HDP Calls on Turkish Parliament to Recognise Halabja Massacre as Genocide

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples Party (HDP) renews call on the country’s parliament to recognize the 1988 gasattack on Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja as an act of genocide.

HDP lawmaker Mahmut Tuğrul told Rudaw his party has prepared a petition for the parliament to vote on in which Halabja massacre has been called a genocide.

The Halabja gasattack took place at the final stage of the so-called Anfal Campaign in March 16, 1988. The campaign was a genocidal crusade against the Kurdish resistance movement in northern Iraq, led by the Iraqi government in the closing years of the Iran-Iraq war.

The military action took its name from the al-Anfal verse in the Quran, used as a code name by the former Iraqi regime for a series of systematic attacks against its Kurdish population, conducted between 1986 and 1989 and culminating in 1988.

“What happened in Halabja was genocide. We have in the past asked the (Turkish) parliament to form a committee and investigate the events in Halabja on March 16, 1988. We have also asked them to reveal the outcome of these investigation to recognize the massacre as genocide also on international levels,” Turgul said.

The Iraqi parliament and government recognized the Anfal Campaign including the Halabja gasattack as “genocide against the Kurdish people” in 2009.

Turkey has condemned the attack in the past but has not considered it a genocide. Turkish Republican people’s Party (CHP) deputy said Wednesday his party will study the HDP proposal before supporting a vote in the parliament.

Engin Altay told Rudaw his party had condemned the Halabja attack and agreed that the bombing was “massacre.”

“We haven’t seen the HDP petition yet, but are preprepared to support it,” Altay said. “We did condemn the attack on the highest levels and have agreed that what happened was massacre but we need to see the HDP proposal first,” he added.

Today Thursday, Kurds around the globe are marking the 29th anniversary of the gasattack that killed around 5,000 people in Halabja alone. And though nearly 180,000 people, mostly Kurds but also Turkmen and Christians, were killed during the Anfal, the Halabja attack has more powerfully remained in the collective memory of the Kurdish people.

Selahettin Demirtas, the imprisoned leader of Turkey’s left wing pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), said in an interview last year that the Halabja attack was pivotal for him to realize his Kurdish identity.

Speaking to the online Haber Turk, the outspoken politician who also ran for presidency in Turkey two years ago, said not until the bombing of Halabja did he realize “what it meant to be a Kurd.”

“We were in the classroom in high school when we heard people chanting outside,” Demirtas remembered. “We didn’t know what had happened, but our teacher said (then Iraqi ruler) Saddam Hussein had mass slaughtered Kurds in Halabja,” he said referring to the chemical bombing of the city by Iraqi war planes.

“I discovered my identity and realized what a heavy responsibility it is to be Kurdish,” Demirtas said.