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  • In Solemn Remembrance of the 25Th Anniversary of the Halabja Massacre

    by Representative Loretta Sanchez

    Posted on 2013-03-15

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    SANCHEZ of california in the house of representatives Friday, March 15, 2013 Ms. LORETTA SANCHEZ of California. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in solemn remembrance of the 25th- anniversary of the massacre of over 5000 innocent civilians in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja by the criminal regime of Saddam Hussein. This atrocity took place on March 16, 1988, during Saddam's genocidal Anfal Campaign to exterminate or expel the Kurdish people of northern Iraq. The Halabja massacre is worthy of our remembrance for several very important and timely reasons: First, the Halabja massacre is one of the few examples of use of chemical weapons by a government against its own people in the history of mankind. Iraqi forces used a lethal mix of nerve agents, asphyxiating gas and other toxins to inflict over 5000 deaths and thousands of permanent injuries on survivors. The attack on Halabja continues to inflict its toxic legacy on the Kurds today in the form of birth defects and disabilities of Halabja survivors. As we monitor the unfolding events in Syria and Assad's threatened use of chemical weapons against his own people, we are reminded of the Halabja massacre. In the course of the Anfal campaign, the Iraqi Army committed countless atrocities, razed thousands Kurdish towns and villages, forcibly displaced thousands of families from their homes and livelihoods and murdered an estimated 200,000 Kurdish men, women and children. Halabja was perhaps the single worst day of the Anfal campaign. The suffering, death, crimes and horror of that day were famously documented and burned into the consciousness of the world by a Time Magazine cover and feature article which contained scores of ghastly photographs, many of which were used by prosecutors to secure the convictions and executions of Saddam Hussein and General Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as ``Chemical Ali.'' I can never forget--and the world must never forget--those haunting images of dead children in the lifeless arms of their mothers, their mouths frozen open in their final desperate attempts to breathe. A crime of this magnitude must never be forgotten and must never be allowed to happen again.

    Second, the 25th anniversary of the Halabja massacre is worthy of our remembrance and reflection because thousands of Americans gave their lives to liberate Iraq and give the Iraqi people the freedom and opportunity to create a stable, safe and prosperous country where all minorities can flourish. Over four thousand Americans died and over 40,000 were wounded in that war to secure the peace to bring Saddam to justice, and win the right of self-determination for the Kurdish people of Iraq and for all Iraqis. Their sacrifices must never be forgotten.

    Third, it is important to remember Halabja, because of America's strong and vital relationship with the Kurds of Iraq. In the immediate aftermath of the first Gulf War, Saddam again unleashed his wrath on the Kurdish people. Thousands of Kurdish refugees fled into the mountains of northern Iraq to escape another massacre. The United States intervened in Operation Provide Comfort to join forces with the Kurds and to prevent another massacre. Under the umbrella of the no-fly zone of northern Iraq, the resilient, strong and resourceful people of Kurdistan rose from the ashes of the Anfal campaign to restore their land and lay the foundations of democracy and prosperity for all of Iraq. When US forces deployed to northern Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi freedom, Kurdish forces joined with US forces to defeat 13 Iraqi Army divisions in the northern area of operations. Today, the Kurds are continuing to build on their friendship with our country and have created an economic and cultural miracle in the Kurdistan Region, where the rights of religious and ethnic minorities are protected and respected in law and in fact, which is a model for all of Iraq to emulate.

    Finally, as we remember Halabja and the Anfal campaign on this 25th anniversary, we must maintain our resolve and use all of our diplomatic and economic power to ensure that peace and democracy take root and thrive in Iraq. That peace and the future of democratic government in Iraq is now jeopardized by the increasingly negative relations between the Iraqi government of PM Maliki and the Sunni and Kurdish minorities of Iraq. It is not my purpose today to cast blame for the current state of those relations, but only to remind my colleagues of the grave dangers of ethnic and sectarian strife in Iraq. Let us remember Halabja in light of the sacrifices our country has made to ensure that such crimes are never repeated and to renew our resolve to use our power and influence to achieve a lasting peace and the security of the Iraqi people.


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