Yesterday Global Green USA and Physicians for Social Responsibility co-hosted an event featuring Iran NGO the Soceity for Chemical Weapons Victims Support. The event was supposed to feature Drs. Shahriar Khateri and Mohammadreza Soroush as well as 2 survivors of the CW attacks, however Dr. Khateri was ill and the survivors were unable to attend. Working with a translator, Dr. Soroush presented the details of chemical attacks by Iraq on Iranian civilians during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s. All together there were about 350 attacks, leaving more than 1 million people exposed to chemical agents. Iraq declared that it had used 1800 tonnes of mustard agent, 140 tonnes of tabun and over 600 tonnes of sarin during these attacks. Dr. Soroush also shared the ongoing medical problems of those who had survived the attacks, including scarring, severe respiratory problems and blindness. It is stunning to see images of the immediate and long-term damages caused by chemical warfare, especially since the victims are primarily civilians.
It is interesting to note that Dr. Soroush avoided expressing any political statements. He was asked a question about how other countries (specifically the U.S.) who played a role in assisting Saddam Hussein and Iraq during the war were viewed by Iran CW victims, and responded by saying that he didn’t think it was helpful to bring up the political issues and wanted to move away from them. SWCVS’s goals in sharing the survivor’s stories were to provide motivation for the world to completely destroy all chemical weapons so that this could never happen again. He wants to share Iran’s experience to the medical community around the world so that they may be prepared if they were to face a CW attack. Dr. Soroush also said instead of focusing on past political issues, he wants to improve relations between the Iranian and American people so that they may have friendly talks and free scientific exchange. This is a stark contrast to statement made by the Iranian Ambassador at the Second Review Conference of the CWC just a few weeks ago. In the statement Iran condemned the U.N. Security council for ignoring Saddam’s violation of the Geneva Protocol and that this “sent a loud and clear signal that grave violations of a significant treaty would be tolerated should one serve the interests of certain powers”. The statement continued by calling on “all those countries whose companies or individuals have been involved in helping Saddam to commit crimes against humanity” to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Since April 27 Dr. Soroush, Dr. Khateri and 2 survivors have been on a speaking tour sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility. Over the past 2 weeks they have given presentations in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and will conclude with a presentation today at George Washington University here in Washington DC.