Collected at the suggestion and with the help of survivors and Syrian activists for media release
3 Life at the Other End of the Red Line
22 Statement of a survivor of the chemical attacks on Halabja in 1988
24 The german Gasline/Continued
30 Additional sources of information on the chemical attacks on August 21 2013
Life at the Other End of the Red Line
About a year ago, in August 2013, a suburban area east of Damascus known as the Ghoutas was attacked with chemical weapons. The rebel-held neighborhoods that were hit had found themselves under siege and constant bombardment by Syrian troops and Shiite militias since 2012.
After the attacks, August 21st 2013
In the early morning of August 21, 2013, the first posts of the Free Syrian Army reported the impact of rockets that probably contained toxic agents. Witnesses reported of projectiles that would sound like bursting water tanks upon detonation. The first ground-‐to-‐ground rockets assembled with chemical agents struck around 3:00 AM, followed by a whole series of strikes in the neighborhoods of Hammuriyah, Hirista, Irbin, Sepqa, Kafr Batna, Ayn Tarma, Jobar, and Zamalka. A few days later, Doctors Without Borders would confirm 350 deaths using hospital records, but this number would be revised higher and higher in the days that followed. As the affected neighborhoods stood under fire, medical provisions were meager at best. Local doctors are now in consensus with other reports of over 1300 dead—almost all of them civilians, who were literally killed in their sleep.
A team of UN inspectors were already in the area to investigate earlier allegations of chemical weapons usage. Five days after the attack, they surveyed some of the impact sites, took soil samples, examined survivors, and interviewed doctors. Though the area continued to suffer uninter-‐ rupted bombardment by conventional weapons, the UN team was still able to prove that the highly toxic chemical agent sarin had been deployed in the districts examined. Sarin affects the entire surface of the body. It causes breathing difficulties, convulsions, uncontrollable muscle twitching, salivation, vomiting, and eventually respiratory paralysis. Like other chemical agents, sarin acts upon the autonomic nervous system and triggers continuous nervous excitation. This is accompanied by extreme reactions of anxiety and panic in the victim. Sarin causes a cruel and painful death.
First aid for victims after the attacks
One year later, the Ghoutas is still besieged, and the situation for the people there has only dete-‐ riorated. Everything is lacking: food, clean drinking water, medical supplies. Bashar al-‐Assad’s regime is starving out the restive neighborhoods of The Ghoutas. The survivors of the chemical attacks are also affected. More than 9000 people are registered as having been exposed to toxic agents and a number of them carry life-‐threatening injuries as a result. Treating victims of sarin is extremely difficult even under peaceful conditions; under siege and bombardment it is practi-‐ cally impossible. There is no international aid. There has been no further fact-‐finding mission, nor has there been any serious effort to claim from the Syrian regime access to those affected, inorder to provide them humanitarian aid. Now that the Syrian government has assented to the OPCW-‐led destruction of its known chemical weapons arsenals, it seems that the international furor over the use of toxic agents against civilians in Syria has subsided.
After the attack
Without a doubt, the destruction of Syria’s chemical weaponry is a crucial step. Chemical weap-‐ ons are rightly classified as weapons of mass destruction. But the notion can quickly lead us astray if we fail to attend to where and under what conditions chemical weapons have been de-‐ ployed in previous decades. Prior to the Syrian civil war, this happened on a large scale most recently in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein’s regime deployed chemical weapons first against Ira-‐ nian soldiers and later, toward the end of the 1980s, against the Iraqi Kurdish population. It was already apparent by then that the ease and local limitability with which they can be deployed make these weapons an attractive tool in conflicts waged without regard for the population. In comparison to other weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons are relatively easy to pro-‐ duce, but above all they are easy to use. Toxic agents can be dropped in bombs, launched in rockets, or fired in artillery shells. They do not require the enormous technical and administra-‐ tive infrastructure that is needed for the deployment of nuclear weapons, for example. Yet they can be utilized to devastating effect on their target population, which has no means of takingcounter-‐measures and is poisoned literally out of the blue. Here the military disadvantage of the weapons—their short-‐term effectiveness, their unreliable sensitivity to the wind—is turned into an advantage if they are deployed in densely populated areas. Chemical weapons are above all an instrument for terrorizing a population. They are comparatively easy to manufacture, stor-‐ able, easily deployed, and locally limited in their effect, which makes their use in conflict difficult to prove. Moreover, their use remains—at least until now—largely without consequences for responsible governments.
