Photo Essay: How Chemical Weapons Can Ruin a People's Future
Witness the legacy of Saddam’s weapons in our Photo Essay.
A Chemical Attack Between 1987 and 1988, the Iraqi armed forces launched dozens of chemical attacks in the Kurdish regions of northern Iraq. By far the most intense of these attacks occurred in a town called Halabja.
Sudden Death For Iranian photographers who crossed the border to document the attack, the streets of Halabja were a diorama of sudden death.
No Shelter Courtyards and basements told a slightly different tale: entire families caught mid-flight, surrounded by blankets, buckets and other imagined -- but ineffective -- means of protection.
No Escape Still others, concluding from the pungent garlic-and-apples odor that this was no conventional attack, packed their belongings and left in haste. But for many of these, too, there was no escape from death.
Tell-Tale Burns Approximately 5,000 men, women and children died in the attack on Halabja. Many more suffered serious injury, including tell-tale chemical burns. But this was just the beginning.
A Crippling Legacy In 1998, Liverpool University geneticist Christine Gosden began documenting what seemed like abnormal patterns of chronic illness throughout northern Iraq. This man, for example -- a child in 1988 -- developed a severe curvature of the spine.
Unhealed Wounds Mustard gas burns often require months to heal. And according to geneticist Christine Gosden, they can result in genetic mutations and abnormal tissue growth. Skin lesions, such as this man's, are common throughout the region.
A Genetic Time-Bomb Geneticist Christine Gosden believes that the mutagenic effects of toxic chemicals are responsible for the high rates and severity of cancers observed near Halabja.
The Next Generation But according to geneticist Christine Gosden, the damage is not limited to those who lived through the attack. High rates of congenital deformity, such as cleft palate, are another indication of permanent genetic damage among the Kurdish people.
The Last Generation In some cases of course, the damage will end with the Halajba generation. Geneticist Christine Gosden reported that of the three babies born at a Kurdistan maternity ward on the day of her visit, all were still-births. Here, family members receive the bad news.