Editors Note: The biweekly column of La Prensa Persa (The Persian Press), is an opportunity for members of the middle-eastern communities to communicate and talk about the many issues facing them, immigration law, civil and constitutional rights to name a few, which not only impact that community but also impact the Hispanic community.
By Kathy Hadizadeh
1987, there was the Iraq-Iran war going on. The war had already terrorized our lives many times even at the outburst of the Persian New Year.
But yet the worst was to come. One of those days I came home just to find the most disturbing atmosphere at our home. My grandmother was crying, my grandfather was so sad that he could not even answer my hello, my father tried to keep us out of the living room and my mother was talking on the phone non-stop trying to verify some news they had received. Later I realized that one of our family friends was wounded in the chemical war at Shalamcheh, near Basra.
A year later in bed his gaunt body shuddered horribly with each breath he drew. Plastic tubes inserted through his nostrils drizzled oxygen into lungs. For the 25-year-old engineering student, volunteered to go to battlefield, this was his daily life this for nearly two years.
He was on a list for lung transplant in Britain, but the list was moving slowly. Without a transplant, doctors said, he could open his eyes to this world for maybe one more year.
His mum’s endless prayers did not work. He died in 1989 before his turn for transplant arrived.
He was not the only victim of Shalamche. He and and thousands of others were poisoned by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s mustard and nerve gas during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. The general belief from the outburst of war was that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were supplied by western countries.
The Iraqis unleashed chemical weapons selectively and in small quantities as a tactical deterrent. Later, when the tide turned against them, the banned weapons were applied massively to beat back Iranian soldiers. In one 1985 attack, an estimated 11,000 Iranian soldiers were exposed to chemical weapons, according to Iranian medical authorities.
Medical statistics in Iran are sketchy. Officials at the Janbazan (Handicapped because of war) Foundation estimate that up to 100,000 Iranian soldiers may have been exposed to chemical weapons. Approximately 40,000 were treated immediately, and over the last 10 years some 30,000 have received treatment for recurring or delayed reaction to chemical weapons.
Despite the high number of casualties, the international outcry was muted, despite the use of such weapons, The West was silently watching how the list of names of war causalities dying in European hospitals increased each day. At that time when these weapons were used, there was no question, no search, and no quest for finding out where these weapons came from.
So, how do you think a person having seen such a miserable death caused by Saddam would feel towards him when he was captured? Hatred? Disgust? I tell you No. That was not how, I as an Iranian felt. I felt pity for him. Yes, pity. The way he was being humiliated in the American media would make me feel nothing but that. Every 15 minutes, he was being shown in that vomiting way of being examined, looking more like an animal than a human.
But I, personally as an Iranian who witnessed the bitter war of 8 years with its forever impacts on Iranian lives and souls do not condemn you Mr. Saddam. After all you were just a marionette when attacking my land. A marionette that happened to be a neighbor.
Michael Moore, the Oscar award winner of 2003, gives us some insight and behind the scene facts: “Saddam was our good friend and ally. We supported his regime. It wasn’t the first time we had helped a murderer. We liked Saddam because he was willing to fight the Ayatollah. So we made sure that he got billions of dollars to purchase weapons. Weapons of mass destruction. That’s right, he had them. We should know we gave them to him!
We allowed and encouraged American corporations to do business with Saddam in the 1980s. That’s how he got chemical and biological agents so he could use them in chemical and biological weapons…
We were so cozy with dear old Saddam that we decided to feed him satellite images so he could locate where the Iranian troops were. We pretty much knew how he would use the information, and sure enough, as soon as we sent him the spy photos, he gassed those troops. And we kept quiet. Because he was our friend, and the Iranians were the “enemy.” A year after he first gassed the Iranians, we reestablished full diplomatic relations with him!”
Yes, that is the sad and true story of you, Mr. Saddam. You were only a marionette who couldn’t exist without his master. Well, until recently when the marionette disobeyed the master!