A map oft he attacks on the Ghoutas
So long as regimes like that of Bashar al-‐Assad are not held accountable for the use of toxic agents against their people, chemical weapons remain the weapon of choice in conflicts in which harm to the civilian population is an objective in the conduct of war. Syria readily agreed under threat of military action to disclose its known chemical weapons caches, but the regime has not renounced terror and bombardment of its own people. Worse still, several sources report that Syrian troops are deploying chlorine gas against the population, which due to its many civilian uses does not appear on the list of prohibited chemical agents. So, under the smoke screen of destroying its arsenal of chemical weapons, the Syrian government is continuing a dirty war against its people. It is Syria’s civilian population that is paying the price for the signing and im-‐ plementation of the chemical weapons protocol.
In the summer of 2012, a year before the attack on the Ghoutas, U.S. President Barack Obama declared the use of chemical weapons as a “red line” whose transgression would lead to measures against the Syrian regime. In the summer of 2014, the people of the Ghoutas have now been living for a year on the other side of the red line—and nothing has been done for them. The world’s inaction in the face of unabated slaughter, in the face of grievous war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, is an unabated scandal.
Thomas Uwer, Board member Wadi e.V.
Link to an overview of places in Syria with strong evidence for chemical attacks:
Note: It is difficult to find survivors of the poison gas attacks that are willing to talk publicly about it. This is even true for people who managed to escpae the besieged areas. The interviewer
– a trusted syrian activist -‐ had to guarantee the the secrecy of their identities. Yet the inter-‐ viewed persons are ready for further questioning (also for interviews). If necessary a direct contact (inl. Translation) will be provided. Please see contact list at the end oft he documentation).
Interview with a witness of the chemical attacks on Ghouta who worked as a coordinator for medical staff in eastern Ghouta.
A- Did you witness the chemical attacks?
B-‐ Yes, I was there
A- Did you lose any close friends or family members?
B-‐ I didn’t lose family members but I lost many of the people I knew. We lost members of the medical staff and first aid providers especially in Jobar. It wasn’t the first chemical assault, but it was the one, that captured the public attention because of the high number of victims. Eastern Gouta had been previously attacked with chemical weapons 5-‐6 times.
A- Tell me more details about that day.
B-‐ As I said, it wasn’t the first time that we have been attacked with chemical weapons. The peo-‐ ple were already so afraid of these attacks, that we had stop the rumors and tried to prepare ourselves for further attacks, so we established medical emergency points since we were afraid that the regime would targets densely populated areas. Although all previous attacks had been in contested areas, we couldn’t rule out the possibility, that the Assad-‐Regime would target other areas. So we were working as best as we could to prepare for such an attack such as organ-‐ izing the first responder teams. Although we were prepared the situation on August 21st was
Chaotic. For example we had a lot of car accidents, because the people panicked and the regime started to shell the areas with conventional weapons as it always does after chemical attacks.
A- So you were kind of overwhelmed by the attacks and the number of victims?
B-‐ As I said the panic of the people is one of the main side effects of the chemical attacks. As soon as people smell something strange they believe that this must be a chemical attack. But you have to keep in mind that there is no necessity to add an odour to the weapons. Its up to the people who pre-‐ pare the gas if they add it, like cooking gas in the kitchen.
The day of the attack was chaotic. Victims sometimes where carried more than 20 minutes to the medical points. We soon understood that all the medical points close to the attacked areas where overwhelmed by the number of victims. So we communicated with the medical points all over Ghouta that all had to prepare for receiving victims, even if that would mean that the vic-‐ tims had to be transported more than 20 minutes in the ambulance. We also started to ask the medical points nearer to the attack sites what they need the most. The first two hours where horrific and just overwhelmed us.
A- Tell me more about what you did and what was your reaction:
B-‐ I headed to the area of the attack as soon as I heard that there were chemical attacks. Some colleagues and I started to call all the staff and points asking them to get ready. Unfortunately everyone was overwhelmed, even the wireless communication point workers.
I was calling every point trying to know and assess their needs and their shortages. The whole day was difficult, but the first two hours until we recognized the magnitude of the catastrophe were really the most difficult.
A- What were the main medical supplies you lacked in these two hours and afterward? B-‐ We lacked many things. There was essentially no automatic ventilation equipment, some sites even lacked syringes because of the numbers of victims. Some points lacked atropine. The scale of catastrophe had forced us to depend on volunteers, who risked their lives to carry medical equipment to the makeshift hospitals. You can´t really imagine the horror of that night.
A- In addition to the high number of victims, what is the other reason you lacked medical supplies?
B-‐ When the attacks happened, the Easter Ghoutas had been under siege for over ten months. The siege effectively started in October 2012. Since then the Ghoutas had been without electric-‐ ity and without water. Since 2013 the regime agreed on some food deliveries, but almost non medical supply’s were delivered. Before the attacks we planned to treat 300 victims simultane-‐ ously all over eastern Ghouta. There had been some of us who doubt that we ever had to treat up to 300 persons. After the attack the number was in the thousands.
