A new but small governorate, Halabja is the smallest and was previously just a district.
As a site of the Halabja attack, it is a symbol of Kurdish resistance. However, its identity as a governorate has led to a pique in appreciation for its other remarkable qualities: the Iraqi President Fouad Mamoum is from Halabja; it is famous for having Kurdistan's first female mayor, Adela Khanem, who was effective mayor from 1909 until her death in 1924 (she oversaw a flourish in culture and literature, and was mother to two renowned poets, Ahmad Mukhtar Jaf and Tahir Bagi Jaf); and it has a relatively low rate of violence against women, even with a span of years without any honor killings. Ottomans made it a district in 1889, and Iraq and Kurdistan made it a governorate in 2014.
At the fruit and vegetable bazaar in Sleimani (near the Hotel Hiwa), there is a garage. The Shahedun bus goes to the Halapja garage (250) and from there is a bus to Halabja (2500). They leave when full or evey 30 mins. There is Old Halabja (Shaheed Halabja) and a new city (Taza Halabja); the former is of more interest to tourists. There is a monument (damaged in protests in 2006) and a visitor's center. It is important to visit the visitor's center first or the police station nearby might begin questioning. The last bus back to Sleimani leaves about 3:30.
Go to the visitors office before you start taking pictures etc as there is a police station opposit, they picked me up and i spent about 40 mins inthe police station and another down the road, they were really nice and no problem but best avoided (they even gave me an armed gaurd for the day to follow me about the city, just a bit OTT!). scubamonkey69, 2007
Of all the atrocities committed against the Kurds during the Anfal, Halabja has come to symbolize the worst of the repression of the Iraqi Kurds.
That Friday afternoon, the magnitude of Iraqi crimes became evident. In the streets and alleys of Halabja, corpses piled up over one another. Tens of children, while playing in front of the their houses in the morning, were martyred instantly by cyanide gases. The innocent children did not even have time to run back home. Some children fell down at the threshold of the door of their houses and never rose again.
A mother who embraced her one-year-old baby, fell down two steps from her house and was martyred. In a 150 meter area in the main street of Halabja, at least fifty women and children were martyred as a result of the deployment of the chemical weapons. A father was sitting over the bodies of his wife and ten of his children in one of the alleys of Halabja and was wailing. The sound of his wailing touched any cruel human being. The crimes were huge, very huge.
In a Simorgh Van, the corpses of 20 women and children who had been prepared to leave the town and the chemical bombardment of the town had deprived them of this opportunity, made any observer stop and ponder about the depth of the catastrophe. Fatal wounds on the corpses of these innocent people were evident.
The doors of most houses were left open and inside of each house, there were some martyred and wounded people. The enemy had heightened the cruelty and heart-handedness to its peak and took no pity on its own people. Saddam's crime in the chemical bombardment of Halabja has indeed been unprecedented in the history of the imposed war. Saddam's crime in Halabja can never be compared to the tragedy of the chemical bombardment of Sardasht. In Halabja more than five thousand people were martyred and over seven thousand more people were wounded. Women and children formed 75 percent of the martyrs and wounded of the bloody Friday of Halabja. link
No wounds, no blood, no traces of explosions can be found on the bodies - scores of men, women and children, livestock and pet animals - that litter the flat-topped dwellings and crude earthen streets in this remote and neglected Kurdish town... The skin of the bodies is strangely discolored, with their eyes open and staring where they have not disappeared into their sockets, a grayish slime oozing from their mouths and their fingers still grotesquely twisted. Death seemingly caught them almost unawares in the midst of their household chores. They had just the strength, some of them, to make it to the doorways of their homes, only to collapse there a few feet beyond. Here a mother seems to clasp her children in a last embrace, there an old man shields an infant from he cannot have known what... It is hard to conceive of any explanation for the chemical bombardment of Halabja other than the one which
Iranians and Kurds offer - revenge... As artillery continues to rumble round the hills, Halabja stands silent and deserted except for what they can find and a dazed old man, absent during the bombing, who has come back in search of his family... Article from Halabja by David Hirt, Middle East correspondent of London Daily, The Guardian, published 1988/03/23; link
The reported slaughter of 5,000 Kurds in Iraqi poison gas attacks underlines a dangerous new dimension in the volatile middle east: the growth of the chemical warfare capability of several important regional powers, and the fear that, despite efforts to curb these weapons, they could be used more widely. … [in producing chemical weapons] Iraq has apparently been helped by British, west German, Indian, Austrian, Belgian, and Italian companies, despite bans on the sale of chemical that could have military use... There is evidence that the Iraqis did drop poison gas bombs on the towns because the traditionally rebellious Kurds, who have been fighting for autonomy from Baghdad for years, welcomed the Iranian (troops).Article by the correspondent of the London Daily., the independent, published on 23rd of March, 1988
The Kurds have claimed for a number of months, perhaps over a year, that Iraq has been using chemical agents against them. But this latest occasion seems to be the first really documented case that we have where chemical agents have been used.
Iraq has used chemical agents against Iran on a very large scale for three years now. And although the west and other countries have been condemnatory about that use, the country (Iraq) still felt secure enough to use chemical agents.
They have used them because these agents are very effective against and opposition that has no protection and until such time as there is perhaps an end to war, or sufficient sanctions against Iraq to persuade it not to use chemical agents, I'm afraid they will continue to use them or so it seems."
The United Nations have had three investigations into the use of chemical warfare agents in the Iraq-Iran war and they have said unequivocally on all three occasions that Iraq has used chemical warfare agents. They have said that mustard gas was certainly used on all three occasions, that is in 1984, 1986 and 1987. And they have also said that they have evidenced that a nerve agent, tabun, was also used. The investigation was carried by a well qualified team, so l have no doubt in my mind that they have been used. Alistair Hay, pathology professor at Leeds university, England, speaking on BBC Television News, and BBC Radio World Service oh 22nd and 23rd of March, 1988
Within sight of the main road is this ancient site.