Halabja’s Wounds


By Dr Rashid Karadaghi – Kurdish Media – 22.3.2013 – I wrote the following short piece twenty-two years ago under a pen name about the gassing of the people of the town of Halabja, the Kurdish Hiroshima, by the criminal Saddam regime. I still remember the afternoon I wrote it in my backyard and the tears I shed, while I was writing, for the five thousand or so innocent and helpless Kurdish men, women, and children who paid the ultimate price for no reason other than being Kurds.

On that fateful day of March 16th, 1988, life was snuffed out of five thousand innocent Kurds in minutes when Saddam’s planes rained down deadly chemical gases on the town. But the world was silent. It simply didn’t care. And if it weren’t for the presence of some Iranian and other foreign reporters on the scene, the whole tragedy would have been unnoticed and unreported. Indeed, this moral world of ours might have preferred it that way.

Twenty-five years later, Halabja residents are still dying at an alarming rate from illnesses related to the chemical attack, notably cancer, and many children are born with deformities or chronic health problems. The tragedy of Halabja and the survivors of that fateful day continues.

None of the companies, individuals, or governments that provided Saddam with the chemical weapons used in Halabja and elsewhere in Kurdistan have been held accountable and brought to justice for their crime yet — and it is very doubtful that they ever will be.

Saddam and his cousin, chemical Ali, the architect of the Halabja and Anfal genocide, were not executed for committing genocide against the Kurds, but for committing crimes against Iraqi Arabs. Arab Iraq did not want to honor the suffering of the Kurds by making the two biggest criminals against the Kurdish people in history pay for their crimes against them. That honor was reserved for the Arab Iraqis. Some members of the Iraqi parliament deny that what Saddam did in Halabja was genocide, hence their opposition to designating it as such by the parliament. The same can be said, of course, of the people at large.

On March 18th of this year, the American embassy in Baghdad issued a statement on the twenty-fifths anniversary of the genocide in Halabja without mentioning the word “Kurd” or “Kurdish” even once, as if the Halabja victims were some nameless, faceless creatures from another planet. How shameful and how disgraceful! How untrue to American ideals! The statement keeps talking about “Iraqis” on the anniversary of a crime perpetrated against “Kurds.” It also highlights the “Iraqi government’s respect for human rights and its responsiveness to the will of the people.” How much more disconnected from reality can the American officials who issued the statement get? Now we know why the Halabja genocide happened in the first place.