Dr. Karin Mlodoch
Haukari e.V., Frankfurt/Main
The Indelible Smell of Apples – Kurdish Poison Gas Survivors in Halabja between Trauma and Struggle for Acknowledgment
On the 16th of March 1988, the Iraqi Army of Saddam Hussein’s Baath-regime, attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja, using poison gas and killing 5000 people in few minutes. Today, the “martyrs’ town of Halabja” has become an emblem for the suffering of Iraqi Kurdish people and a constituent element of Kurdish national identity discourses. At the same time the people in Halabja continue to suffer from the long term psychological, health and environmental consequences of the poison gas attack to this day.
Based on testimonies of survivors and referring to a politically and socially contextualized concept of psychological trauma, the contribution looks into the specific psychological impact of the traumatic experience on first and second generation survivors and illustrates their struggle for individual recovery and social reconstruction. It outlines the conflicts between survivors’ individual memories, narratives and needs on the one hand and their political use in Kurdish national victimhood discourses on the other hand and underlines the vital importance of justice, social and political acknowledgement and places of remembrance for the survivors’ individual and collective coping processes.