Photo: NRT TV
HALABJA, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— The city of Halabja in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Saturday (March 16) marked the 31st anniversary of the genocidal chemical attack that took the lives of thousands of people in 1988.
At the hall next to Halabja Stadium, thousands of dignitaries, survivors, and ordinary citizens gathered to remember the victims and to honor the survivors.
Senior diplomats representing the United Nations and embassies and consulates in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region were in attendance during the solemn ceremony.
People from across the Kurdistan Region also visited the city’s iconic monument to visit the museum there and remember the terrible crime committed against the city and those who lived there.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi released in a statement on Saturday expressing his condolences to the people of the Kurdistan Region and Halabja.
“We remember the tragedy of Halabja, where our memory brings unforgettable dreams and deep wounds left by the barbarism of the dictatorship that attacked the innocent people with chemical toxic gas and shook the world … It was another example of the crimes of the Baathist [regime of] Saddam Hussein,” the statement read.
“Halabja was and will remain a symbol of redemption and a witness to the ugliness of dictatorship.”
A dead Kurdish man protecting his child during the poison gas attack by Saddam Hussein’s forces on March 16, 1988 in Halabja, Iraqi Kurdistan.
5,000 people were killed in the attack.
On March 16, 1988, the Ba’ath regime attacked the city of Halabja using mustard gas and the nerve agents sarin, tabun, VX, and possibly cyanide, which have the capability to suffocate and kill people in less than a minute.
Poisonous fumes spread across the city and the mostly civilian victims died in clumps throughout the city’s residential areas.
Many others managed to survive and escaped into Iran.
As many as 5,000 people were killed and thousands more wounded.
Many of the residents of Halabja became separated from their families in the chaos of the attack and were never able to make contact again.
Victims of the chemical attack still suffer the effects to this day, both psychologically and medically.
Following the attack, the city was systematically razed by the Iraqi Army.
The area itself has not fully recovered and many homes and buildings remain in ruins.
Halabja has become an important symbol to Kurdish people everywhere.
The local government in Halabja annually petitions the international community to officially recognize the massacre.
Life has returned to Halabja, but the wounds linger.
Some of the survivors still lack adequate medical treatment.
Local authorities would like to do more than just commemorate the anniversary once a year.
They are working to revive the city by rebuilding and creating a global link with the rest of the world.
Read more: The 23rd Anniversary of Halabja 17.3.2011During the 1994-1997 Kurdish civil war, Barzani and his rival Jalal Talabani rounded up and executed approximately 3,000 Kurds with whom they had political disagreements.
Barzani and Talabani, like Saddam before them, simply dumped these Kurdish victims into mass graves; to date, they refuse to tell family members where their loved ones are buried, and they arrest any journalist or academic who raises the issue.
Alas, in Iraqi Kurdistan, it seems that Saddam was not the last dictator, nor was Halabja the last massacre.
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