Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Congressional briefing commemorates Halabja massacre

In remembrance of the chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja and surrounding areas on March 16, 1988, under Saddam Hussein’s rule, Qubad Talabany, the Representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the United States, gave remarks at a Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing today. The attack was part of Hussein’s Al Anfal campaign to rid Iraqi Kurdistan of its ethnically Kurdish inhabitants, which lasted from April 1987 to August 1988.

The damage as a result of the attacks is lasting. More than half of Halabja’s citizens still suffer from the aftereffects of the chemical attack, with ailments that include birth defects, infertility, neurological problems and cancer. Additionally the attacks were severely damaging to the environment, with water, soil and fruit rendered potentially hazardous as a result. However, little scientific or medical research as to the extent of the devastation has been conducted, despite the pressing need to do so.

Halabja’s citizens are frustrated by the sympathy they receive that brings little tangible improvement to their lives, Talabany said. To help remedy this, the Kurdistan Regional Government urges the international community to recognize the Halabja atrocities as genocide.

Discussing the ethnic mix of the region, Talabany said, “Kurdistan is a plural region today. Now that we [Kurds], who were the persecuted, are in authority, we need to make sure that we do not ourselves become the persecutors of ethnic minorities." For that reason, the Kurdistan Regional Government continually seeks outside insight on matters of governance, he said. Some critical infrastructure improvements are also needed, since the region only has enough electricity for citizens to use for three hours per day.

Talabany also addressed Kurdish fears of the consequences when U.S. troops leave Iraq. Talabany urged Members of Congress to “remember your friends” when that time comes, particularly since the Kurdistan Regional Government, as Talabany pointed out, serves as a model for the rest of Iraq, with a growing economy and less violence.


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