City leaders join Kurdish community to mark anniversary of Halabja massacre

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MORE than 100 people joined together to commemorate the anniversary of a brutal chemical attack.

MPs, councillors and members of Portsmouth’s Kurdish community joined forces to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Halabja massacre.

The atrocity took the lives of as many as 5,000 Iraqi-Kurds, in the town of Halabja, northern Iraq – some survivors of which have made their home in Portsmouth.

The group gathered at the Garden of Hope on Castle Field, Southsea, for the ceremony.

Speeches were made by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Ken Ellcome, and the Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White.

Judith Kerby, who works with the Portsmouth Kurdish Association (PKA), said: ‘Halabja is a Kurdish city near the Iraq/Iran border, and the attack on March 16, 1988, was part of a programme of genocide, which Saddam Hussein raged against Kurdish people.

‘This event shows we stand with those who have suffered and commemorates the loss of their family and friends.

‘We had speeches, a minute’s silence, 30 doves being released, flowers laid, and a book of remembrance for people to sign.’

The annual event has been running since 2007.

Diyari Essa, 43, is a member of the PKA. He said: ‘It’s important to commemorate this tragedy but also to make it a lesson for the future, to stop genocide everywhere, to stop killing each other.

‘Even now there is another genocide against Kurds in Afrin in Syria by the Turkish regime.’

The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Ellcome, told the commemoration: ‘A terrible atrocity happened on this day 30 years ago.

‘We need to make sure we remember it at this time every year.’