In mid March 1988 the news media across the world carried the story of the atrocity that had been carried out at Halabjah on March 16. I sat with my family in South Wales-UK and watched the graphic images broadcast by the TV stations and read the newspaper accounts of how a community had been annihilated by Saddam’s regime. It was unthinkable such an act could be carried out in war let alone by the government of a country attacking its own people.
|Dianne Elam 1988
We immediately decided that we had to do something and within an hour or so of hearing the news my wife had completed a black ink sketch of a gravestone marking the death of Halabja on March 16th 1988. We took this sketch to the Newbridge Printers in Crumlin, a family run business in a village about 2 miles away from our home in the Welsh valleys. We asked them to print the sketch on a thousand postcards for us and although they were very busy they took the sketch and told us that they would telephone when they had the cards ready. Later in the evening I heard a knock on the door of our home and opened the door to find the printer’s son with the postcards for us. When I asked him what the cost was for the printing he told me that there was no charge as his family had been shocked and appalled at the news of Halabja and wanted to help in any way they could.
The next day we went to see Mr. Llew Smith, Member of the European Parliament (MEP), who was distantly related by marriage to my wife’s family. We asked him to do all that he could to raise the plight of the Kurds in Iraq in the European Parliament. He agreed to help immediately and brought the Kurdish problem to the attention of Brussels. He also took over 300 postcards from us and within a day or so of our meeting he had placed a postcard in the mail pigeonhole of every MEP in Brussels. Meanwhile we asked our Member of Parliament, Neil Kinnock MP, to do everything that he could to raise the issue in the House of Commons and we sent our Halabja postcards to every MP and journalist that we thought could, and would, help in the fight against Saddam.
Our simple black and white postcard was the first image produced to raise public awareness of the Halabja tragedy and the plight of the Kurds under Saddam while, at the same time, ambassadors from many of the Arab states were busy in London voicing their support of Saddam and his regime and visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deny Saddam crime. Now the wind of change that came with the Arab Spring is working its way through the Arab states and changing the future for those who stood back and ignored Saddam’s reign of terror.