,” Othman added.

Otham expected the Egyptian consulate’s cooperation on the issue, reasoning that Egypt has interests in Iraq. “We want to know how the director and writer of the series got information about these women.”

Tareq Kurdi, general director of the interior ministry of the Kurdish government, said his government has the ability to perform DNA tests on the Anfal victims.

Iraqi writer Aref Qurbany said the issue is sensitive and places responsibility on the government in northern Iraq. He said the government should send a delegation to the Egyptian foreign ministry to follow up on the issue.

“If it is true, then we have the right to complain to the United Nations and request cooperation and an apology from Egypt to the Kurdish people,” he said, adding that the issue would be forgotten if no evidence was found.

Qurbany said that this wound is reopened from time to time, renewing the pain of the relatives of the Anfal victims.

In the fifth episode of the series, a nightclub owner refuses to hire 18 Iraqi women of Kurdish origin as dancers. His assistant reasons that he has orders to do so. It is then revealed that the owner’s father had given the orders. The father explains to his son that it is better for them to work as dancers rather than be killed by Saddam Hussein, who had killed their relatives. The son responds by saying that it would be better for them to be killed so that they may become martyrs. The son then accuses his father of working with gang members.

Kurdish authorities have stated that the Iraqi government detained 182,000 people in the Anfal campaign, including women and children. They were transferred to detention camps and then moved to other sites. They were then killed and buried in the desert, in the south of the country. In 2003, authorities in northern Iraq found many mass graves, in which victims of the former regime were buried. Remains of around 3,000 victims were found. Efforts are still being exerted to find the rest of the victims.

Mohamed Amin Rady, the author of the series, said the story, which sparked criticism from the government in Baghdad, was true.

Rady told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the events took place in the 1980s and that a report was published in the Akhbar al-Hawadeth newspaper. It grabbed his attention and he decided to make it a part of his series.

Rady refused to comment on statements by Iraqi officials saying that the story is fiction and that it confirms that all the incidents and the characters within the series are not real.

On Monday, Othman called on Rady to reveal his source regarding this information to help reveal the crimes of the former regime.

Menna Shalaby, Kenda Alloush, Ranya Youssef, Mohamed Shahin, Amr Youssef, Zafer al-Abdeen, Sabry Fawwaz, and Salwa Khattab star in the series. It is directed by Khaled Mar’ey and produced by Tareq al-Ganayny.

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