HALABJA, Kurdistan Region — March 16 is forever imprinted in the memory of this city.
On that day in 1988 thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives in the matter of hours.
The Iraqi government attacked people with chemical bombs and destroyed the city beyond recognition.
Halabja is a city of more than 150,000 people.
Halabja is in the southeastern corner of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In the beginning it was a seasonal nomadic settlement which slowly grew into a city and became home to thousands of families forcefully evacuated from their villages.
Halabja is known as the city of poets.
It was also a pioneer in women leadership.
Strong women once ruled the entire region from here.
Nature has bestowed on Halabja stunning beauty.
A few minutes in any direction and you will find yourself in the heart of nature.
But this beautiful is also the site of one of the most notorious crimes against humanity.
On March 16, 1988 Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his air force to attack Halabja with chemical bombs.
Iranian troops had taken over the city during their eight-year war with Iraq and the Iraqi regime resorted to the use of nerve agents such as VX and mustard gas to reverse the course of the battle.
5,000 people died on that day.
Streets were strewn with dead bodies and protective concrete bunkers became death traps.
Many perished by water streams as they tried to wash the deadly gas off their faces.
But Halabja did not die.
Those who survived returned home three years later and started rebuilding the city.
The memory of that tragic day greets you on every corner, but people here have kept Halabja alive.