A meeting between Palestinian factions and the Houthis discussed “coordination mechanisms against Israel”

A debate between Baghdad and Erbil on the anniversary of “Chemical Halabja”

The 36th anniversary of the bombing of the Kurdish city of Halabja with chemical weapons turned into an occasion for debate between the governments of Baghdad and Erbil over controversial issues related to the rights of the Kurds and the powers of the Kurdistan region.

On March 16, 1988, the city located in the northeast of the country was subjected to a chemical weapons bombing by the former regime in Iraq, which led to the death of more than 5,000 of its residents and the injury of twice that number, many of whom suffer from the effects of toxic gases to this day. According to estimates by international and local organizations.

Kurdish families in a cemetery belonging to the victims of the chemical bombing of the city of Halabja (AFP)

Since Saturday morning, visitors of different nationalities have flocked to Halabja to participate in the annual commemoration ceremony, which began with laying a wreath on a memorial symbolizing the victims.

In government institutions in the Kurdistan Region, the official work day began with a minute of silence, while social and cultural facilities witnessed dialogue sessions about the tragedy and its historical circumstances.

The Iraqi President, Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid, said on Saturday, in a blog post on his account on the “X” platform: “The authoritarian regime bombed the city with chemical weapons in a crime that shames humanity, and killed, injured and displaced thousands of Kurds who had no fault except that they wanted to live.” Freedom, dignity and peace, like their fellow citizens from other components, who were also subjected to various types of repression and persecution,” according to what was reported by the “Iraqi News Agency (INA).”

A minute of silence at Al-Salam Palace in Baghdad on the anniversary of the bombing of Halabja (Presidency Media)

In Baghdad, Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani said on Saturday that the government “painfully remembers this crime and its victims, and confirms to generations the brutality of the fallen regime and its crimes against our Kurdish people and the rest of the Iraqi people.”

Al-Sudani added, in a brief press statement: “This tragedy will remain present in our hearts, urging us to do more to strengthen our democratic system.”

On the other hand, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Masoud Barzani, expressed his disappointment at “Baghdad’s procrastination regarding the rights of the Kurdish people, which, in his words, are being “erased.”

Barzani said, in a blog post on the “X” website, that “the crime of the chemical attack on Halabja is evidence of the oppression and inhuman mentality suffered by the enemies of the Kurds, who, 36 years after its tragedy, are trying today in the Iraqi state, and with regret, to erase the rights of the Kurds.” The people of Kurdistan and its denial.

The head of the region, Nechirvan Barzani, stressed the need to “compensate Halabja and all the victims of ethnic genocide, Anfal, and other crimes of the former regime in the region, in all aspects, and provide them with the best services in all fields.”

The contradiction in positions between Baghdad and Erbil, even on this occasion, came after months of escalating political and legal disputes over the issue of exporting oil, sharing budget resources, and securing the salaries of the region’s employees.

The matter worsened following a series of decisions taken by the Federal Court, the most recent of which was the localization of the salaries of the region’s employees as a condition for releasing salaries, while the relationship reached a test when Kurdish judge Abdul Rahman Zebari withdrew from the membership of this court.

For her part, the US Ambassador to Baghdad, Elena Romanowski, said that the United States, in partnership with the Iraqis and Kurds, supports the victims and their families in Halabja, and is committed to accountability and recovery efforts. She continued: “We must prevent the use of chemical weapons throughout the world.”

Legal controversy

The anniversary opened a file to compensate the city, transforming it into a governorate. Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani, said that successive Iraqi governments after the fall of the previous regime were not prepared to compensate the families of victims, nor to complete the procedures for transforming Halabja into a governorate.

Although the Council of Ministers approved the draft law to create Halabja Governorate, on March 13, 2023, the House of Representatives has not approved the law yet.

Halabja became a district (an administrative unit smaller than a governorate) in 1998, and the Kurdistan Parliament declared it a governorate in 1999, and the regional government also approved it on March 13, 2014.

On Saturday, the head of the local government in Halabja, Azad Tawfiq, repeated his demand for the creation of the 19th governorate in Iraq, stressing that “the federal government should not discriminate between citizens from Zakho to the farthest part of Al-Faw.”

Tawfiq said in a speech he delivered on the occasion of the anniversary: ​​“More than 5,000 innocent people were killed as a result of the bombing, so what did the federal government provide for their families?” What will you offer?

A Kurd in traditional dress examines pictures of Halabja victims inside a museum in the city (AFP)

deep contradiction

Politically, Mahmoud Khoshnaw, a leader in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party, said that “the Halabja tragedy brings together Baghdad and Erbil, but the two political parties did not understand the common meaning and ignored it, and entered into a deep political division.”

Khoshnaw told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the differences are as deep as the adherence and exclusivity to power, and control over the joints of the state and the political process by both parties,” and pointed out that “the influential parties have not been able, until this moment, to choose a point of convergence that achieves common goals and turns disagreement into consensus.”

The Kurdish leader continued: “External actors and their internal tools work day and night to maintain attrition and disagreement.”

Khoshnaw expected that the disputes would escalate further in the coming months if the problem was not resolved from its roots.

For his part, Professor of Political Science at Mustansiriya University, Issam Faili, confirmed in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is a clear intersection in many commitments between the center and the region, despite the government’s efforts to bridge the rift, but there are parties that are still driving a wedge between them.”

Fili added, “A series of incidents occurred, including the withdrawal of the Kurdish judge, confirming that there are those who are trying to escalate the level of disagreement between the two parties at all levels, including releasing the salaries of the region’s employees,” indicating that “the center and the region need to respect the nature of the political system that was established.” Accordingly, the new Iraq.

ظهرت في الأصل على aawsat.com

Leave a Comment