A- You mentioned earlier that it is more difficult to let the medical supplies into the be- sieged area. How did manage to receive any medical supplies? Did you had to smuggle it? Or did you had some sort of agreement with the regime or regimes proxies like Iranian militias to let some medical aid in the Ghoutas?
B-‐ No, the regime never agreed on something like this. Quite the reverse: The regime arrested everybody who even tried to smuggle in some medical supplies, and the regime was reacting more brutally to such persons than to those who tried to smuggle in weapons. Because the re-‐ gime is well aware of the urgent need for medical materials and is also aware that the besieged areas essentially depends on the question of medical supply. This is why the regime is fighting the medical work, and this is why it’s totally forbidden to let any medical materials into the be-‐ sieged areas. So it is very dangerous for us to smuggle medical supplies. And this is why the prices of some materials is so high and specific things became very rare. Add to it that the popu-‐ lation of Eastern Gouta is relatively large. In August 2013 the population was over one million.
A- And now it’s 700,000, I’ve heard?
B-‐ Yes approximately.
A- How dangerous is it for the people to leave the area?
B-‐ Some crossing point had opened in Harasta. The Syrian Red Crescent organized the evacua-‐ tion for families with special cases. There is another way which is bribing to get out, and there is a third very dangerous way which is: crawling into tunnels, or passing through minefields. So the number of residents is decreasing by these three ways. And by the way; people are not fleeing from Eastern Gouta because of the shelling. Even after the chemical attacks most of them refused to leave. But what really makes it impossible to life there is the siege. The siege is just exhausting us, even basic living materials are rare. For example I have a child, I couldn’t get baby milk for it. There is no difference between rich and pour anymore. There is just nothing left.
Ghouta had been an rich area; an area of agriculture, industry, trade and tourism and suddenly even the basic things for living aren´t not available anymore. For example we had to make bread out of soya fodder. We cannot use flash lights since there are no more batteries.
A- In these two years of siege; how do you assess the world support and the world activists’ support?
B-‐ The international organizations refuse to send money -‐ but how can you survive if there is nothing getting in because of the siege? So we get nothing. We got some support from local organizations for the last three years. But after that these organizations don´t have any funds left to give. The third point is that, the expenses drastically increased during the last years. A medical station
that used to need $10,000 a month, now it needs 30,000 or even 40,000 a month. Now we don’t have fuel and the prices are really high, we need fuel to generate electricity. Now we can only smuggle it and this is expensive. The organizations are not able to bridge this gap. These organi-‐ zations are essentially Syrian, and they can only support us in a very limited way. The interna-‐ tional organizations are not helping us at all.
For example the International Red Cross, what have they accomplished in Eastern Ghouta? Noth-‐ ing. The UN? They entered three times to Eastern Ghouta and they couldn’t even cover 1% of what is needed for the residents. The UN visits to Eastern Ghouta have been more or less a show for the world so that they can claim, that they are working in the areas. We have a problem with local NGOs who don’t organize their work as well as they should. But international organizations they treat us as if we were another human species that has not the right to exist.
A- What do you expect from US and Europe?
B-‐ It is clear that these countries only act when it’s in their interest. These countries put red lines for the Syrian regime, which has crossed these lines again and again. But the West did not react. It is only cheap talking for the TV stations and by doing so, the revolution changed from its original demands and the composition of demands. To be honest: We do not expect anything from any government in the world.
A- And from the people?
B-‐ To the people all over the world who are following up the crisis and see what the regime is doing, I would like to say: What is happening in Eastern Ghouta can happen anywhere in the world. It might be in France, the US oe any other place. I think most of the people around the world are sympathizing with us as human beings. And I think they disapprove what is happening to us.
A- You have not been directly exposed to chemical attacks but you witnessed them and your job was respond and organize responding to the attacks. In this interview, you pro- vided your own experience with the attacks, what you’ve witnessed and your essential role. You left Syria some time ago, but I would like to know if the attacks still affect you? B-‐ I have no physiological damage although I left Ghouta very emaciated. I recovered very fast within a month or two. My son suffered from damage due to the underfeeding an the missing nutrients. The worst that has been triggered by the siege is without a doubt on the psychological level. No matter how much we talk about it, we still suffer. We had to see such horrible things during the siege and this has damaged use more than anything else. For example I needed medi-‐ cation for my son and I just couldn’t get it for him. I knew a lot of people but nobody was able to help me. Imagine how you would feel as a father? Every time there is loud sound around us, me and my family start to panic. Other people just stopped laughing or crying. They just can´t do it anymore.
Interview with a doctor who whitnessed the attacks in Eastern Ghouta himself
A- Have you been personally affected by the chemical assaults which hit Ghouta?
B-‐ I was working in a medical emergency station close to where one of the attacks happened. I was affected because I had been in direct contact with victims.
A- Did you lose any of your relatives or friends because of it? Friends or activists? When did you notice that the attacks were not carried out with conventional weapons? Can you talk in details here?
