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Survivor Stories





Aisha Esmaeel Ali fled from Goptapa after her village was gassed in early May 1988. Captured with her eight children, she was beaten and separated from them. She was 61.


The Iraqi Army detained Aisha in Nugra Salman prison in the southern Iraqi desert where she was tortured.  Although her husband survived the Anfal, he died from the effects of the chemicals soon afterwards. With one exception, she never saw her children again.



Abdullah Mohammed was 12 when Iraqi planes dropped poison gas canisters on Sheikh Wassan village on April 16, 1987.


The gas killed his sister and blinded Abdullah. His father was captured as they fled the chemical attack. This was one of the first times that the Iraqis used poison gas against the Kurds. Sheikh Wassan which is located in the Balisan valley was targeted because of its support for Kurdish guerillas. Numerous villages were affected and hundreds died in the gas attack. The Balisan Valley was attacked again with chemical weapons in May, 1988.




"I felt so weak and could feel my skin burning; I could not even open my eyes. I just lay in the shelter, motionless. The chemicals had affected me physically and emotionally, I had to stay in the shelter. I had witnessed all the people around me die, but I just could not cry. I was so weak and on the second day I started to vomit. I was partially blind and in a lot of pain. After lying there for so long, I wanted to find out what happened to my family. I couldn’t walk so I tried to move on my chest and climb over the dead bodies. I went out cautiously and could barely see. I saw my family’s bodies in front of the stairs to the shelter. I saw my sister holding my brother’s Rebwar’s head, which was close to her leg. They must have died together. The bodies of my mother and elder brother were lying next to them. My father’s body was in front of the bathroom. He was around ten to fifteen meters away from me, I could barely see that it was my father’s body, but I knew it was."


Kamaran Haider, survivor of the March 1988 Halabja chemical bombing


*Thank you to Deldar Studios for creating this video.