March 16th is the 17th anniversary of the chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in South-Kurdistan. Systematically terrorizing the Kurdish population, Saddam Hussein attempted to silence his critics and at the same time test his chemical and biological weapons. On March 15 th, the Kurdish Cultural Forum arranges a memorial day for Halabja at the Rafto Human Rights House (15-Mar-2005)

Saddam Hussein was the first leader in modern times to brutally use chemical weapons against the Kurdish people. Between 1987 and 1988 he had chemical attacks directed towards 40 Kurdish villages, and tested his weapons on thousands of innocent civilians. The worst of these attacks destroided the town of Halabja in March 1988.

Chemical weapons used in Halabja
Saddam’s regime mixed mustard gas and nerve agents for increase the effect of the chemical attacks. Mustard gas attacks the nose, throat and lungs, while Sarin, Tabun and VX attack eyes and air channels.

Chemical weapons also contaminate food- and water supplies, soil and wildlife.

Effects of the attack in Halabja
5000 civilians, among them many women, children and elderly, died within hours of the attack. More than 10.000 people were blinded, vansiret or in other ways destroyed for life. Thousands of people lost their lives in epidemics, or from birth injuries in the following years.

Immediate medical effects

– death due to suffocation
– burns and swellings
– reduced vision, blindness
– breathing problems
– vomiting, diarrhoea, digestive problems
– neurological disturbances
– unconsciousness

Medical long term effects
– permanent blindness
– deformation
– lung- digestive and neurological disorders
– leukemia and cancer
– miscarriage and pregnancy difficulties
– severe inborn disorders


Halabja as a testing site

Iraqui soldiers in protective gear returned to Halabja to examine and assess the effects of their weapons and chemical attack. They divided the city into zones, and determined the number of dead and wounded. This way Halabja “helped” Saddam Hussein to master his chemical weapons and efficiently direct them towards heavily populated areas.

Tuesday March 15th, Kurdisk Kurturforum in Hordaland arranges a memorial day for Halabja.

Time: 6 p.m.
Place: the Rafto House