Remembering the Halabja chemical attack
It was March 16, 1988, just five days before Nawroz festivities, when the Iraqi warplanes ordered by Ali Hassan Majeed (Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's cousin, who was dubbed Chemical Ali after the attack) flew over Halabja city and bombed it with different kinds of chemical weapons.
The smell of apple filled the city. But the smell was not from apples - it was from the chemical bombs. Saddam's army used the smell of apples for their weapons so that when they targeted people, the chemical would not smell like poison. The apple scent was designed to be inhaled. For five hours, Iraqi war planes in batches of eight kept dropping chemical bombs on Halabja.
As a result, more than 5,000 innocent people, including men, women, children and infants, died and thousands more were killed as a result of complications, diseases and birth defects in the following years. Around 10,000 people were injured, some of whom still suffer from the wounds caused by the chemicals.
The only crime of the people who were killed in the most brutal way was that they were Kurds. They dressed differently, spoke differently and wanted to live freely.
The Halabja chemical attack, which was and still remains the largest chemical weapons attack directed against a civilian-populated area in history, was recognized by the Iraqi Supreme Criminal Court as an act of genocide which was welcomed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Chemical Ali was sentenced to death for orchestrating the 1988 massacre of Kurds. He was executed in January 2010.
Internationally, however, the massacre has not been recognized as such yet. The Parliament of Canada has only condemned the act as a crime against humanity while other countries have not bothered to do even that. But Kurdish efforts continue for greater recognition of the massacre as genocide by the international community.
On March 15, when the Iraqi parliament commemorated the massacre - the parliament has been commemorating the massace since 2010 when the supreme court labeled it genocide - the Kurdish Deputy Speaker Arif Tayfur told the parliament: "We remember this heinous crime at a time when there is still regional and international silence about it." Tayfur called on the international community to recognize the massacre as genocide.
Also on March 8, the Halabja genocide and the use of chemical weapons against Kurds were discussed in the European Parliament by politicians, academics and Kurdish organizations. The conference was opened by Jürgen Klute, German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left.
"The European Union has responsibility not only to contribute to the peace in the region by political and economical means, but also to end the weapons supply to countries in conflict," said the MEP, adding that "the poisonous gas used in the Halabja massacre originated from Germany and other European countries."
KRG Minister Sabah Ahmad Mohammad could not personally attend the conference and instead sent a video message. "Today these crimes are internally recognized by Iraq and the international community should also recognize them as genocides," he said.
Mohammad explained that the KRG is working on the establishment of lobbies, groups for support and advisory committees which will work in cooperation with the Kurdish ministries to achieve international recognition of the atrocities committed against Kurdish people.
|Omari Khawar , pictured with the baby in his arms, has become the symbol of Kurdish plight since the chemical bombardment in 1988.|
|The chemical attack victims graveyard in Halabja|
Famous Kurdish singer Adnan Karim sang this song for the Halabja tragedy