[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he recent use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria has brought back the horrifying memories of Halabja to life. Despite being over three decades apart, there is a striking resemblance between the two massacres. Ordered by dictators bent on prolonging their rules and propelled by the same mindset, which was the product of a similar ideology that only advocates a militarist approach to every issue, both targeted non-combatants.
Back then it was Saddam Hussein and today the same ideology is at work in the form of yet another Ba’athist dictator Bashar Assad. As the region was still reeling from the pain of the Halabja massacre that took place on March 16, 1988, Assad inflicted another wound on the collective consciousness of the Middle East.
A poison gas attack by eight MIG-23 jets in Halabja targeted everyone and everything without any discrimination. Babies, adults, animals, birds and even plants went silently to their deaths. Official figures put the death toll at 6,330, but according to eyewitnesses it was much higher.
Chemical exposure even harried later generations of Halabja Kurds. Prof. Fuat Baban, a member of the Süleymaniye University Medical Faculty teaching staff, claimed in a paper written on Dec. 7, 2002, that the ratio of babies born handicapped or with deformities in Halabja was four to five times higher than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An unforgettable photograph of a man — later identified as Umar Havar — trying to shelter his baby using himself as a shield became the photograph that symbolized the entire massacre.
The Kurdish people have generally been left abandoned in the northern Middle East and have been treated as second-class citizens, especially by dictatorial regimes. There is a large Kurdish population in Syria that is not regarded as Syrian citizens and who even have no identity cards.
The Kurdish people are also one of the worst victims of the ongoing Syrian conflict. Targeting Kurds is perhaps the traditional policy of the Ba’athist mindset. Another tradition of the Ba’athist mentality is the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons. Last year, we saw another dictator living up to the grim Ba’athist tradition. The images of Syrian children in their death throes were reminiscent of Halabja. People back then may have said, “We will never see such evil again” yet the Ba’athist tradition is no respecter of countries, geography or nations; so long as that mentality which justifies mass murder, such tragedies will take place.
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published last month, direct bombing attacks on civilian targets in Syria have been documented with various photographs. Experts examining the photographs agreed that this bombing was deliberately targeted against the civilian population. Therefore, the war is to a large extent being conducted against civilians, with either chemical or conventional weapons. This means that nothing has changed.
Whatever happened in Halabja on one fateful day, is taking place in Syria on a daily basis. The situation in Syria is, however, worse. The Ba’athist regime that regards wanton slaughter justified has been allowed to continue on various pretexts. It is on a killing spree using both chemical and conventional methods.
The reason why there is still no stability in many Arab countries is that the mentality that inflicted such tragedy upon them has still not come to an end. No comprehensive work has been done to eliminate the evil mindset that caused such regimes to emerge in the first place. In order for the world to prevent more Halabjas in Syria, effort must be made to counter the horrifying nature of the Marxist ideology that underlies Ba’athism.
Many people wrongfully believe Marxism to be a philosophy that fights for freedom and equality and therefore might easily be taken in by the Ba’athist mindset and even regard killing as “necessary.” The fact is, however, that Marxism is a perverse ideology that bases its ideas of freedom and equality on violence, war, rage and poverty and that has never brought freedom or equality anywhere. Equality, freedom and happiness cannot be based on the oppression of others; that is not equality or freedom, but evil. The idea of equality cannot be limited to the working class alone. The failure to recognize the right to equality of people who cannot provide labor for physical or social reasons ends in the emergence of societies that are loveless and spiritless.
People are equal, not because of their labor, but because they are humans. The guide for those who seek equality is therefore not Marxism, but the Holy Qur’an, in which Allah reveals the value He attaches to all — men and women. The Qur’an prohibits the contempt shown for women in particular by the fanatic and the materialist mindsets. It must not be forgotten that Marxism, which is based on rotten materialist foundations, was the starting point for the current slaughter in Syria just as it was in Halabja.
The world must not settle for mere condemnation of these killings. It must take action against these atrocities, otherwise the mindset of fear to which the world surrendered in 1988, and is still making do with sitting back and watching in Syria now, will continue to exist and more innocent people will lose their lives and more countries will be condemned to destruction.