B-‐ If you are referring to the chemicals weapons (missiles or shells) I have to say the following: I live about 1-‐2 km from where it hit. And because of the ongoing shelling and bombardment on Eastern Ghouta, we had stopped giving any attention to any special sound or intensity of the explosions. And the assault happened at 2am and when I was asleep, so I didn’t notice it at the time of the attack.
A- As a doctor, when did you notice this was an attack with chemical agents? And what did you do?
B-‐ I was asleep. And when I heard the call for all medical staff to move to the emergency stations I ran towards it to start working.
A- Did you inhale the gas?
B-‐ We weren’t equipped with protective masks or protective clothes and the number of victims was much higher than we could have imagined. We started working and then we smelled a strange odor. Minutes later I realized difficulties in breathing, a low headache, nausea and blurred vision.
A- Did you help the victims? And what challenges did you face?
B-‐ Yes – of course. I am a doctor. And we had difficulties because of the lack of capacity for ur-‐ gent medical care for the huge number of victims. On top of that the people broke out in panic.
A- Lacked essential material for patient care? And if so, why?
B-‐ We were experiencing lack of everything: medication, nutrition, fuel, electricity, water. And that was because of the siege. Chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction. In order to react properly on it you really must be prepared well. You need special equipment such as tents for cleaning and for medical evacuation. Then you must have protected civil defense teams equipped with cardiopulmonary resuscitation tools and oxygen cylinders etc.We had heard before about the use of Sarin gas in Aleppo. We were really doing our best to prepare ourselves for such assaults. But our efforts to stock enough medical supplies could not be sufficient because we live under siege, on an island that is surrounded by an iron curtain.
A- Did these assaults leave any permanent marks on your body? Do you suffer from any other physiological after-effects?
B-‐ I am ok now and I don’t suffer from anything except from the miserable life I live because we are deprived from all that is important. (fuel, nutrition, medication, services etc.) And I will never forget the moment when I was affected by chemical toxins: I suddenly realized inhaling problems, Arrhythmia and blurred vision. I will not forget how they hold me and took me to in-‐ tensive care. I will not forget the feeling that I was dying. And I will always remember my feel-‐ ings for my family and loved ones.
A- Tell me more about the general situation – education, work, health care etc. - in the besieged Ghouta.
B-‐ The regime of Bashar Assad has deprived us from all these services and utilities with a brutal siege. But thanks to our personal efforts and with the support of some loyal people, we have managed to establish some educational and medical institutions. We have started digging wells and then we are focusing on agriculture although we do not have a lot of capacities available. But the main challenge is the brutal siege. The lack of fuel for example, has led to a huge price rise: we pay now 12-‐15 dollars per liter and therefore for generating energy we are depending on chunks of wood, plastic waste and even wooden furniture.
A- During the two years of the siege, how would you describe the international support and support by activists?
B-‐ Officially they’ve supported us with statements and the international community has made a unprecedented step by confiscating the chemical weapons from the offender while at the same time allowing him to commit new crimes. The international community is only weeping over the victims but does not take any action. But we are dedicating great thanks to international activ-‐ ists like Angelina Jolie and George Newcomb. We appreciate what they do.
A- What do you expect from Europe and America
B-‐ Nothing. But I hope they will at least comply to their international obligations and responsi-‐ bilities. And I hope they understand that it is by not supporting the Syrian revolution in its two forms -‐ the peaceful and the armed one -‐ that now the doors are open to extremism and terror-‐ ism. The key factor for stability and to end terrorism would be supporting this revolution through action and not only words.
A- And there is one last question asked by Dr. M.: Can you tell us a story about victims that you’ve witnessed?
B-‐ I remember the rescue people were bringing in whole families and people of all ages. There was a child hallucinating in front of his mother’s corps. It was asking his mother to take him home, convinced that she was only asleep. Some victims were having fits of crying and laughing. I was entering houses where you could see that life had just suddenly stopped. I won’t forget myself counting the bodies of people I knew and how they had turned into numbers in surveys. I will not forget the mother who was crying for her dead children and who was saying: “I strug-‐ gled till they could sleep while hungry, and now they died of chemicals.”
Interview with an survivor of
the chemical attacks on Moaddamyeh (Western Ghouta) on the 21st of August
A- Before we start I would like to remind you that what you say will be used in reports and that we will not mention your Name. Do you like to refer to a pseudonym?
B-‐ No, it’s better that I don’t mention my real name.
A- So then I will call you a doctor from Moaddamyeh of Damascus?
B-‐ I mean, half of my family died or disappeared because of me, I don’t want to harm them even more.
A- You’re right.
B-‐ While others here “in Turkey” are having fun.
A- Right. So we just refer to you as a “Doctor from Moaddamiye El Sham”
A- You told me that you have been affected by the chemical assault on Moaddamiey?
