Portsmouth service honours victims of Halabja massacre

(left to right), Kamaran Haider, Ammed Mohammed, Kamarans wife Shaban Haider and Brian Futcher.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150557-1)
(left to right), Kamaran Haider, Ammed Mohammed, Kamarans wife Shaban Haider and Brian Futcher.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150557-1)
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  • 200 gather to pay respects
  • Memorial commemorates thousands killed by poison gas
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AN ATROCIOUS chemical massacre that claimed the lives of thousands was remembered during a poignant annual ceremony.

More than 200 people gathered at the Garden of Hope behind Portsmouth’s D-Day Museum to pay their respects to the victims of the Halabja poison gas attack of March 16, 1988.

It is at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment given what is happening right now with Islamic State

Brian Futcher

Chemical weapons in the hands of dictator Saddam Hussein destroyed the lives of thousands of families in Kurdistan 27 years ago.

Since then, many families have settled in Portsmouth, which has a strong Kurdish community.

Between 200 and 300 determined people stood in the wind and rain yesterday to lay flowers and pay their respects.

Brian Futcher, who helps organise the event, said he was amazed by the turnout this year.

‘It is at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment given what is happening right now with Islamic State (Isil),’ he said.

‘I have never seen such a good turnout, at least not in a very long time.

‘Given what is happening now in Kurdistan this seems even more poignant.’

During the service a member of the Yazidi community gave one of the addresses to the crowd.

The Yazidis are a minority group that Isil militants have targeted as part of their campaign of religious persecution.

Mr Futcher praised the turnout for yesterday’s ceremony.

‘It was good to see so many people,’ he added. ‘There was an exceptional turnout from our local councillors and MPs.’

The Garden of Hope is home to a memorial garden and tree, which was set up in 2008, to mark the 20th anniversary of the chemical attack.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Lib Dem leader on Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘It is really important to remember people who were killed in these chemical attacks.

‘The Kurdish are an important part of our community here in Portsmouth and this is a memorial attended by people from all over.’