29th Anniversary of Sardasht Chemical Attack

Saturday, June 25, 2016


The city of Sardasht is the third city in the world after Japan’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki which became the target of Weapons of Mass Destruction. In June 28 and 29, 1987, Iraqi bombers attacked 4 crowded parts of Sardasht with chemical bombs and engulfed its residents, women and children, young and old, with fatal chemical gases.



Chemical bombardment of Sardasht was the most awful and disastrous chemical attack during the war which brought many negative effects and consequences. Islamic Republic of Iran called this attack inhumane and Sardasht the first victim of chemical weapons in the world after the nuclear bombardment of Hiroshima. Chemical attack of invader Iraqi bombers on Sardasht left 110 martyred and 5,000 injured.



Unfortunately, many citizens of Sardasht are still suffering from negative effects and consequences of this attack. But, despite commitment of this awful crime, international circles did nothing to halt the continuation of the invasion and even did not blame the Iraqi regime for that and instead, ignored it as before.



Despite the passage of 29 years from the chemical bombings in Sardasht, still the families of victims urge the international community to bring the main perpetrators of the crimes to justice, but their calls seem to have been futile so far. 



Starting in 1981, and picking up steam a couple years later, Iraq fired countless chemical warheads at Iranian soldiers and at people in Iraqi Kurdish towns, as part of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. Today, 29 years on, Iran is home to the world’s largest population of chemical weapons survivors, a significant proportion of whom are chronically ill. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war was the longest conventional war of the twentieth century and one of the bloodiest. 



Iraqi troops carried out the first extensive chemical attack on Iran in March 1981, with shells containing tons of sulfur mustard and nerve agents. Later, with the help of Germany, Iraq began to manufacture mustard gas and nerve agents in large amounts. Following several requests from the Iranian government, the “international community” sent three official investigative teams to Iran starting in March 1984, but only after helicopters built by the Germans, Russians and French had dumped still more tons of poison on Iranian soil. In March 1984, the UN secretary-general, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, ordered an investigation that exposed Iraq as a violator of the 1925 Geneva Protocol outlawing the use of poisonous gas in wars. Member states ignored the finding. Two more official investigations took place: one in February-March 1986 and another in April 1987. Again, the international community disregarded the results.



Companies from Britain, France, Germany, Spain, the United States, and other countries were involved in selling and providing material to Iraq for the chemical weapons. To date, no company has been prosecuted for its involvement in this trade. Chemical attacks on residential areas occurred more than 30 times in Iran, as well as in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja, where more than 5,000 civilians were killed. Various chemical agents were used on soldiers and civilians across the span of seven years. Most nerve agents have fatal consequences for human beings and cause damage to the environment as well. Due to the effects of mustard gas on DNA, survivors face long-term afflictions of the respiratory organs, eyes and skin. Chronic lung, eye and skin ailments are common among those exposed. There can also be further complications, such as cancers and immune system, psychological and genetic disorders. The severity of these conditions depends on the route and duration of exposure, as well as the individual’s powers of bodily resistance. Each year, more and more of the chemically wounded die, their lungs finally collapsing after years of excruciating labored breathing and coughing.



Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmet Üzümcü, expressed condolences with the victims of Sardasht chemical attack. The statement was read out in a ceremony held in Sardasht on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of the chemical bombing of the city located in northwestern Iran by Saddam regime. Expressing his condolences with the chemically injured people and bereaved families of the victims, he said, 'On this occasion, we renew our vows to prevent such catastrophic events. 'The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also met with Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, at OPCW Headquarters in The Hague, on Thursday, June 23 2016. Dr. Zarif remarked, “The OPCW is at the forefront of efforts to ensure chemical weapons are never used again, and enjoys the full support of Islamic Republic of Iran. Zarif then stated, “Iran supports the creation of a Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone, in particular Chemical Weapons.”



The Iranian Foreign Minister, accompanied by the Director-General, also visited the monuments to the victims of chemical attacks in Sardasht, Iran and Halabja, Iraq located on the OPCW grounds. Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the international community to prevent the repetition of such catastrophic events. The Sardasht chemical attack should become a symbolic event for taking collective actions against war crimes and the use of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), Zarif said. 



Iran's top diplomat also warned against new chemical attacks by the terrorists who have access to chemical weapons. The bitter incidents of Halabcheh and Sardasht chemical attacks are being repeated in the region, Zarif said. The dominant powers are repeating their past mistakes by equipping terrorist groups, including Daesh (ISIS), with chemical weapons and germ bombs in Syria and Iraq, he said. Iranian foreign minister said that the Islamic Republic condemns any activities related to the WMDs. Iran wants elimination of WMDs from all arsenals, he said. Offering his condolences to the chemically injured people and families of the victims, Zarif noted that the anniversary of Sardasht chemical attack is an opportunity to remind the international community's responsibility towards the chemically injured people. Nineteen years after the execution of Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, the time has come to annihilate all chemical weapons possessed by the member states and prevent reproduction of these types of arms, he said. The Islamic Republic will pursue the rights of all chemically injured people and families of the victims in the international bodies, the official added.

*Links for Further Reading:

*Photo Exhibit Highlights Iranian Victims of Chemical Warfare

*Blisters and Sanctions

*Iran's Victims of Chemical Weapons Outnumber Hiroshima and Nagasaki N-Attacks Casualties

*Photo Credit: Mehr NewsQom’s Eshraq Cultural Center's Exhibition (Sunday 22nd June 2014), The Journal of the American Medical Association, Sunday Magazine

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