B-‐ Yes, I have been there and I was affected.
A- Did you loose any of your relatives or friends because chemical attack?
B-‐ Yes, I lost many relatives. My cousin, her husband and their five children. Also another cousin and his wife as well a nine of our neighbors.
A- When did you notice that the assault was different? I mean when did you notice that the attacks where conducted with “non-conventional” weapons?
B-‐ After the prayer of dawn, we heard four unusual sounds, unfamiliar to us, these sounds were neither mortar, nor typical shelling, nor was it hitting the usual places? When we went to the site where, we noticed that every person who was inside or entered the building that was hit had already fallen on the ground, with clear sign of suffocation. They had turned blue, froth at the mouth and abdominal cramps.
A- What did you do then?
B-‐ We head to the field hospital and receiving the injured. Because, half an hour after the chemical attacks, the regime launched random shelling to prepare for invasion. The number of casualties reached 760.
A- Did you inhale the gas?
B-‐ Yes, I inhaled the gas about 50m from where the shells landed. I noticed that my pupils shrinked to pinpoints witch lead to blurred vision and my eyes started to itch. Additionally my skin started to scratch and I felt debilitated.
A- So when you went to the hospital, were you ready for this kind of attacks? Were you able to cure or at least mitigate the symptoms?
B-‐ We had Atropine and Hydro Cortisone. From the beginning every person who reached the field hospital was given Atropine and we started to wash the victims with water until the floor of the hospital was flooded. You have to keep in mind that the hospital is located in an under-‐ ground site and we couldn’t pump out the water since did not have electricity for over two years.
A- You told me that the number of injured reached 760.
A- Were all of the victims affected by the chemical attacks or have there been also victims from the regular shelling’s?
B-‐ 78 died immediately from the chemical attack and three later in the makeshift hospital. 69 died of the conventional shelling of the regime. First I was treated when I arrived at the hospital and after that I helped the victims together with Dr. Omar Hakim. But all of the time I felt sick, since we waded through the intoxicated water for hours. Most of the time I was conducting CPR.
A- Ok. Was there a shortage in medication in that night? Was there something missing for the treatment and what was the reason for that?
B-‐ We where short on Oxygen due to the siege. We didn’t have any single oxygen cylinder. Addi-‐ tionally you have to take into account that the chemical attacks happened after a long and fierce siege which caused malnutrition and the spread of disease. This explains why even a slight in-‐ hale caused great damage to the victims.
A- Besides that night, let´s talk about yourself. Do you still suffer from the attack? Either physical or psychological?
B-‐ Yes, I have a second degree burning in face. The burning was caused from the water that we used to wash the victims. It was intoxicated from chemical agent.
B-‐ Seizures of panic, anxiety, and depression have become the theme of my life.
A- So from the date of the assault till now, tell me briefly about the general situation in terms of work, education, health in the besieged moaddamiyeh neighborhood.
B-‐ Since the ceasefire on witch the rebels and the regime agreed on the situation is much better. Now we have food and medication. But there is a sort of instability caused by the big number of martyrs, prisoners of the regime and the tremendous destruction. Everything that would enter Moaddamieyh is in return for soemthing, and the ones who are paying the bills are the prisoners.
A- I don´t understand. Paying the bills?
B-‐ The prisoner issue is very complicated and the more it´s delayed the more aid we get. About 180 prisoners died of torture in the regime prisons and if would talk about it, this would without a doubt end the ceasefire.
A- Do you trust the ceasefire? And are you afraid the chemical attack would happen again?
B-‐ We are not afraid of the chemical attacks, we are more afraid of the siege. The siege has harmed us more.
A- During the two years of siege, how would you evaluate the international support and the activists support to you?
B-‐ The absence of aid programs is one of the main reasons for the catastrophic situation. If I would have conducted my work for one side I would tell you that I wasn’t compensated. But my job was to serve my people and I trust that god will compensate me with goodness. Right now inside of Mohadamiyya there is no shortage of medical supplies. But when you leave it nobody cares for you. The regime wants that the doctors die inside the country.
A- Last question, what do you expect from UK and US?
B-‐ That the conflict in Syria ends. Everyone in the country is a looser; the country is destroyed, the manners are destroyed and the human being has no value. This is why I say stop the fight.
An interview with a young woman (a Palestinian Syrian) aged 27, who lost all her family members in Zamalka in Eastern Gouta.
A- Have you been affected by the chemical assault on the 21st of August 2014
B-‐ Yes I am from the Mazra’a district (which was directly targeted).
A- Did you lose any of your parents or friends during this catastrophe?
B-‐ Yes. I lost 4 members of my family ( my mother, my father, my brother, my sister). My second brother was affected but he survived. But I lost almost my entire neighborhood.
