Chemical Victims of Iraqi Imposed War against Iran: Living Documents

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Firouzeh Mirrazavi


The Sacred Defense (Iraq-Iran war) has been registered by history as the proof of resistance and innocence of the Iranian people because a fully armed enemy that was supported by the world powers had decided to eliminate the values of a nation whose Islamic Revolution had just triumphed. Iran was still under revolutionary conditions and the country lacked political, economic and social preparedness. All-out invasion of the country and direct involvement of five border provinces in the war as well as indirect involvement of all other provinces revealed the reality that an unwanted war had been imposed on the Iranian nation. The Sacred Defense was the proof to innocence of a nation which defeated the (Iraqi) Baathist army by relying on God. Eight years of the Sacred Defense and operations by Muslim combatants created a rich culture, which is known as "culture of resistance".

The most beautiful symbol of that culture is manifested by war veterans and the disabled, who created amazing epics at the warfronts. The Iranian nation has always had given rise to renowned heroes who are the cause of its honor. They are either champions of war and battle or famous in science, mysticism and religious fields. As witnessed by history, no nation has given rise to so many legendary heroes in the course of history. Among those heroes, chemical war veterans have not only acted bravely at the warfronts, but also experienced the suffering of the war and are gradually passing away.

2. Saddam regime starts using chemical weapons

Developments resulting from application of chemical weapons in the world prompted the Geneva Conference in 1925 to adopt the Geneva Protocol banning use of all types of poisonous and asphyxiating gases or liquids in war. The treaty has been signed by more than 140 countries. However, the Baathist Iraqi regime frequently resorted to chemical weapons during its imposed war against Iran.


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Use of chemical weapons was limited at the beginning of the war, but the Baathist regime started widespread use of such weapons as of March 1986 and studies have shown that major chemical weapons used, included nerve gas, mustard gas and cyanide. Mustard gas was used frequently and at high concentrations in various battle scenes. Since its effects are acute, it will lead to intense fear and psychological problems in victims.


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According to official figures announced by Martyrs and Veteran's Affairs Foundation, about 45,000-50,000 Iranian soldiers have suffered medical injuries and the number of non official registered victims amounts to about 110,000. Documents show that the Baathist enemy used such weapons on a limited scale from 1980 to 1983. Since October 1983, the Baathist regime started more widespread use of chemical weapons, but large scale use of such weapons started in February and March 1984 concurrent with Operation Kheibar in which Iraq used mustard and Tabon gases. Since that time, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran incessantly. In the concluding months of the war, Iraq had started using Sarin gas which was more harmful to Iranian combatants.

In addition to the battlefield, Iraq frequently used chemical weapons against civilians, especially in villages. According to official figures, chemical attacks against Iranian cities and some Kurdish regions in Iraq, exceeded 30 times, the most important of which are as follows:

  • Use of mustard gas at Sardasht on June 28, 1987, in what has been described as the most atrocious instance of chemical attacks;
  • Chemical bombardment of many villages in March 1989;
  • Chemical bombardment of Shalamcheh and adjacent villages in Iraq in March 1989, which was the most blatant instance of chemical attacks after the World War I, which left, at least, 5,000 people dead and 7,000 wounded;
  • Chemical bombardment of villages surrounding Iranian towns of Sarpol Zahab, Gilan-e Gharb and Oshnaviyeh in June 1988.

The above four instances were the most important cases in which chemical weapons were used against civilians during the Iraqi imposed war. However, use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi army started in early years of the imposed war and in a border region called Shalamcheh. The second instance occurred in Meimak region in Ilam province. Starting in early 1982, the Iraqis openly used chemical agents in the war. In 1983, Iraq used chemical weapons in Piranshahr and around Panjvein towns. After that, Iraq frequently used chemical weapons in such operations as Val Fajr 2, Val Fajr 4, Kheibar, Badr, Val Fajr 8, and Karbala 5. On March 17, 1984, Iraq used nerve gas for the first time in the history of wars.

