Mainz, Germany – It was on March 16, 1988 when people in Halabja smelled the “sweet odor of apples” in the air. Unaware of what was happening around them they inhaled the fresh scent, which would kill them one after another.
“It was like the death itself sneaked up on the people, just to embrace them in form of a yellowish, almost invisible gas,” remembers Karwan Mandali, who was 16 at that time. He witnessed the attack on a hill near the city.
A day before the chemical attack, Kurdish Peshmerga liberated the city from Saddam Hussein’s troops. Their decade-long struggle for self-determination seemed to pan out, but the Iraqi dictator in Baghdad did not want to give up that easily to the Kurdish rebels.
In the early morning of March 16 Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, ordered the attack on the city, knowing that thousands of civilians would die. At 11 a.m., the first bomb drops were conducted over the city and according to eyewitnesses, it took only a few minutes for people to fall over and die.
“The first victims were the birds, only a few minutes later people followed. Men, women, children, they all died,” says a survivor of the attack.
Kaveh Golestan, who was a photojournalist present in the immediate aftermath of the chemical attack, says: “It was life frozen. Life had stopped, like watching a film and suddenly it hangs on one frame. It was a new kind of death to me.”
Today, 28 years later, the victims of this brutal and criminal act are commemorated, but nothing has changed – Just two years ago the Kurds faced yet another genocide in their homeland, this time in Sinjar (Shingal). Survivors of the Halabja Chemical Attack still suffer from the events of 1988. Nerve diseases, cancer, birth defects, the list is long.
“The Kurdish people had to face way too many genocides. We really have to act and support them in their fight for independence. We didn’t accept the crimes against the Jewish people; we can't accept the same crimes to be carried out against the Kurds,” warns Marc Bernard, a French student majoring in oriental and political studies.
“The Halabja poison gas attack remains the single largest chemical weapons attack against a civilian population in the world,” reports Human Rights Watch. On March 16, the Halabja Memorial Day, all the victims are commemorated. The criminals Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan al-Majid are dead today, but their Baath-Party still lives on in Syria. With Bashar al-Assad as their head.
Visit the following link to get posters and important quotes regarding the Halabja Memorial Day and the chemical attack on the city: KRG Austria Halabja Download