Located in the northern Iraqi city of Halabja, visiting the Monument of Halabja Martyrs is a sobering experience. Created in 2003, it’s difficult to imagine the very quiet and rather empty memorial-museum was the site of a riot in 2006. Residents were dissatisfied with the local government for spending millions on the monument so close to struggling Halabja. When I visited recently with Wandering Earl, there was no evidence that the Monument Of Halabja Martyrs was set a blaze just a few years prior.
The memorial remembers the thousands of people (mostly Kurds) who were killed gas attacks by Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1988; their names are inscribed along the marble walls of the memorial’s interior. You can get to the memorial by shared taxi from other cities in northern Iraq – just be sure to indicate you’d like to go to “old” Halabja, not the newer town nearby.
You can see more of my pictures from the Halabja memorial here.
Wow, you’ve traveled quite a bit in northern Iraq! I wonder what the extent is of the fire damage when it was set ablaze.
Definitely tried in the time I had! The PBS link below shows a small bit from the fire to give you an idea, though it’s not the greatest picture:
Really impressed with your travels in Iraq. I’m sure it was a memorable experience.
Thanks Lauren, it certainly it very high on my list!
Such an unique building! It’s really cool to see such established and interesting sites to see in Iraq.
This one is certainly in the minority of modern sites I’d say. There aren’t too many in Iraq just yet.
I guess many monuments like this attract controversy (money spent building them / whether there should be a monument at all) but they’re so important, too, especially for future generations.
I look at these places like an investment; assuming travel to northern Iraq takes off, visitors to this memorial can not only be educated about what happened in Halabja, but also fund the town for many years to come. (Ideally, of course.)
I think its quite a sensitive topic for developing economies to spend their budgets. However, building such structures like bridges, museums, libraries, temples, etc. have a lot of intangible value – for example the residents “feel good” about their city, get a place to relax and wind down, and then a small commercial economy kicks off (which helps in the long run as you said). These benefits cannot be measured and there will always be critics who say its a waste of money.
Having been to quite a number of poor countries that have giant monuments and edifices to events or people past, I get this mixed feeling of whether it is a waste of money (should they be doing more to supply water, food, schools and basic infrastructure) or an important marker in that nation’s history and hence important for their culture and their pride and an assurance that it recalled in future times. Would a more modest memorial have a similar effect? What did you feel as you viewed it?
I think in this case, since it’s a memorial of so many people who were killed in an act of genocide, a memorial that were too small might be underwhelming or even inappropriate. I may be a bit naive on this one, but all indications are that the local government is hoping to drive tourism to a town that otherwise nobody would have reason to visit.
The interior is quite touching honestly and the museum candidly shows the violence that took place in 1988. Personally I felt that it was a memorial designed for the outside – which is fitting considering how repressed information about the events there were at the time.