Piccadilly Gardens memorial marks 24th anniversary of Iraqi Kurdistan poison attacks

By Hannah Hulme

The horrific chemical attack on Halabja, Iraq, in which over 5,000 civilians were killed, was today marked by a memorial at Piccadilly Gardens.

Artist Amang Mardokhy, born in the Kurdistan region and now living in Manchester, created the memorial to mark the 24th anniversary of the attack.

Mr Mardokhy also intended to raise awareness about the genocidal campaign against the Kurds by Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, during the Iraq-Iran war.

Earlier, crowds gathered at Piccadilly Gardens to view the memorial and pay their respect for the lives lost in the massacre.

The artist took up the cause after his family were caught in a poison gas attack in Kurdistan.

Speaking to Mancunian Matters, he said: “I am living in Manchester. I am safe, but I can’t close my eyes to this situation.”

Mr Mardokhy is in the final year of his Fine Art degree at Manchester Metropolitan University and is chairman of Kurdistan Art and Culture group which aims at uniting Kurdish people and raising awareness of Kurdish genocide through art.

He emphasised that the memorial is not just to commemorate Halabja, but to highlight the ongoing political problems related to Kurdish identity in the Middle East.

“This sad story is repeating, the government, the political situation is repeating. It’s happening in Syria, in Afghanistan, on September 11 with the twin towers.”

Kurdistan is widely considered to be the largest nation in the world without a state. Its unofficial geographical region is northern Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey and although there are around 40 million Kurds in the world, there is no independent country of Kurdistan.

The 1988 massacre, ordered by Saddam Hussein, wiped out over 5,000 of his own civilians in Iraqi Kurdistan, 75 per cent of which were women and children.

A further 10,000 civilians were injured and suffered from complications, diseases and birth defects in the years after the attack.

Co-organiser of the Manchester memorial, Tree Saeed, 50, said: “The poison smelled like sweet apples, so children would breathe in the gas and be killed.”

Ms Saeed said that Kurds continue to suffer abuse across the Middle East: “In some areas where they live, they are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to speak their own language or use their own names.”

Mr Mardokhy added: “I cannot stop this big machine, but it’s possible through my art to say I do not agree with this situation. I want to make us question ourselves, what our responsibilities are; we need to think about what it is to be human.”

To find out more about Amang Mardokhy and to view his work, visit:

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