36th anniversary

Remembering the chemical bombing of Goptapa and Askar

ERBIL – Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Ba’ath regime’s chemical attack on the Goptapa and Askar districts in Sulaymaniyah Governorate. The attack on May 3, 1988, was part of the infamous Anfal operations’ fourth campaign and involved chemical weapons and napalm bombs. The bombardment killed and injured hundreds of civilians, while survivors sought refuge in nearby caves. The death toll from chemical weapons in Goptapa was second only to Halabja, which suffered a chemical attack seven weeks earlier, killing more than 5,000.

On May 4, 1988, Saddam Hussein’s forces launched a ground assault on Goptapa, destroying the village and burying the dead in mass graves. The regime also raised the Little Zab River to block escape routes, resulting in the disappearance of 1,680 people. The offensive then destroyed dozens of other villages in the region.

The Anfal campaign, which began Feb. 22, 1988, and ended Sept. 6 of the same year, represents a dark chapter of mass killings during the Ba’athist rule in Iraq. The military operation involved several corps, the air force, special forces, Republican Guard, commando forces, intelligence services, and departments managing chemical and biological weapons.

Many families continue to await news of their missing loved ones. A relative of an Anfal victim told 964media that “the families and victims have yet to receive proper assistance or services to this day.”