Iraq

Righting the wrongs

Two American Army captains Justin Thomas and Kevin Curseaden describe their experiences in Kurdistan

We can say that we did the best with what we had. As Americans, we thought it our job to attract the greatest amount of funds to the region, and we worked hard to do so. Once we had the funds, it was the Kurds turn to work hard in the design and execution of the projects, which they did extremely well. We were able to work with the wonderful Kurdistan Save the Children to rehabilitate three schools in Halabja. They did a magnificent job, far above and beyond the NGO industry standard. We also worked with local computer and internet providers to purchase computers and internet service for places like the hospital and Halabja Memorial, so they could connect with the outside world, and, more importantly, so that the outside world can connect with them. We funded the acquisitions of games and toys for the youth center and library, and even musical instruments, such as eastern pianos and violins, so that the region that is so well known for its music could continue its legacy.

But we came to understand that these acts, although beneficial, were not addressing the true ailment of Halabja; the feeling that, even still, no one cares about the attacks, except politicians who use them in speeches. Realizing this, we took the remainder of our funds to build an furnish an addition to the Halabja Hospital, one that would be used as critical care unit, but double as the base for the caring of victims of the attacks, as well as a center for research on the immediate and long term effects of chemical exposure. It was here that we hoped that the psyche of Halabja would begin its healing process, by demonstrating that the outside world acknowledges the despicable crimes that were allowed to be committed against the Kurds, the cowardly inaction of the international community, and a desire to right the wrongs.

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