A- Tell us what happened and what were the symptoms?
B-‐ All I remember from this catastrophe is that I had slept at night and found myself after two days at one of the medical points. I was being treated as a victim, my vision was almost gone and I had heavy respiration till the degree of suffocation together with continuous vomiting. I was hearing moaning and screams of many men, women and children. I stayed at the hospital for 20 days and was having seizures. And I lost a lot of my hair. I recovered gradually and was able to leave the hospital after 20 days.
A- How was the treatment? Were all the necessary medical utilities available?
B-‐ I remember the oxygen mask, the atropin, serums, eye drops and other medication, but not everything was available because of the siege and the large number of victims.
A- What was the moment that touched most your heart and will rest in your memory?
B-‐ The most painful moment was when my parents died and when I saw how my surviving brother was suffering the same way I was. What especially drew my attention that day was how people gathered to help each other and how many have tried to comfort me for my family loss.
A- How would you consider way the international community addressed the catastrophe? Did you receive any help?
B-‐ They addressed it in a shameful way. After three months I received a small amount of money, that’s was it.
A- So who provided more help? Countries and governments or NGOs?
B-‐ I didn’t notice any help from anyone. Real help would come by helping to finish the crisis with a political solution that meets the people’s demands. We want to live with honor and we want our children’s dreams come true. I say this as a Palestinian refugee who was born and raised in Syria.
A- How do you personally assess the situation for education, health, services and utilities and development in Eastern Ghouta under the siege?
B-‐ We don’t have anything because of the siege. At least there are some local organizations that try to provide some of these services. But the are very limited.
A- What do you ask from America and Europe?
B-‐ I want them to value the Arab human being the same way they value the human being in their countries. We’re all humans, we don’t want meetings or slogans or statements, they all waste time and raise the number of victims. We want actions.
A- Why did you stay in Ghouta despite of the siege and the danger?
B-‐ I want to put all my efforts for the sake of helping the besieged civilians. This is true although everyone is afraid of being detained by the regime.
A- Is there anything you want to add?
B-‐ Provide us with help. It is a real humanitarian disaster that is taking place in the besieged areas.
Statement of a survivor of the chemical attacks on Halabja in 1988
The Chemical Attacks on the Ghoutas, Syria – A Year On
“The pictures and scenes from the chemical attack on the Ghoutas are chillingly similar to those from the attacks on Halabja in 1988. A regime of the same Ba’athist ideology inflicted the suffer-‐ ing on the inhabitants of Halabja as the one that committed the attacks on Syrian civilians in the Ghoutas last year.
Solidarity demonstration in Halabja, Iraqi-Kurdistan. © Jiyan Foundation
In March 2014 was the memorial-‐day for 25 years to the attacks on Halabja. Sadly such horrors are not just a matter of past remembrance, but continue to happen, this time in Syria. 25 years ago the technology was not available to send immediate news and reports to the world about the genocidal campaign in Iraq. Today, however, the situation is different. The dreadful pictures and reports from the Ghoutas were quickly disseminated and seen by many people.
Yet no action was taken to help the victims of the attacks or to hold the regime that perpetuated them accountable. Until now, we have seen adequate responses neither from the United Nations nor from countries, also in Europe, that helped the regimes develop the regimes’ chemical arsenals.
Sadly, civilians in the Ghoutas and many other places remain exposed to the grave risk of being attacked by chemicals weapons, at the mercy of oppressive regimes that act with impunity.”
Falah Muradkhan (fled and survived the chemical attacks on Halabja in 1988. He is the director of WADI in Iraq).
“As activists for victims of chemical weapons, and survivors of such attacks, we are deeply sad-‐ dened and angered by the attacks in the Ghoutas last August and their aftermath. Here in Iraq, we have made repeated efforts to spread the information about the attacks, calling to take action against those responsible and help the harmed. Halabja and the area were attacked 25 years ago, and still there are companies in Europe that built the chemical weapons for Iraq and Syria and were never penalized or even investigated. In Iraq a whole region, with some 100 villages around Halabja was threatened in 1988 with massacre and chemical weapons.
Then, like in the Ghoutas the regime used chemical weapons against brave civilians. Dictators will continue to do so if not stopped. We must work together for a world free of chemical weapons.”
Dlawar Haidar, Lawyer and director of SPI (White) group - a local network for victims of chemical weapons in Halabja region, Iraq.
