March 16 marked the 26th anniversary of the 1988 Halabja chemical attack by the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, in which over 5,000 people were suffocated and thousands of others wounded.
I was only 8 when dictator Saddam Hussein sent Iraq’s fighter jets to drop chemical bombs on my hometown of Halabja. My family and I survived the attack by escaping the town to live in caves and then fleeing to Iran to live in camps. Yet my mother lost her father and my father lost over 30 members of his extended family.
At that time, the world had largely ignored the Kurds. Neighboring countries and the Arab world were silent at the genocidal campaign perpetrated by the regime of Saddam Hussein, which included gassing Kurds and rounding up men, women, girls, boys and children in their villages and burying them alive in the southern deserts of Iraq.
However, one man stood up for the Kurds at that unfortunate time. He made a lasting impact on the future of the Kurds and saved thousands of lives.
The man was Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, who spoke up against the grave human rights violations against the Kurds in Iraq. He was among the first to raise the question of gassing the Kurds on Capitol Hill and called for action to stop the barbarism of Saddam Hussein.
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