Iraqi and Kurdish officials mark 33rd anniversary of Halabja massacre

Officials lay a wreath as they commemorate Halabja chemical attack in Halabja, March 16, 2021. (Bzhar Dabagh/Esta Media Network)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraqi and Kurdish officials marked the 33rd anniversary of the Halabja chemical attack, which killed thousands of people.

Around 5,000 people, mostly women and children, were killed when the former regime of Saddam Hussein unleashed a cocktail of deadly gas on Halabja on March 16, 1988.

The genocide was one of many horrific crimes committed by the Baath regime under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship against the Kurdistan Region’s people.

The Halabja victims were among some 180,000 people killed during the regime’s “Anfal campaign” against the Kurds.

The attack still haunts Halabja as its residents, now estimated at around 200,000, still fight for justice, care for the ill and hunt for missing relatives.

“We recall the heinous crime that the dictatorship committed against its peaceful people, against Iraqis and humanity,” Iraqi President Barham Salih said in a tweet on Monday.

“Redressing the victims, rebuilding and joining hands to prevent the return of tyranny is the greatest respect for our martyrs,” he added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also recalled the massacre, saying the attack shows what could be committed “in the name of hatred and racism”, according to his office.

“The bitterness of that tragedy continues to warn us to this day of what a weapon of mass destruction can wreak when it falls in the hands of a tyrant, and what can be committed in the name of hatred and racism when the brutal regime uses it to justify its dark act of injustice, terror and ugliness,” Kadhimi stated.

“Today we carry the pain of the memory of the victims in our hearts, but our consolation is that it is a pain that reminds us, like the rest of the crimes of the era of tyranny, the price of freedom, the value of survival and the moving of Iraq into the era of democracy and the high value of the Iraqi people.”

Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani called on the Iraqi government to compensate the people of Halabja and take “serious steps”.

“We also call on the international community to work seriously to prohibit the production and use of any kind of weapons of mass destruction … This must be the concern of all the world in order to protect life, environment and civilization,” Barzani said.

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani extended his condolences while commemorating the Massacre.

“Halabja has been recognized as a global symbol for the struggle and sacrifices of the people of Kurdistan, and for this, we must remember the martyrs and victims of this crime and keep their memory immortal,” he said in a statement.

“We are still making every effort for the Iraqi government to compensate the families of the martyrs and the injured, and we also work to prevent any sort of genocide against Kurdistan’s people and any other components in the world.”

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani said in a tweet that the rights of the Kurdistan Region’s people continued to be denied despite the bombardment of Halabja city.

“It is indeed shameful that even after the bombardment of Halabja with chemical weapons and the genocide against the people of Kurdistan, chauvinistic thinking remains dominant in Iraq,” he tweeted.

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