It was about 4 p.m. on June 28, 1987 when Iraqi warplanes began circling the city of Sardasht in northwestern Iran and dropped bombs containing chemical weapons on four parts of the city.
The poison gas attack continued on the next day, and the neighboring villages were also not spared.
Over 130 people were killed in the attacks on Sardasht at the time, but the real death toll is much higher since some died of their injuries later. About 5000 people were injured in the chemical weapons attack and suffered lifelong health problems as a result. Some victims spent the rest of their lives in hospital, suffering from respiratory problems.
The world did not take notice of this tragedy until former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq on March 16, 1988, killing 5000 men, women, and children.
Professor Philip G. Kreyenbroek, the director of the Iranian Studies Department at the University of Gottingen in Germany, says the attack on Halabja is better known because of the much greater number of victims, and also because it highlighted Saddam’s willingness to murder his own people.
“An attack on enemy territory did not shock the Western public as much as near-genocide in one’s own territory,” Kreyenbroek said.
Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, the chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies of the London Middle East Institute of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said Western companies helped Saddam commit atrocities against Iranians and Iraqi Kurds.
“Halabja and Sardasht were atrocities that were only possible due to the dual-use equipment made available to Saddam Hussein by Western companies,” he stated.
Some human rights campaigners believe that Sardasht should be registered in world history, just like Hiroshima, as a city that was a victim of weapons of mass destruction.
Western firms that sold component materials for the production of chemical weapons to Saddam’s Baathist regime must be held accountable.
There has been no justice for the people of Sardasht. It has been 27 years since a formal complaint about the attack was submitted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, but the case is still open.
MP Rasoul Khezri, the representative of the people of Sardasht and Piranshahr in the Iranian parliament, told the Mehr News Agency in an interview published on Saturday that the countries that facilitated Saddam’s chemical weapons program must be identified so that the people of the world can become “more familiar with the real face of these countries.”
The MP said the gas attack on Sardasht was a “shame” for the global arrogance (imperialist powers), adding that the silence of the international community, especially the United Nations, about this humanitarian tragedy is disgraceful.
The reason that the arrogant powers were silent about the Sardasht tragedy was that they were supporting Saddam in his war against Iran in the 1980s. For example, after the war ended, the U.S. admitted that it provided satellite images of the positions of Iranian troops to Iraq.
Western countries simply ignored the war crimes committed in Sardasht because Iran was a country that had challenged Western imperialism and bravely fought against Saddam’s invading army.
Long before committing war crimes in Sardasht, Saddam’s army had used chemical weapons against Iranian troops, although the use of such weapons had been banned since 1925. The world’s indifference toward the use of such weapons against Iranian troops emboldened Saddam to also use them against civilians in Iran and Iraq.
It is disgusting that the Western companies and middlemen that provided material for the production of chemical weapons to Saddam have still not been brought to justice.
But why did Western countries, whose citizens were themselves victims of chemical weapons in World War I, facilitate the chemical weapons program of a bloodthirsty dictator like Saddam?
The chemical weapons attack on Sardasht and the world’s failure to respond to the crime against humanity still haunt the Kurdish town.
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