Halabja, Iraq -
On March 16, 1988, the Kurdish village of Halabja was ground zero of a chemical and biological-weapons attack. The government of Iraq gassed the Kurds with a cocktail of nerve and blistering agents that consisted of sarin, mustard gas, VX nerve agents and the biological agent aflatoxin. The attack left 5,000 men, women and children dead and 10, 000 injured. Fifteen years since the massacre, the people of Halabja still suffer from the effects of the attack, including a much higher prevalence of major medical disorders such as blindness, neurological disorders, cancers, birth defects and miscarriages.
Today, medical specialists estimate an additional 1,600 people from Halabja have died from the long-term effects of the chemical attack. Five thousand more are suffering still, and thousands are in the throes of slow, painful death.
Dr. Bakhtiar Faiq of the Halabja Martyrs Hospital says, "Yes, it makes me mad. America speaks of the attack on Halabja as its reason to go to war. Since then, no teams of doctors have been sent by leading hospitals, and [there are] no residency programs offered by prestigious universities to train Halabja's few physicians". The doctor points out that if a mobile unit for cornea transplants, a relatively simple operation, was sent to Halabja, hundreds of people blinded by the gassing could see again. But in 1988, America supported Saddam. Now, his usefulness to them has run out," said Dr. Faiq. "America has never offered aid to help us here. We have so many needs."
Photo Shows: This young boy suffers from neurological damage. He was 1 and 1/2 years old when Halabja was gassed. Dr. BAKHTIAR FAIQ made his rounds, struggling for another day to treat a daunting list of patients suffering from blindness, painful sores, cancer, and birth defects - afflictions that linger years after the name of this Kurdish village became synonymous with the horrific potential of Saddam Hussein's regime.