Monday, 27 July 2015

Iraqi Kurds hopeful long-missing Halabja children still alive

Nearly three decades later, dozens of children are still missing from Halabja following the chemical bombardment of the city in 1988 by Iraq’s then Baathist military.

Families of the missing children say their loved ones could still be in neighboring Iran where they took refuge with thousands of others fleeing the chemical attacks in Halabja that left more than 5,000 people dead. The families say since they never found the bodies of their children, strong possibilities remain that they are still alive but have no knowledge about their own families in Halabja.

“We are constantly looking for our beloved children,” said Muhammad Saeed, whose family is missing their two sons who disappeared without a trace when the traumatized family tried to flee the gas attack toward the Iranian border on the evening of March 16, 1988.

“Whenever anyone knocks on our door, we become exited hoping the separation is over and our loved ones are finally at the door,” Saeed said.

So far seven children have returned to their families in Halabja after Kurdish authorities were able to establish their identities through advanced DNA tests.

Saadon Muhammad, who is the director of a support group for the victims of the Halabja bombing, said the DNA tests were necessary since many others have claimed to be from Halabja but were later proved not to be.

“We have had three such incidents when people have come forward and said they were from the city, but afterwards changed their accounts and said they were not,” Muhammad said explaining how some claimed to be from the city for financial reasons, as the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) decided to compensate the missing people who returned to Halabja by granting them land and monthly wages.

Maryam, 33, came to Halabja to find her family but returned to Iran when authorities could not find her relatives in the city.

“She came back in May but her case is still unfinished which shows how slow the process is,” Luqman Qadir, the head of the Halabja Victims Society, which has been caring for Maryam since she returned, told Rudaw.

Authorities say there are four other people now residing in Iran who claim to be from Halabja and that they hope to conduct tests to find their original families.

Monday 27 July 2015


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