While the Saddam-era regime is long gone, remnants of its victims still remain. Only eight months old, a small girl by the name of Maryam lost her identity to the Halabja chemical attack on the Kurds 30 years ago. Despite her quest to learn the truth behind her identity, her name and parents still remain a mystery to this day. She had found closure 3 years ago through a DNA test but has since discovered that the results were incorrect. Now she has given up on her search, feeling lost in a ever changing world without an identity. Maryam recently conducted an interview with local Kurdish media to tell he story. When asked if she wanted to attempt the DNA tests again, she replied, “No I won’t. I am tired. I no longer trust them. I cannot do it anymore. I no longer have faith. It is better if I live alone. Every Kurdish individual is my family. This is my fate.” She added that, “Saddam’s chemical [weapons] did not kill me, but all the pain from these DNA tests killed me.”
By the numbers of the Halabja Victims’ Society, there are roughly 179 children from 73 families reported missing during the events. A meager 8 children have been reunited with families since the chemical attacks happened. On top of that, another 10 people have come forward but are still attempting to achieve identification like Maryam.
The chemical attacks by the Saddam regime took place in the Kurdistan region from 1980-1988, Saddam felt the Kurdish region was a hub of resistance that posed a threat to his empire in the South. Halabja was one of the worst cases of the dictator’s atrocities. The city was hit on March, 1988, a barrage of rockets and rained down on the cities citizens, exploding in the streets. This resulted in plumes of colored smoke erupting in their wake that spread throughout the area. Citizens who servived said that faint smells of flowers, apples and eggs were experienced while people dropped in place; other died in fits of laughter like something out of a horror movie as the chemical cocktails entered their lungs. Nearly 10,000 Kurdish citizens were wounded and another 5,000 killed during the chemical rocket attack that day.
Many families were separated in the ensuing chaos that day, Maryam was transported to Iran where she was raised for a short time by her blind mother (a fellow survivor), they later became separated. “In the beginning, I was not Maryam. The Maryam known as Maryam Barootchian died in the year 1988 in Iran. She would have been my older sister in Iran. Her parents gave me her name after she passed away,” Maryam said reminiscing. Maryam did not discover she was adopted until she was 18 when her adoptive father told her on his death-bed. She added that, “I felt different from the Persians. Of course if you were to tell me that I was from Halabja or Sulaimani, I would not have known in which part of Kurdistan they are. I was oblivious to the four parts of Kurdistan. When the DNA test was done for me, my body was frozen [with shock]. I was proud to know that I was a Kurd, that I was different from the rest of the kids I was playing with. This was my difference.” Eventually she discovered what became of her city of birth, “I could not believe it. Why would 5,000 people be bombarded with chemical weapons? Just because they are Kurds? Because they are a different nation? Are they not humans? I could not believe it.”