Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chemical Weapons

A seminar concerning the effects of air pollution on those injured by chemical weapons was held, this week, in Tehran. Many war veterans and civilians who had been seriously injured during the war had attended. As I entered the seminar hall, loud and incessant coughs could be heard, continuing throughout the session. During the war, between 1980 and 1988, Saddam employed scores of various chemical weapons against both civilian and military targets; enjoying the active support of Western powers and the indifference of international bodies responsible for world peace and security. The tragedy and massacre of Halabje and Sardasht are evident examples of genocide in contemporary times.
Medical scholars spoke on the various long term complications of sulfur mustard, one of the commonly employed gases, on respiratory, skin, eye and immune systems. Those afflicted usually suffer from severe respiratory illneses throughout their life. Government authorities lectured the audience on the importance of combatting air pollution and honoring the war veterans. I noted in my speech that public officials should provide a report of their work indicating what they have achieved . I reported on the status of the environment committee established in the Tehran City Council and particularly what has been done to abate air pollution in Tehran. I was also very careful to mention that the government had failed to fulfill its legal commitments, had dissolved relevant working groups and had not taken proper steps to address the matter during the past four years.
A group of young men who had been injured in the city of Sardasht when they were very young, performed a Kurdish dance at the end of the ceremony. When one of them went up to the podium to describe how he suffered from the wounds and injuries of the sulfur mustard gas employed in Sardasht, when he was only five, many people in the audience wept.

As I spoke with many of the chemical victims, I was thinking about certain European governments that were accomplices in providing Saddam with chemical weapons and their tacit support for his policy of attacking residential areas . Have those countries been held accountable for their actions or have they escaped justice to date?
I have been working with the Sardasht Cohort Study Group on the immune parameters of injured citizens of Sardasht, about two decades after the attack. I will link some of our research articles which have been recently published in this field.

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