|Thirty years ago this week, Saddam Hussein’s forces attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja in Northeastern Iraq. Iraqi forces first launched a conventional attack, forcing civilians into confined basements and shelters. The air force then dropped what is believed to have been a combination of the deadly nerve agent sarin and mustard gas, effectively converting civilian shelters into gas chambers and killing an estimated five thousand people, mainly women and children. The attack was the deadliest use of chemical weapons on a civilian population in history and has become a symbol of the horrors of chemical warfare.
In the three decades since the attack, the international community has made great strides in prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. The conflict in Syria, however, is a stain on that record. To commemorate the Halabja atrocity, SJAC is looking back at why the immense progress on prohibiting chemical weapons over the past 30 years has failed to protect Syrians.