Twenty-eight years ago, the Baathist government of Saddam Hussein committed one of modern history’s most horrific crimes: the use of chemical weapons to indiscriminately kill thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and permanently debilitate many more.
On Wednesday, the John’s Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Representation in the United States held an event to remember the victims of Halabja, and of the many atrocities committed in Iraq and Syria.
Stories from Halabja
Yerevan Saeed, White House correspondent for the Rudaw Media Network began the event with an emotional delivery about his family’s flight from Halabja in March 1988. Saeed recounted how his family hid in the mountains, as bombs exploded in the town below. His family had no idea that the Iraqis had used chemicals until they emerged from the caves to see villagers blinded, and animals dead on in the fields.
The next speaker was Gavriel Mairone, founder of a law firm dedicated to representing victims of terrorism, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Marione spoke about his experience bringing criminal lawsuits against the companies who supplied chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein.
Other speakers included Argentine lawyer and the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, and Naomi Kikoler, Deputy Director of the Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum. A panel was held after the speakers had delivered their stories, which looked ahead and discussed justice, accountability, and the legacy of genocide.
You may watch the entire event below.
Recent Attacks in Iraq
The stories evoked parallels between the recent attacks in 2014, when the self-proclaimed Islamic State carried out a violent campaign against civilians in Ninewa province in northern Iraq, home to many of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities.
As the Islamic State (IS), known locally as Daesh, and affiliated groups attacked cities, towns, and villages, they forced more than 800,000 people from their homes and deliberately destroyed shrines, temples, and churches. They also kidnapped thousands and killed hundreds, likely thousands, of people.
In less than three months, IS decimated millennia-old communities and irrevocably tore the social fabric of the once-diverse region. Now almost no members of the minority groups IS attacked live in Ninewa province.
U.S. House Designates IS Atrocities ‘Genocide’
The event came in the wake by a unanimous vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to designate IS atrocities as genocide. With a vote of 393-0, this was the first unanimous vote since 2004, when the House voted to designate genocide for the atrocities in Darfur.
“It is my sincere hope that this trans-partisan resolution will further compel the State Department to join the building international consensus in calling the horrific [IS] violence against Christians, Yazidis and others by its proper name: ‘genocide,’ ” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican who introduced the measure.