In early 1984 and after widespread use of chemical weapons against Iran, Iraq had to stop using chemical agents temporarily under the pressure of international bodies. However, large-scale use of chemical weapons started in early winter 1986 after Iranian troops overran Faw port city in Iraq. In early 1987, Iraq launched a large-scale chemical attack in the central fronts of Sumar region.

After Operation Val Fajr 8, the Iraqi army launched unprecedented chemical attacks. About 7,000 cannonballs and mortar shells carrying chemical material were fired on the Iranian positions. Iraqi planes dropped more than 1,000 chemical bombs in 20 days and more than 30 chemical operations were launched against civilian targets in Iran which led to human catastrophes in border towns of Sardasht and Halabjah.

3. Some evidences

Professor Gerhard Freylinger, former head of plastic surgery department of Vienna University has said about frequent use of chemical weapons against the Iranian people and soldiers that, "Chemical tests on the Iranians injured by Iraq's chemical weapons showed that in addition to mustard gas; they had been poisoned by other chemicals like sulfuride and sulfur. Further tests on Iranian war wounded also showed that inhalation of chemical gases will damage respiratory tracts of the injured, especially their lungs. The situation of the first group of Iranian patients that were taken to Vienna in 1984 was so shocking that physicians could not hospitalize them for long due to their injuries. Bodies of some patients had been ravaged up to 50 percent due to inhalation of chemical gases and others had been frequently exposed to those gases as a result of frequent chemical attacks."

Joost Hiltermann, member of the International Crisis Group in Middle East, has written in his book which was published in the United States about chemical bombardment of Halabjah, that a review of what happened in Halabjah and issues related to the Reagan Administration clearly showed that how big powers decide about human societies, encouraging them to use chemical weapons. He added that the Americans provided the Iraqi government with satellite information, so that, they could use chemical weapons against Iran more effectively. Saddam was executed on grounds of the first case brought up against him at court and other crimes committed by him were not discussed. The American officials did not want to be incriminated with having supported Saddam during eight years of the war. Therefore, the court's action was limited to preventing Iran from taking legal action against Iraq. Pentagon issued wrong information on Halabjah to claim that Iran, as well as Iraq, have been responsible for the chemical bombardment of the city. Resolutions which were issued by the United Nations Security Council made no mention of use of chemical weapons by Iraq and other resolutions also avoided of mentioning it. Iraq first used chemical weapons against Iran in 1983 and the United States fully supported Iraq's invasion of Iran and its use of chemical weapons against Iran.


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4. Chemical bombardment of civilians

June 28, 1987 was the day that the Baathist regime of Saddam committed one of its most severe crimes. In chemical bombardment of Sardasht, 3,000 people were immediately killed while 1,500 more have died after the end of the war. That is, an average of 75 injured died per year. According to a study carried out on 32,000 chemically injured people, 10 percent of Sardasht inhabitants suffered from acute respiratory diseases while 25 percent had experienced serious skin injuries and 70 percent suffered eye damages. According to the latest figures, 40 percent of chemically injured people have gone down with depression and 32 percent have developed psychological disorders. The rest have experienced less severe degrees of those damages. Chemically injured people age 42 on average and the life expectancy is not high.

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Iran spends 37 million dollars a year on health and treatment of chemical victims. About 100,000 Iranian troops and ordinary people have fallen victim to chemical agents, notably mustard gas, during the Iraqi imposed war and their number may increase as complications develop. Perhaps it is for this reason that respiratory problems and lung diseases are still common in border areas, especially in south and southwest of the country.

5. Conclusion

Two decades after the use of chemical weapons against Iran, the country is still grappling with human and environmental consequences of those weapons. There are serious threats to lives of victims as well as the environment and tens of thousands of the victims in our country are still suffering the consequences of chemical and poisonous weapons. Use of chemical weapons against Iran has been undoubtedly a crime against humanity, a blatant case of violating international law, and a war crime.

However, silence of international bodies in the face of such crimes by not including them in the long list of Saddam Hussein's crimes and even efforts made to distort the fact that Iran has been the second biggest victim of weapons of mass destruction after Japan has made effective dissemination of information to enlighten the world public opinion about such unprecedented war crimes an undeniable necessity.

طراحی و توسعه آگاه‌سیستم