Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ottawa Kurds remember Halabja

The Ottawa event drew members of the Kurdish community, the Canadian parliament, diplomats and dignitaries.
The Ottawa event drew members of the Kurdish community, the Canadian parliament, diplomats and dignitaries.
OTTAWA, Canada – A Halabja Memorial Event organized in Ottawa by the Kurdish Youth Association of Canada (KYAC) drew members of the Kurdish community, the Canadian parliament, diplomats and dignitaries.
Dr. Saren Azer, the keynote speaker at Monday’s event, spoke to the audience about his humanitarian involvement with crises in Kurdistan, including Saddam Hussein’s March 16, 1988 poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja that killed an estimated 5,000 innocent Kurds.
“The Kurdish issue is a humanitarian disaster with political implications, not a political problem with humanitarian implications,” said Azer. He showed pictures and told stories that illustrated some of the hardships that refugees endure: the psychological trauma, widespread diseases, hunger, cold and the violence suffered by women.
More recently. Azer has been involved in relief work in Kobane, the Syrian-Kurdish city where Kurdish forces evicted Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in January.
Azer ended his speech by sharing heartwarming stories about hungry children who upon receiving a piece of bread from the humanitarian staff, rather than swallowing everything at once, would run to share with siblings.
“It is a kind of generosity that I hope people in privileged groups and countries would express,” said Azer. “Staying silent in the face of the tragedies unfolding in Kurdistan is not an honorable act. The Canadian government has honored us by sending troops there.”

He expressed hope for further Canadian assistance to the Kurdish people.
Chawan Said, a medical student based in Ottawa, opened the event, welcoming guests and introducing Jinahr Jahangir, the president of KYAC.
Sharing her family experience, Jahangir told the audience about the time when she was only 10 days old. Her family had to escape Saddam’s brutality without any food or shelter, and with an infant to care for.
Yusuf Celik the vice president of KYAC reported his experience of having visited Kurdistan and its museums, sharing some photos with the audience, including the rope that was later used to execute Ali Hassan al-Majid. Known as “Chemical Ali,” and a cousin of Saddam Hussein, he was the Iraqi official responsible for spraying Halabja with lethal mustard gas and nerve agent.
Rebar Jaff, a staff of the Swedish Humanitarian Aid Organization, Qandil, discussed the activities of this non-profit, non-partisan NGO that was founded in 1991 in Stockholm. 
Qandil has been building shelters, camps, community centers, hospitals, schools and other amenities for the refugees in Kurdistan. It has also provided hygiene kits, health equipment and clean water.
Royal Galipeau, a Conservative Canadian Member of Parliament, voiced his fascination with all the humanitarian work done in Kurdistan. Quoting Azer, he said he agreed that usually only a small group of dedicated people can and will change history.  
Asso Noosa, the last speaker at the event offered a glimpse into the atrocities suffered by Kurds, not only in Iraq. In Iran they suffer endless executions, in Turkey they suffered the most extreme forms of violence such as the burning of many villages and in Syria over 300,000 Kurds were denied citizenship and identification cards. 
Rojen Xan, another young Kurd, shared her poem about the search for freedom and lost friends she has not met again.
Playing the saz and singing a song about Halabja, Shehram Shikak  remembered the past and present victims of crimes against humanity.

The article was originally published at

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