Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Michelle Obama was not blurred out on Saudi TV

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Mali: Twelve people die in suicide attack against MNLA

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Libya violence: At least four foreigners among those killed in hotel attack

Read more

DEBATE

New Escalation: Cross-Border Shelling Between Israel, Lebanon (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

New Escalation: Cross-Border Shelling Between Israel, Lebanon (part 1)

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

A Lebanese prison 'run by Islamists', and children tear-gassed in Kenya

Read more

FOCUS

Pegida, the movement dividing Germany

Read more

ENCORE!

Film Show: 'The Imitation Game', 'Phoenix' and the French Oscars

Read more

#TECH 24

'The Imitation Game': A Tribute to Alan Turing, the Father of Computers

Read more

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2014-05-02

Iraq: In the shadow of the Halabja massacre

© FRANCE 24

Twenty-five years ago, Saddam Hussein orchestrated one of the worst massacres of the 20th century. During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the Baghdad regime accused the Kurds of treason and collaboration with the Iranian army. In retaliation, on March 16th, 1988, the town of Halabja, in Iraqi Kurdistan, was bombarded with chemical weapons. In just a few hours, 5,000 people were killed. Today, the wounds of this massacre have still not healed. Our reporters went to Halabja.

Operation Anfal, led by Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid (nicknamed “Chemical Ali”), destroyed the city of Halabja and wiped out a large part of its population.

On March 16, 1988, from 10.45am, Iraqi army MiG and Mirage fighter jets flew over the area for five hours and dropped chemical bombs containing a mixture of mustard gas and Tabun, Sarin and VX nerve gases. A thick white, then yellow, cloud rose. A sickening smell of apple filled the air. The inhabitants, trapped, collapsed one after the other. The attack killed up to 5,000 people, mostly women and children, and injured thousands more.

A quarter of a century later, what has become of the region? What are the long-term consequences of such a massacre? How do the survivors and their descendants live today? With these questions in mind, we travelled to Halabja.

We discovered that all the inhabitants of this Kurdish city located 250 kilometres north-east of Baghdad were affected in one way or another by the massacre. In every house, people keep apples in memory of the dead. Everyone remembers stories, each more tragic than the next.

We met survivors of Operation Anfal, who still bear the scars of the massacre. Cancer, respiratory and dermatological problems are the daily lot of those in the region. We also saw indirect victims of the massacre; children born with birth defects, or others who became ill after discovering a mass grave. There are also the unexploded bombs that farmers stumble upon in their fields.

‘Genocide’?

Despite this, there is no psychologist or specialised doctor present in the region. Victims travel to neighbouring Iran to see doctors and accrue debts in order to have treatment. For several years, a specialized centre for the victims has been under construction in Halabja, but it has not yet been completed.

Today, the Kurds want the Halabja massacre to be recognised as a “genocide". The international community remains silent. Because it supported Iraq against Iran at the time, it looked the other way. Only the Iraqi High Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal of The Hague employed the term "genocide" in 2007.

Meanwhile, some Western companies are accused of providing unconventional weapons to Saddam Hussein. Last year, on June 10, 2013, twenty Iraqi Kurds filed a lawsuit in Paris for "complicity in crimes against humanity". They are asking for an investigation into the role of several French companies and individuals who may have made ​​the chemical weapons massacre possible. Aside from the conviction of possible accomplices, the victims of Halabja also want the courts to grant them medical and financial aid.

By Sophia MARCHESIN , Marine COURTADE

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2015-01-16 Charlie Hebdo

Paris attacks: Who were the terrorists?

For three days, they spread fear and horror across France, killing 17 people before being shot dead by police. Their rampage began with an attack on satirical weekly Charlie...

Read more

2015-01-09 Iran

Young Iranians living on the edge

In Iran, penalties for drinking, dancing or partying can be severe: heavy fines, imprisonment, even death by hanging. Two out of three Iranians are under 30 years old. Now,...

Read more

2015-01-02 Ukraine

Donetsk, the price of separation

The war in eastern Ukraine is far from over, but with the arrival of winter, it's no longer only the guns and shellfire that worry the inhabitants of the self-proclaimed Republic...

Read more

2014-12-26 Syria

France 24’s best documentaries of 2014

This year, France 24 brought you major reports from around the world. Don't miss our highlights from 2014: from the partition of Ukraine to the battle against Ebola in Liberia,...

Read more

2014-12-19 Argentina

Argentina: The Kirchner era

The woman dubbed by some the new Eva Perón is a divisive figure. Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband, Nestor, as president of Argentina back in 2007. A year ahead of...

Read more