In 1970 the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani reached an agreement for the autonomy of Kurdistan and political representation within the Baghdad government. While the agreement seemed like a positive end to nearly a decade of violence, by 1974 many parts of the agreement were still not fulfilled. Hostilities once again broke out and by the end of the 1970s, 600 Kurdish villages were completely destroyed, and 200,000 Kurds were forced to move to other areas of Iraq.
With the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranians began providing support to Kurdish guerrilla forces in their fight for independence. The Iranians hoped that a stronger Kurdish force would divide the Iraqi military. The Kurdish rebellion was easily suppressed by the Iraqi military, but the Kurds joined with the Iranians in order to keep fighting against the Iraqis.
Unfortunately for the Kurdish people, the reprisal was a terrifying campaign named the Al-Anfal campaign. The Iraqi military conducted ground attacks and aerial bombings in order to destroy Kurdish villages. Concentration camps were built to house and exterminate captured Kurds. There were mass executions of men who were of military age and chemical warfare that killed entire villages.
One of the worst attacks occurred in 1988 when Iranian troops and Kurdish guerrillas took control of an Iraqi military base in Halabja. The Iraqi Air Force retaliated by firing rockets and napalm into the residential areas. This was followed by a poison gas attack which killed as many as 5,000 civilians, most of which were women and children. 10,000 more were severely injured, making it the worst poison gas attack since World War I, when the practice was outlawed.
The Al-Anfal campaign finally came to an end in 1988 when both sides agreed to amnesty. The end of hostilities came as a surprise to the Kurds, but was likely a result of Baghdad believing the Peshmerga (Kurdish military forces) was defeated. Throughout the entire campaign, an estimated 182,000 Kurds perished and 2,000 villages were destroyed.