WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- The Kurdish government of Iraq marked the 22nd anniversary of the 1988 massacres in Halabja as a time for reflection and optimism, officials said in Washington.
Ali Hassan al-Majid, an Iraqi defense minister under the former Baathist regime, was executed in January for ordering chemical weapons attacks on the Kurdish population in 1988. An estimated 5,000 people were killed, earning Majid the nickname Chemical Ali.
Qubad Talabani, the Kurdish government's representative to the United States, commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the attacks as a time to thank U.S. forces for removing the Baath regime from power in 2003.
"The Halabja anniversary is not, however, just a time for the people of the Kurdistan Region to look back," he said. "It is a time for us to heal, to seek closure and to look forward."
For the future, Talabani said, the shape of the next government in Iraq should reflect the determination and "sober acknowledgment" that the Iraqi government can never inflict these types of crimes again.
An Iraqi supreme court March 8 recognized chemical weapons attacks on the Kurdish city of Halabja as an act of genocide.