Halabja massacre photographer to testify in Chemical Ali trial
Posted by sarkout on March 20 2009 21:12:16
Halabja massacre photographer to testify in Chemical Ali trial

Photographer Ramazan Öztürk, whose photo “Silent Witness” has been regarded as the symbol of the massacre in Halabja, was called as a witness by the Iraqi court hearing the “Chemical Ali” trial.
A Turkish photographer who took what became the symbolic photo of the massacre of 5,000 Kurds in the Iraqi Kurdish border town of Halabja in 1988 has been called to testify at the ongoing “Chemical Ali” trial, where Saddam-era official Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Chemical Ali, is accused of using gas to kill thousands.
Photographer Ramazan Öztürk, whose photo “Silent Witness” has been regarded as the symbol of the massacre in Halabja, was called as a witness by the Iraqi court hearing the “Chemical Ali” trial. Öztürk will go to Iraq on the anniversary of the massacre, March 16, and attend the opening ceremony of the Genocide Museum in Halabja. He will give the camera with which he took the symbolic photo to the museum as a gift, but Öztürk said he will present his unpublished photos to the court and will recount his experiences. Öztürk will go to Iraq with nearly 60 photos, including his famous photo, “Silent Witness,” which has won several awards.
Photographer Ramazan Öztürk (C), whose photo “Silent Witness” has been regarded as the symbol of the massacre in Halabja, was called as a witness by the Iraqi court hearing the “Chemical Ali” trial.
He was working as a war correspondent in Iraq when the massacre began on March 16, 1988; he read a news report that day stating that Iraqi planes dropped chemical bombs on Halabja, killing many people. “I decided to go to Halabja as soon as I read the news. I told my editors. It was a region I knew. They told me to go. I headed to Iran. There were some other journalists from other countries with me. We were taken to the region with two helicopters,” he said.

Photographer Ramazan Öztürk

The helicopter left them somewhere on the outskirts of the town, and they were provided with gas masks and antidotes. “As soon as I entered the town center, I started to see corpses scattered all around. There were dead bodies, mostly of children, women and the elderly. The scene was terrifying,” he said. The tragedy made him cry, but he was also thinking of ways to express the massacre to the world. “I said I should take impressive photos so that I can truly express the massacre to the world. Iranian soldiers were telling us to hurry. Then I came across a scene. A father fallen over the stairs of a house, holding a baby in his arms. I was deeply impressed. That was what I was looking for. It became ‘Silent Witness’,” he said.
Öztürk also said he was followed and threatened by Iraqi intelligence officers after the photo was published. The Iraqi ambassador to Ankara called Öztürk and said that he did not want him not to cover the chemical massacre and offered him money.
Ali Hassan al-Majeed, a Sunni Arab who was Saddam’s cousin and a member of his inner circle, has already been sentenced to death three times, once in 2007 for his role in killing tens of thousands of Kurds in Saddam’s “Anfal” campaign. Majeed’s second death sentence came in December 2008 for his part in crushing a Shiite revolt after the 1991 Gulf War. He was given his third death sentence by an Iraqi court last week, this one for his involvement in killing and displacing Shiite Muslims in 1999. Cihan
14 March 2009, Saturday - UĞUR ÖZTÜRK İSTANBUL
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