Gassing of Kurds is Saddam’s legacy

Richard Beeston 19/1/10

It has taken nearly 22 years for Ali Hassan al-Majid to be judged by Iraqis for one of the worst massacres in modern history. Even through the smudged window of an Iranian military helicopter, it was clear a terrible crime had been committed against the inhabitants of Halabj, as part of a campaign by Saddam Hussein to teach Iraqi Kurds the cost of siding with the enemy – at that time Iran. Majid was on Sunday sentenced to death for ordering the gassing of Kurds in Halabja. Television reports said he would be hanged. On the ground, the scale of the slaughter became clear. Entire families had been killed by the poison chemicals. Some died together huddled in makeshift shelters that offered no protection against the gas. One family succumbed as they tried to escape by car. We found the vehicle crashed into a wall with the driver and all occupants dead and the keys in the ignition. The most poignant memory of that day was a father in traditional Kurdish dress lying dead at the entrance to his home, cradling a baby.