25 years on from the Saddamist atrocity, the people of Halabja are still suffering

By Mufid Abdulla:Halabja genocide

Today it is 25 years since Halabja was attacked with chemical weapons, causing the sacrifice of 5,000 lives. The world has come to know of their plight but, a quarter-century on, the survivors are still struggling to find their identity and come to terms with this tragedy.

In the wake of the atrocity the photo of one man holding his baby after they had fallen to the ground caught the attention of the world. People asked: Why is this man carrying the baby, where is the rest of his family? Journalists such as John Simpson and David Hirst went to the scene to investigate.

The man is known as Aumar Hama Saleh. He was born in 1934, married twice and had ten children with his second wife. He was working at a bakery shop and also did other jobs to feed his family. At an early stage in his life he joined the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) and he became very much involved with the Kurdish nationalist movement. In 1975, when the armed rebellion took place, Aumar told his close friends that he had decided not to join the armed struggle due to his family commitments – who else would look after his big family?

This man was well known to the people of Halabja for his involvement with social activities and family ceremonies in the town. He was originally from the Garmian area of the south of Kurdistan and had been settled in the Halabja district for many years.

Half an hour before the bombardment of Halabja, he was walking on the street and some people, who were preparing to leave, asked him: “Why don’t you flee the city?” He replied: “I prefer that, if we are going to die, we go all together”.

On the anniversary of this tragedy, the two ruling parties, KDP and PUK (Patriotic Unon of Kurdistan), have issued their usual statements. The PUK is saying that a lot has been done in Halabja but the town deserves more. The KDP’s statement argues that it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to compensate the victims of chemical weapons.

I was there last year and Halabja today doesn’t look much different to the Halabja of before the Tragedy of 1988. It is suffering, like the rest of Kurdistan, from the rule of the corrupted and despotic KDP and PUK.

The people of Halabja are furious about the hollow promises of the two ruling parties – for example, there still isn’t a proper road linking Halabja to Suli and this longstanding project remains only 25% completed. One local citizen told me, “The politicians of these two parties are coming to this town once again to show their faces and talk nonsense as before. People are fed up with this”.

This year the Opposition has asked the government to grant Halabja city status. Masud Barzani, in his message on this day, said: “We owe to Halabja, and whatever we do we cannot eacape from these sacrifices”. But did he mean what he said?

Kurdicide, the organisation established for the remembrance of the tragedy of Halabja, has made a shocking statement: “It is a tragedy to find out that this government is spending 1.7 million dollars on organising the ceremonial party today instead of spending that money on the victims of this tragedy”. The statement also reveals that the Department of Martyrs and Anfal has signed lucrative contracts with two private companies for organising two conferences on Halabja.

Because they have suffered so much, it is no wonder that the people of Halabja are more revolutionary in their criticisms of today’s corrupt rulers that those of any other part of Kurdistan.

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

2 Responses to 25 years on from the Saddamist atrocity, the people of Halabja are still suffering
  1. Kurd
    March 16, 2013 | 19:21

    Both Halabja and Anfal are genocide and big tragedies throughout the history of The Kurds. Unfortunately the officials of The Kurdistan Region have not been able to do anything to survivors of two tragedies and after two decades of the Kurdish Government, they are still believe Iraqi Government should compensate victims of Anfal and Halabja!!! .
    English Singer Brayan Adams in one his singing said: follow your dreams, but always remember me.I also say, officials of the Kurdish Government have lot of dreams, but they always forgot you?! but you are not alone, believe us, as ordinary Kurds, we have not a good thing to offer you, except that when we think about you (victims of Halabja and Anfal), we must take a quote of Walter Benjamin and translate to you from The Persian: A moment, only for a moment, I/we feel alone in this world and I/we will be remain alone forever…

    یک دم ،
    فقط یک دم حس می کنی که در این دنیا تنهایی ؛
    و برای “همیشه” تنها باقی خواهی ماند .
    والتر بنیامین

  2. Lorenzo Garcia
    March 18, 2013 | 22:29

    Without being a kurd. I say it is great to be forgiving but it is stupid to forget!
    Keep the memories of all those people from El-Anfal alive! They were killed no matter age because their sin was to be ….. kurd.

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