Ambassador Faily speaks at Halabja commemoration

Ambassador Lukman Faily delivered remarks during a commemoration event at the U.S. Capitol Visitors' Center in Washington, DC, on the occasion of the genocide in Halabja. Read his remarks below:

His Excellency Lukman Faily
Ambassador of Iraq to the United States
Commemoration of the Genocide in Halabja
Capitol Visitors’ Center
Washington, D.C.
March 17, 2015

"Today, we commemorate the largest chemical attack against civilians in history.

"And we commit ourselves to ensuring that such atrocities will never happen again.

"Twenty-seven years ago, during the dictatorship of Saddam, military aircrafts dropped chemical bombs on the city of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan.

"The bombardment lasted for five hours. Almost 5,000 people lost their lives. From 7,000 to 10,000 more were injured. And nearly half of the inhabitants of Halabja were exposed to toxic chemical agents.

"This massacre was one of many mass murders against the Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups, including the terrible Anfal campaign in 1988, mass graves of the southern and northern uprising of 1991, and the enforced exile and ethnic cleansing of my own community of Faily Kurds during the 1970’s and '80s.

"The world community must call these crimes against humanity by their only appropriate name genocide.

"We wish the day would come when we would read about genocide only in the history books.

"But, once again unfortunately, we read about genocide in the headlines about Iraq.

"Today, one-third of our beloved country is occupied by the barbarians of the so-called ISIL, known in Arabic as Daesh. An estimated 3.6 million Iraqis live in terror under its tyranny.

"Daesh seeks to exterminate everyone who will not swear allegiance to its extremism, no matter their religious confession, ethnic origin or political affiliation.

"Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Kurds and members of other minorities – all are targeted by these terrorists who behead their captives or even burn them alive, who sell women and children into slavery. They destroy houses of worship from every faith and destroy religious and cultural artifacts that belong to all of humanity and mankind.

"Last summer, we saw that Daesh was fully capable of committing genocide when they massacred thousands of Yazidis and other religious minorities, while starving and enslaving thousands more.

"Tomorrow, at the Rayburn House Office Building, the Tom Lantos Commission will hold a hearing on human rights abuses by Daesh. I thank Congressman James McGovern of Massachusetts and Congressman Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania for co-chairing this bipartisan commission.

"And I thank the American people for everything you have done – and everything you are doing – and will do to help the Iraqi people free ourselves from tyranny and terrorism and work toward democracy and prosperity.

"Iraqis are grateful to the American troops who served in our country, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice to overthrow Saddam.

"Now, we appreciate America’s leadership in assembling an international coalition to assist us in defeating Daesh.

"But, ultimately, on the ground, Iraqis must win the fight ourselves.

"Today, we are fighting alongside each other -- the Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and Popular Mobilization forces, the local fighters and tribal men from all of our provinces who rose to defend their country at our time of greatest danger.

"Together, village by village, town by town, we will take back every inch of our territory and liberate every segment of our citizenry from these transnational terrorists.

"Together, we need and will rebuild Iraq, an Iraq which will no longer be vulnerable to violent extremism, sectarian violence and hotbed for transnational terrorism. And, finally and forever, we will turn the page on such horrific actions as the massacre and genocide at Halabja."