Göttingen, 13. März 2008
"For people in Germany poison gas is something quite terrible, but this does not worry customers abroad.”
Dieter Backfisch, Managing director of Karl Kolb, 06.01.1989
Society for Threatened Peoples calls for German and European programme of reconstruction for Halabja
This coming Sunday, 16th March, the inhabitants of the town of Halabja in the Iraqi federal state of Kurdistan will remember the poison gas attacks of Saddam Hussein, in which 20 years ago 5000 children, women and men lost their lives. Many thousand were injured, received permanent injuries or died as a result of the poison attacks. The survivors have largely to the present day been given inadequate treatment. The attack is seen as the largest poison gas massacre of civilians since the Second World War.
The attack on Halabja was "only” part of a campaign of destruction begun in 1987 by the Baath regime against the Kurds of northern Iraq and the Assyro-Chaldaic, Turkmen and Yezidi ethnic groups living there. In April 1987 already the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) provided regular information to the German media on poison gas attacks of the Iraqi air force against 87 villages in the Kurdish highlands. At the same time the GfbV charged the Hessian companies of Karl Kolb GmbH and Pilot Plant and more than 40 other German and European companies with a share in the responsibility for the war crimes committed, for they had contributed to the construction of poison gas installations above all in Iraqi Samara.
The district court in Bonn then forbade the GfbV on 4th August 1987 under a penalty of twice DM 500,000 if it repeated the accusations against the two Hessian companies. On 11th January 1988 the Higher Regional Court of Cologne reversed this judgement after the GfbV now quoted Israeli sources. The GfbV carried out several vigils outside the gates of both firms and then there were arrests of those guilty, but they were released since there was no legislation applicable. The Iraqi government is now planning legal action against firms which delivered chemicals to Saddam Hussein at that time.
Since the German Kohl/Genscher government let these firms do what they wanted for a long time and also granted them a Hermes security, the GfbV appeals to the German government today to make some amends in the form of programmes of reconstruction and health for the war crimes aided and abetted by German forms.
The surviving inhabitants of the villages were after the poison gas attacks either liquidated or deported to the interior. In the provinces of Arbil, Suleimaniya, Dohuk, Kirkuk, Diala and Mosul there were many deportations into the deserts and steppe of southern Iraq, concentration camps were set up and thousands were executed in mass shootings. Through massacres in the villages whole regions became completely deserted. This burnt earth policy, which has since gone into the history of genocide as the "Anfal Operation” involved some 180,000 victims from Iraqi Kurdistan. At the Anfal Congress in Arbil in February 2008, at which the President of the GfbV International, Tilman Zülch, took part, this figure was confirmed by experts from Europe and the Middle East.
Press reports of the eighties, extensive documentary material of the GfbV on the disputes with German government offices, the BND and then reports to the German governments on compensation to the civilian population are available at tel. ++49 (0)551 499 06 18. Dr. Kamla Sido, GfbV correspondent for the near East, will be glad to be of assistance.