Maryam reacting after mistakenly identified as Hawnaz. Photo: Draw Mahdi
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – After mistakes were made in identifying a missing Halabja woman and finding her family, DNA tests will from now on be done outside the Kurdistan Region, an official from Halabja announced.
DNA testing for the city’s missing children and relatives will be done outside the Kurdistan Region “because a problem in identifying the real identity of Hawnaz has eroded trust among the relatives of the missing children of Halabja,” said the head of the Halabja Victims Community.
Hawnaz, 27, is believed to have been just eight months old when she went missing following the chemical attack on Halabja.
In 2015, it was declared that a young woman who had been adopted by an Iranian family and named Maryam was actually Hawnaz.
Two years ago, the Halabja Chemical Victims Society along with local authorities and a private hospital began the process of collecting DNA samples from families and children who claim they were from the city. Maryam’s initial findings showed a close match to four families and it was declared she belonged to one of the families. That was later found to be a mistake.
Maryam’s story is one of the four publicized cases of Halabja's missing children after Ali Zmnako, Chya A'zam and Alan Barzan.
Continued failures in identifying Maryam’s real name and finding her relatives raised doubts among other families who have found their missing children through the DNA process.
“There is a decision that the examinations of Halabja’s missing children will be done in the UK. The people of Halabja lost trust in the examinations done in Kurdistan after the case of Hawnaz of Halabja where her identity was not that which was revealed to her,” Luqman Abdulqadir, head of Halabja Victims Community, told Rudaw.
The case of Halabja’s missing children has now been taken to court, he said. “Now, 73 families of Halabja are looking to find 179 missing children of Halabja, and seven Halabja children are waiting for their identity to be revealed and the court has taken statements from three of these children.”
Halabja lies on the Iraq-Iran border. During the 1980-1988 war between the two countries, the town fell victim to bombardments from both sides. On March 16, 1988, during the last stage of the war, the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein attacked the city with internationally banned chemical weapons.
The attack led to the death of an estimated 5,000 people and injured another 10,000 – the largest chemical attack against a civilian population in history. Many families fled to Iran after the attack. Families became separated and for many they never reunited. Some 70 families have reported they have lost a total of 114 children. As of now, only 10 children have rejoined their families.