Wednesday 27 March 2019

Mayor of Halabja visits Washington to commemorate 31 years since in the chemical bombing

Washington, DC, USA ( - Ms. Nuxsha Nasih, the Mayor of Halabja, and Ms. Nasrin Mohammed, a survivor of the 1988 Halabja chemical bombing, visited Washington this month to speak at the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) US Representation’s annual Halabja commemoration and to meet with US officials and organizations.

In her keynote speech at the commemoration held on March 20, Mayor Nasih said, “I am honored to be here with you, representing a city that was gassed with chemical weapons 31 years ago, where 5,000 were killed and thousands more injured. In that year, in addition to Halabja, many other cities and towns in Kurdistan were subjected to eradication and genocide campaigns.”

KRG Representative to the United States Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman delivered opening remarks at the event. She said, “Genocide has been the fate of many different groups in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. It is important that we acknowledge and remember the pain and suffering of victims of all genocides in Iraq – the Yezidis, the Christians, the Shabaks, the Kakayis, the Barzanis, the Faylees, the people of Halabja, Kirkuk and the Kurds killed in the Anfal campaign, , the Kurds, the Arabs, the Assyrians, and the Turkmen,. There are many others who also suffered through terrorism, oppression and violence.”

The commemoration was held at George Washington University (GWU) in coordination with a university course on genocide.  More than 100 students, US officials, and members of the public attended the event.

Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Fareed Yasseen and the Director of Near Eastern Affairs at the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Mr. Steven Gillen, also delivered brief remarks. Ambassador Yasseen outlined how the events in Halabja in 1988 impacted his life as an Iraqi living in the United States, campaigning for human rights in Iraq. Mr. Gillen expressed condolences and solidarity with the people of Halabja.

Following the speeches, Dr. Seth Carus, Professor Emeritus at National Defense University and GWU Professor Dr. Jennifer Wells held a moderated discussion about the enduring threat of chemical weapons.

During the event, Ms. Mohammed recounted her harrowing story of survival on that day in March 1988, when her brothers and sisters were killed by chemical agents. Like many survivors, to this day she suffers lung, vision, and other health problems. At the conclusion of her remarks, she implored the international community, “Let us prevent future genocide, not just in Kurdistan but everywhere.”

Throughout the week-long visit, the delegation met with several members of the US government and American organizations. At the State Department, Mayor Nasih, Ms. Mohammed, and Representative Abdul Rahman met with Director of Iraq Affairs Robert Waller. In Congress, they met with the staff from Congressman James Sensenbrenner and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

The Mayor had an opportunity to brief leaders and staff of Vital Voices, an organization focused on women’s empowerment around the world, and the Iraq staff of the International Republican Institute, a non-profit that supports good governance for local governments in Iraq and globally. She also briefed companies and organizations from the US-Kurdistan Business Council on the investment potential for US companies seeking to do business in Halabja which now has the status of a province.

Mayor Nasih and Ms. Mohammed were given a special tour of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and met with Janelle Johnson of the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Center.

This was Ms. Nasih’s first visit to the United States as Halabja’s Mayor.