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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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Remembering Halabja: 20 years on

As Kurds in Iraq remember the atrocities committed at Halabja 20 years ago in Kurdistan, Iraq, KHRP would like to take this opportunity to call for greater recognition of the genocidal crimes committed by the former Baathist government under Saddam Hussein and redress for those affected by them.

On 16 March 1988, Iraqi military planes dropped chemical agents on the town of Halabja in Kurdistan, Iraq, killing some 5,000 civilians. This attack was only part of a systematic six-and-a-half month 'Anfal' campaign, in which 180,000 people "disappeared" and some 4,000 villages were destroyed. The legacy of Halabja lives on today, as direct survivors and their descendents continue to suffer from medical, psychological, social and economic problems caused by the attacks and the massive displacement they have inflicted.

Despite the many governmental and intergovernmental organisations professing a commitment to human rights, full and appropriate acknowledgement by the international community of the tragedies at Halabja and of Anfal has been long overdue.

Bringing the perpetrators of these crimes to justice constitutes an essential step towards the achievement of recognition of the atrocities themselves. However, this process in itself will not provide adequate redress for the victims of these campaigns. In this regard, measures by the Kurdistan Regional Government and central Iraqi government to reconstruct the areas affected have so far proved insufficient. Moreover, the execution of Saddam Hussein and other former officials have already denied the possibility of these individuals facing trial for their crimes at Halabja and during the Anfal campaign. This year the potential execution of 'Chemical' Ali Hassan al-Majid for his role in the Anfal campaign likewise threatens to prevent him from being brought to justice for the full extent of his involvement in the Halabja attack.

In marking the anniversary of the attack on Halabja, KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz today stated: "Kurds in Iraq today are no longer under threat of attacks such as those of Halabja and the Anfal campaigns. Recognising the crimes of the past and providing effective measures to address them is a vital component of the reconciliation process between Iraq's various communities. This recognition must extend to the knock-on and lifelong effects victims of those attacks endured. Unfortunately, human rights abuse and regional instability continue to be very much a feature of the present, and thus undermine this process. The Iraqi authorities, regional governments and international community must take responsibility for providing a stable and peaceful environment to facilitate the development of this region, as it is vital to the development of Iraq and the region as a whole."