The german Gasline / Continued
Proliferation of Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction to Iraq, Syria, and Libya World-Leading German Exporters as Merchants of Death
by Hans Branscheidt
The 21st of August marks the anniversary of the first time the Syrian regime used chemical weapons to attack opposition-‐held areas in the suburbs of Damascus. There will be no lack of words that unmistakably condemn the event. This will be done in Germany with pointed allusion to its own history, which signifies a special sense of responsibility with respect to chemical weapons. We are likely to find no mention, however, that it was German companies that largely provided Assad and other despots in the region with the technology and know-‐how to produce these weapons. Since the Fall of 2013, the Netherlands-‐based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been compiling information from the Syrian regime into a detailed list, which catalogues over fifty deliveries between 1983 and 1984 that illustrate the heavy involve-‐ ment of German firms in the development of Syria’s chemical weapons program. The German government, to whom this report was given, presently continues to refuse to release the names of these firms on the grounds that doing so would threaten their survival. But it was not just in Syria that German and European companies made profit from death. In Libya, German engineer-‐ ing built Muammar Gaddafi’s regime an entire poison gas factory.
This is no coincidence. It was plainly verbalized in a statement by Gerhard Mertins, one of the most experienced figures of the arms export industry, on the prevailing proliferation practices of the 1980s: “Our responsible head of government is the largest arms dealer we have at the mo-‐ ment, but he will countenance an artful deception.” He was referring to Helmut Schmidt (SPD).
State Secretary Ludolf von Wartenberg, who would later head the Federation of German Industries (BDI) and was for years responsible for business with Iraq, even declared outright, “The publication of the value of exports to recipient countries is not up for consideration.” There was a discrete customer named Saddam Hussein.
On September 22, 1980, Iraqi troops marched into Iran and started the eight-‐year Iran-‐Iraq War. For the first time since the Second World War, poison gas was used on a large scale, and German companies were heavily involved in their development and production. Toward the end of the war in 1988, the use of the weapon of mass destruction played a decisive role.
The Iraqi air force had already used chemical weapons in April 1987 in the Kurdish regions of Dokan, Arbil, and Suleymaniyah, as well as Qara Dagh. In March 1988 the Kurdish city of Halajba became target to the largest assault with poison gas since the First World War. Between 5,000 and 10,000 were killed immediately, and more died later from the long-‐term complications of exposure to nerve agents.
In the Spring of 1984, The New York Times reported that Karl Korb and Pilot Plant, two closely associated German companies from Dreieich near Frankfurt am Main, supplied a laboratory “for producing pesticides” that was put to use in Iraq for the production of poison gas.
The story of German-‐Iraqi poison gas production had its beginning at the start of the 1980s with the construction of a large chemical factory in Samara, north of Bagdad. According to official statements from Iraq’s State Enterprise for Pesticide Production (SEPP), the pesticides devel-‐ oped here were supposed to be for “protecting date harvests.” Already the dimensions and over-‐ all character of the plant contradicted the claim: “40 kilometers south of Samara, the Iraqis de-‐ clared a restricted area of 160 square kilometers, where no photography was permitted. In the desert, an isolated network of 40 kilometers of roads and buildings could be identified.” On the German side, a number of businesses were involved in the project: Preussag in water treatment, Heriger in construction, Hammer (Kleinostheim) in climate control, Rhein-‐Bayern in labor and special trucking, and, of course, Karl Korb and Pilot Plant. In this wartime decline in date cultiva-‐ tion, European consultants and consortiums were established for the purchasing of sensitive modules [sensiblen Module] for this gigantic enterprise—chief among them the Hamburg-‐based company Water Engineering Trading (WET).
These companies, which involved not only Iraqi state officials but also members of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), were dissolved as soon as the work was done. Der Stern also mentions one particularly controversial delivery: “Rhein-‐Bayern delivered to Karl Korb—and the latter in turn to Iraq—‘eight mobile toxicology laboratories.’” These were climate-‐controlled chemistry laboratories in sand-‐colored Magirus trucks. While the delivering company desig-‐ nated these accompaniments as “normal chemistry laboratories,” chemical weapons expert Adolf-‐Hennig Frucht characterized them as follows: “This equipment is superbly suited for working out tactical mixtures of various chemical combat agents.”
To date, any blame for this has been disavowed. The shared responsibility of large industrial countries, Germany in the first place, for Iraqi buildup and deployment of weapons of mass de-‐ struction continues to be ignored. But German companies were not alone in lending a hand to the regime in Bagdad and its chemical weapons program. Saddam received active support fromother Western countries as well. In 2003, a United Nations investigative commission concluded that, after Germany (52.6%), France (16%), Austria (16%), and Spain (4.4%) helped to facilitate the Iraqi chemical weapons program. The Netherlands, the United States, and Luxembourg also made various components of the program possible. Even if all three of the recipient countries, Iraq, Syria and Libya, for whatever reasons, renounce their chemical weapons programs, the past year and indeed months have made it clear that the long-‐term consequences cannot be foreseen. In this year, Libyan Islamists are said to have brought remnants of Gaddafi’s regime under their control. In Iraq, too, Islamists from the “Is-‐ lamic State” (IS) have managed to capture chemical weapons in the course of their large-‐scale offensive. Meanwhile, there are credible reports that they have already been deployed against hostile Kurds in northern Syria. And last but not least, the Assad regime continues to use chemi-‐ cal weapons. According to a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) as well as various opposi-‐ tion sources, “barrel bombs” are now being filled with chlorine gas and dropped. These events illustrate that it is not possible to contain the dangers once dictators are in posses-‐ sion of the know-‐how and technical capacity. These experiences, meanwhile, also reveal that the Western strategy of supporting such regimes for alleged stability has failed, indeed an illusion.
