Decades of Solitude for Kurdish Women

Eighteen years ago, Saddam Hussein's soldiers took away all the males over the age of 5 in the Kurdish town of Maha Bram. None of them returned.

As Saddam Hussein's second trial begins, he faces accusations of ordering the killing of every male in Kurdish towns, where the women have since lived a life of suffering.

Nasreen Omar had a husband and four brothers, and recalls the day in April 1988 when soldiers invaded.

"Just before sunset, Iraqi soldiers surrounded the area and started shelling the village," she said in Kurdish.

The action was part of Hussein's campaign to clear large areas of northern Iraq of its Kurdish inhabitants. The villagers of Maha Baram were trucked to a detention center where the men were separated from the women.

"The last time I saw my husband was in Topzawa military camp from a distance," Kezhan Ahmed Ali said. "His hands were tied."

A week later, the men were gone from the camp.

"We don't know where the males were taken," Omar said. "We only saw they were put into covered trucks."

Grim Proof, Decades Later

For nearly two decades the women of Maha Baram were hoping their men were alive in a prison camp. But after Saddam's fall in 2003 the prisons were opened and it became clear that all the men who had been taken from the towns had been killed.

Forensic archaeologists have since unearthed mass graves in the desert where thousands of those victims had been shot and buried.

Now that Hussein is on trial for genocide, these women feel no mercy.

"I wish they would cut a piece of his body every day … and put salt in the wound," Ali said.

The fury and bitterness lingers, but these women also know they have won a victory over the dictator they revile: They have survived.