First Opinion survey in Halabja: Citizens are tired of empty promises

March 6th 2013. Today Radio Dange Nwe und Spey presented the results of Halabja’s first opinion survey to the public. The answers show that citizens are not satisfied with government services. The survey also asked about views on the commemoration of the poison gas attacks on Halabja in 1988 and encouraged people to come up with ideas of their own.

On March 16th, the 25th anniversary of the bombardement of the city with poison gas will be commemorated. Just as in previous years politicians and foreign diplomats will travel to Halabja to their ceremony. Yet, no one has ever asked the people of Halabja how they would like to commemorate the event. The free youth and women’s radio Dange Nwe and the organisation Spey set out to change this and developed a questionaire in which they asked the population about their views on commemoration and compensation and enquired about their experiences with communal services such as water, electricity and education. In the past three months a team of ten volonteer citizens instructed by Radio Dange Nwe and Spey, asked 2500 people from all age groups. Such approach – citizens polling citizens – is a complete novelty in Iraq.

The results show that the majority of the population in Halabja are unhappy with the commemoration ceremonies of the past. They also wish for a greater effort by the goverment to pressure internationally for a recognition of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds in the 1980s as a genocide. Only 20 percent were content with the way the communal administration had organized the ceremony in the past year. Some respondents expressed their unhappiness by pointing out that the ceremony had mainly become an event for political parties and promises by politicians on this day were never kept. More than one third agreed that those responsible for the genocide should be confronted.

The participants were particularly critical about the promises made by the Kurdish government towards Halabja. 57 percent were of the opinion that the goverment only kept very few of its promises. Another 25 percent even believed that the government had not kept a single one. Almost half of the questioned proposed setting up a committee which could follow-up on the promises by politicians.

38 percent criticized that no compensation for the victims had taken place. Reconstruction efforts were seen as insufficient by 43 percent compared to 23 percent viewing them as positive. Similarily negativ views were expressed about housing: 41 percent stated that it was not affordable for survivers. Opnions about medical treatment of victims were mixed: One third considered it sufficient, another third found it inadequat. General government services were also judged as insufficient. 53 percent think that the cleanliness of the city is unsufficient. Almost one third are not content with the quality of drinking water.

Download the full survey in English.

The project was funded and overlooked by Wadi and the Swiss Green Cross.

The press conference was attended by representatives of the maire, the district administration and survivor organisations. Several media outlets reported positively : / /

Wadi has been active in Halabja since 20 years and supports several projects in the city such as theHalabja Women’s Center, a women’s café, Radio Dange Nwe and the organisation Spey.