On the 21st of August 2013, the Syrian government forces launched a massive chemical weapons attack on the besieged opposition-held areas east and west of Damascus.
The attacks in which the regime used Sarin Gas, targeted several linked densely populated sub-‐ urban areas and resulted in over 9800 casualties and over 1300 fatalities.
In the aftermath the international community put pressure on Assad’s regime and forced it to join the international treaty prohibiting chemical weapons in October 2013.
Despite these diplomatic efforts the Syrian Regime kept on using chemical weapons against civil ians in rebel held areas:
In March and April the regime used chlorine gas, especially against three towns and villages in central Syria; Keferzita, al-‐Teman’a, and Telmans. Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigated these incidents and condemned the Syrian regime for these attacks in a recently published re-‐ port entitled “Syria: Strong Evidence Government Used Chemicals as a Weapon”. According to the HRW report, the attacks killed 11 people and wounded over 500.
Despite the fact that the international community is celebrating getting rid of “most”, and not all of the regimes chemical material, very little, if any, attention is paid on the civilian population of the attacks.The besieged population need help, medically and psychologically. Moreover research needs to be conducted on the long term impacts of this kind of attacks.
Sadly, to this day, there hasn’t been any attempt to help those who fell victims. For more than two years the survivors are living under the siege that is laid by the Assad-‐Regime and pro Ira-‐ nian militias on these neighborhoods. Bashar Al Assad and his regime have survived without any punishment. Not only is the regime still using chemical weapons, it also has cut any connection of the people in the besieged areas from the rest of the world.
We want to shed a light on these crimes, and put pressure on the international community to strip the Syrian regime from these means of mass killing and put Assad and his subordinates before the International Criminal Court, and most important help the chemical attacks victims that have been forgotten by the international community.
In light of these events, we the signers, demand the following:
- Full and unrestricted access to the besieged areas for the United Nations (UN) and other international organizations to start research on the long and short term effects of chemi- cal weapons.
- The delivery of humanitarian aid should exclusively be conducted and overseen by the UN and other international organizations with no interference of the Syrian regime, in application of the security council resolution No.2139 and 2165.
- The International Criminal Court (ICC) should officially start an investigation on the chemical attacks not only in Ghouta and name those responsible for the attacks.
- There is a missing proper reaction from the EU. We demand that the European Union should open its borders for Syrian refugees and also put pressure on the Syrian govern- ment to facilitate the safe return of all Syrians to their homeland.
- We demand the International Community and all activists to put pressure on the Syrian regime to allow Syrians back to regime controlled areas without any limitations.
- Applying international pressure on Iraqi and Lebanese government and all other re- sponsible governments so that they stop sending militia fighters.
- Finally, a No-Fly-Zone should be enforced over Syria as well as an arms Embargo en- forced, so that the regime is no longer able to throw “barrel bombs”, often mixed with chlorine gas, on civilians.
Forcontacts to the interviewed persons:
Amr al-Fam, Al-Seeraj: Mail: Amr.firstname.lastname@example.org Skype: Amr AL-‐FA or Thomas von der Osten-‐Sacken/Kaspar Haller (siehe unten)
For information on support projects in the Ghoutas:
Dr. M., AL-Seeraj, Skype: Sun Flow (direct contact through Thomas von der Osten-‐Sacken or Kaspar Haller)
For information on Iraq (Halabja):
Falah Muradkhan (WADI e.V./ Iraq project coordinator). Expert on the chemical Attacks in Ha-‐ labja. Mobil: 00964 770 158 8173/Skype : falah.shakaram.
For information on the situation in Syria (in general): Thomas von der Osten-Sacken (WADI e.V.):
Mobil: +49 15156906002 Mail: email@example.com
For information on the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons programme (OPCW) and on chemical weapons (in general):
Kaspar Haller, Green Cross: 0041 79 825 76 84, firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional sources of information on the chemical attacks
on August 21 2013
United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. http://www.un.org/disarmament/content/slideshow/Secretary_General_Report_of_CW_Investi gation.pdf
Human Rights Watch: Attacks on Ghouta. Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-‐ghouta-‐0
Human Rights Watch: Syria: Strong Evidence Government Used Chemicals as a Weapon: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/13/syria-‐strong-‐evidence-‐government-‐used-‐chemicals-‐ weapon