Kurds Riot and Turn Against Their Leaders
Posted on Mar 16, 2006
Remember Kurdistan, that semiautonomous northern part of Iraq that we always point to as a model of stable, quasi-democratic governance? Well, corruption up there is so systemic that thousands of people vented their anger by burning down a government museum. The horrible irony: The museum commemorates the thousands of Kurds who died in Saddam Hussein’s 1988 gas attack. It had become an emblem of government greed.
Another front just opened up in the Iraqi civil war that the Pentagon claims doesn’t exist.
HALABJA, Iraq, March 16—For nearly two decades, Kurds have gathered peacefully in this mountainous corner of northern Iraq to commemorate one of the blackest days in their history. It was here that Saddam Hussein’s government launched a poison gas attack that killed more than 5,000 people on March 16, 1988.
So it came as a shock when hundreds of stone-throwing protesters took to the streets here on the anniversary today, beating back government guards to storm and destroy a museum dedicated to the memory of the Halabja attack. The violence, pitting furious locals against a much smaller force of armed security men, was the most serious popular challenge yet to the political parties that have ruled Kurdistan for the past 15 years.
Coming on the day the new Iraqi Parliament met for the first time, the episode was a reminder that the issues facing Iraq go well beyond fighting Sunni Arab insurgents and agreeing on cabinet ministers in Baghdad.
Yahya Ahmed / AP
Policemen fire in the air to disperse Kurdish protesters near a monument during an anti-government demonstration in Halabja, north of Baghdad, on Thursday, March 16. Police gunfire wounded at least six people when nearly 2,000 Kurds went on a rampage and badly damaged a monument to the 5,000 residents killed in the 1988 poison gas attack on the city by Saddam Hussein’s army 18 years ago. The demonstrators were angry about regional government’s failure to rebuild the area.