Gulf War Uprisings

Below are brief overviews of the 1991 Kurdish and Shiite uprisings in Iraq. The rebellions flared after Saddam's army was defeated. Coalition Forces led by the United States expelled Iraq's military forces from Kuwait in February 1991 and then advanced toward Baghdad, stopping after President George Bush called an end to the hostilities. Believing Saddam's regime would soon fall, demonstrations against the weakened government erupted in north and south Iraq.

Kurdish Uprising

Masoud Barzani, then head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), addressing the Peshmerge or Armed Kurdish fighters during the 1991 uprising.Days after President Bush announced the ceasefire, Kurdish political groups united against Saddam organized mass demonstrations and attacked military and government facilities in northern Iraq. The rebellion was planned a month earlier, according to the Kurdish Joint Action Committee.1

The uprising spread like wildfire and in a short while the major cities in the Kurdish region were liberated by rebels and army deserters. But the Kurds were unable to defend against Republican Guards, sent by Sadda to quell the rebellion.

Sporadic fighting between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish rebels continued until October, when an agreement was reached that required the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kurdish areas and the establishment of a Kurdish Regional Government.

Shaaban Intifada (Shiite Uprising)

Rebels near Nasiriyah, a city in south central Iraq, during the 1991 Shiite rebellion.In Southern Iraq, demonstrations against Saddam began on March 1 in Basra, the country's second largest city, and then spread to other cities. Shiite communities dominate the region and had long been oppressed by government authorities.

Insurgents equipped with small arms and hand grenades seized Basra. Rebels executed government officials and released political prisoners from jails. At the height of the rebellion, the insurgents controlled seven major cities in southern Iraq.

Remaining elements of Iraq's regular forces, Republican Guard units, militia, and loyal police officers fought to restore government control. By mid March, Saddam's forces had crushed most of the opposition in the cities, including the port city of Basra. The uprising was all but over by the end of the month, except for a limited number of rural areas.

1) "Revolt in Iraq; Kurds, Shiites Gain in Cities," Newsday, March 6, 1991.