Today is the 27th anniversary of Halabja and Anfal which has become a part of Kurdish history. Even though I was not able to join The Canadian Kurdish organizations in Toronto this year for the 27th commemoration of the Genocide of Kurds in Halabja and Anfal on Sunday March 15th 2015, I thought it was extremely important to cover this topic on my website.
For all Kurds, the phrase Halbja evokes a special meaning, a memory of a moment in our history when the lives of many changed forever. The Anfal campaign was purposed against the Kurds in the late 1980s. The Iraqi government would use chemical weapons in order to get rid of the Kurds; a form of assimilation. These attacks would ensure that the Kurds would disappear. One of the largest attacks was used on March 16, 1988 on the Kurdish city of Halabja. During the attack 5,000 women, men, and children died because of the chemical and it which caused long-term effects that included permanent blindness, cancer, and birth defects, etc. Sadly, till this day, children are born with birth defects. Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein’s cousin, also known as ‘Chemical Ali’ was in charge of this crucial attack upon the Kurdish villagers. He was indeed an evil man who had no remorse. With this being said, I cannot discard that even though a UN security council statement condemned the usage of chemical weapons in the war, it was clear that the US and other western governments continued supporting Baghdad militarily. In other words, the western countries ignored the issue and filtered it from their media. They used their power as World leaders in order to prevent people from learning about this horrible attack on innocent people.
Today Kurds around the world gather to honour the memory of those people who died that day. They commemorate the lives of the innocent and pay tribute to those who died in the tragic event. We are remembering those innocent people whom without warning faced the tragic occurrence. People chose self-sacrifice for the good of others, too protect their loved ones. They showed their duties as fathers, mothers, and elders to protect them. Personally I believe that not only should we be commemorating those that are no longer with us but also those who survived the senseless tragedy of that horrible day.
So one may ask what is my connection to Halbja? As a Kurd, I believe it is my duty to learn about my people. I am learning my history and searching deeper into what happened Kurds deliberately throughout history. This has pushed me to be to be stronger person and to honour my people even more. It is important not only to educate myself but those around me as well about these issues. For anyone who knows me is aware that I have always tried to educate other on Kurdish topics, whether my colleagues in university, work or just friends. I truly believe that if they leave with one piece of knowledge and understanding about the issues Kurds face, I have done my job. After all, learning is ongoing and we can all learn from each other.
As I am writing this post, I cannot stress enough how important it is to include our young generation in commemorations (Yadi Halabja). It is important that we teach the youngsters about the struggles faced by our people so that one day they can pass down that knowledge. Not only will they educated younger Kurds but I hope it will be a tool that they can learn to educate others as well. The more knowledgable we are the better we will understand our identity and what it means to be a KURD. It is crucial to distinguish ourselves from others, to recognize the identity of the Kurds, to recognize that Kurds are Kurds and Kurds are not Turks, Arabs or Persians. With that being said, I do not want my non Kurdish readers to see this as negative as it is important to comment on it because it is a historical injustice at the heart of the Kurdish story; as the world’s largest ethnic group that have suffered significantly.
It is important to note that the Kurds are not the only ones in the world who have faced genocide throughout history. But for the purpose of my article, I focus on the Kurdish genocide. As world leaders stood up and said never again to another genocide, we were slapped in the face with another strategic event Kurdish town of Kobani in most recent months. For those who may question whether Kobani and the Yezidi Kurds faced genocide I have included below the UN definition of Genocide verbatim to help you see why I cam to that conclusion and for you to decide as well.
UN Definition of Genocide
General Assembly Resolution 260A (III) Article 2
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group
After examining the definition of genocide, it is clear that the Yezidi people have faced a modern day genocide. The Yezidi Kurds have faced harm in all levels imaginable. I do not want to go into those harms in full detail in this article as todays post is to commemorate the genocide of Halabja. But it would be wrong of me if I did not mention Kobani and its genocide in this article.
I cannot ignore the events in Kobani when writing about genocide. From my knowledge thus far, Kobani does meet the definition and criteria of UN’s definition of genocide and this may change with educating myself further about the topic.
Lastly, it is important to reroute ourselves to our Kurdish ancestors, to understand the pain and suffering felt by our people at tragic times. We have to try to understand the tragic events faced by our people in order to be strong and move forward in creating a better future for our children and generations after us. I would like end by saying my prayers are with all those families who lost a loved one and to those who survived, you are heroes.