boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe

Kurds say Hussein must die

Halabja gassing survivors insist on trial by Iraqis

HALABJA, Iraq -- Survivors of the 1988 chemical attack Saddam Hussein ordered on this Kurdish town -- killing 5,000 people -- say the former dictator must be executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people.

 

For that reason, the people here said in interviews yesterday, Hussein must not be tried before an international tribunal that would not impose the death penalty. The captured former dictator must face justice in an Iraqi court, they say.

Some interim Iraqi leaders have suggested Hussein could be executed as early as this summer. But international human rights organizations reject the death penalty for Hussein and say his trial should be used as a starting point for healing the country.

Amna Abdulqader lost two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren when the bombs carrying mustard gas and other poisons fell on March 16, 1988.

Asked about Hussein's punishment, she at first seemed sad, remembering her loss and saying nothing would bring back her loved ones.

"They're gone, nothing seems to matter anymore," she said.

She showed a picture of her dead son, Bakr. "He did all my shopping, took good care of me." He was 18.

But after a pause and more thought, Abdulqader became animated and seemed intrigued with the topic of punishing her tormentor.

"If he had fallen into my hands, I would have bitten off his flesh with my teeth," she said.

Becoming sad again, she said, "Even if they hang him, my children will never come back."

Hussein's trial ought to be "just and comprehensive," said Abdulqader Hassan Mohammed, whose 3-year-old daughter died in the attack -- part of Hussein's scorched-earth campaign to wipe out a Kurdish rebellion in northern Iraq.

" `Just' means that he has to be executed. If they don't hang him it won't be just," Mohammed said. "Five thousand innocent people were killed. It will be a mistake if he's not sentenced to death."

Mohammed carries a picture of his dead daughter, Narmin, in his wallet. He also carries a photo of Narmin in her death shroud, with only her face showing. She is buried in Taran, Iran, where she died in her mother's arms. Fifty members of the extended family fled to Iran across the mountains from Halabja after the attack.

Mohammed's three surviving sons, Asou, 22, Ahmed, 21, and Othman, 24, still suffer effects of the gas attack. Othman is being treated in Britain.

"I would like to pour boiling oil on Saddam's head and cut his flesh into pieces," said Mohammed's wife, Nesrin, 43.

Amna Abdulqader said Hussein should be tried and hanged in the Halabja town square where there is a memorial statue of Omar Khawra, depicted lying dead and covering the body of his dead baby boy. Their images were a symbol and reminder of typical street scenes after the gas attack.

She and other Kurds said they would testify against Hussein.

"My children died without being guilty. If everyone else testifies, I will too," said Abdulqader.

Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein after his capture by US forces. (Reuters Photo)
SEARCH GLOBE ARCHIVES
   
Globe Archives Sale
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months