Turkish PM Wants To Prevent New Halabjas

by Wladimir van Wilgenburg – RUDAW – 19.3.2013 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – In a message to mark the 25th anniversary of the poison gas attack on Halabja, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to Saddam Hussein’s murderous cruelty as a crime against humanity, stopping short of calling it genocide.

“We will maintain our efforts so that all the necessary measures are taken to ensure that crimes against humanity such as the one committed in Halabja never occur again in our region or any other place in the world,” Erdogan said, in a message read at a conference in Erbil last week to commemorate the March 16, 1988 attack.

“Turkey, having always objected loudly against any form of cruelty and tyranny, has today opened its doors to the aggrieved Syrian people and embraced our Syrian brothers in its bosom as well, like it did 25 years ago for our Kurdish brothers struggling for their lives under the oppression of Saddam,” Erdogan said, in a note read by the local Turkish consul. In the closing weeks of the eight-year war with Iraq, Saddam attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja with poison gas, killing 5,000 innocent people, including many women and children. The attack was part of the so-called Anfal campaign, in which tens of thousands of Kurds were murdered. Erdogan’s statement was similar to one by White House spokesperson Caitlin Hayden, who called the Anfal campaign a terrible crime, in which “tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis were slaughtered,” without mentioning genocide.

At the conference Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, called on all the “friends of the Kurdish people abroad to work in all possible ways, in whatever step, to get the Kurdish genocide recognized.” “There is a long way to go to get it recognized it as genocide,” he acknowledged. “We should not forget the past, but it should not lead to hatred and revenge,” he said.