24 years later, Kurds still mourn for Halabja


Halabja is a Kurdish town in Southern Kurdistan, and Northern Iraq. It is nearly 150 miles north-east of Baghdad, and has a rich history. It is home to Adela Khanum, an iconic feminist Kurdish figure, who was honoured with the title of “Princess of the brave” and helped save lives of British soldiers during World War I.

On March 16, 1988, Iraqi planes under the leadership of Ali Hassan al-Majid dropped chemical bombs around the town. More than 10,000 civilians were killed, thousands injured and hundreds continue to suffer from the aftermath of the bombs. The chemical attacks started late in the evening, and lasted for nearly five hours.

Kaveh Golestan was an Iranian journalist who had taken the first pictures, and filmed the atrocity. The pictures continue to haunt Kurdish people, soon after they were broadcasted neighbouring Arab countries and western community turned a blind-eye to the atrocities committed under the Baath regime. In an interview with Financial times Golestan explained the inhumane brutality Kurdish people were subject to in 1988, and the aftermath briefly.

“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. You went into a room, a kitchen and you saw the body of a woman holding a knife where she had been cutting a carrot.”

“The aftermath was worse. Victims were still being brought in. Some villagers came to our chopper. They had 15 or 16 beautiful children, begging us to take them to hospital. So all the press sat there and we were each handed a child to carry. As we took off, fluid came out of my little girl’s mouth and she died in my arms.”

Below is one of the early videos broadcasted in United Kingdom regarding the Halabja massacre. The narrator mistakenly refers to Halabja is Halabash in the video, but it highlights the gruesome nature of the indiscriminate chemical bombing in 1988.


On 5 November, 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty for crimes against humanity, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was hanged on the first day of Eid ul-Adha, 30 December, 2006. He was not tried for the Halabja genocide, but on the Dujail case for the killing of 148 Shias in Tigris river city. Saddam Hussein’s notorious cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid was convicted of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to death for his involvement in the chemical bombing of Halabja on 17, January, 2010.


‘Anfal and Halabja: The Kurdish Genocide’
‘Why it’s important to remember Halabja’

This was originally published on Huffington Post by Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar.