Two days before the 35th anniversary of the Halabja gas attack by the former Baath regime, the Iraqi cabinet has officially approved Halabja as Iraq's 19th governorate, according to KRG officials speaking to The New Arab.
On 16 March 1988, Saddam's regime attacked the people of Halabja city, killing more than five thousand people and wounding tens of thousands. Saddam's regime was toppled following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, and Hussein was captured in December 2003. He was hanged three years later, following his conviction for 'crimes against humanity,' including the Halabja massacre.
"It is true, the Iraqi government has approved Halabja as Iraq's 19th governorate," an official source in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), told The New Arab on the condition of anonymity.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani today chaired a regular cabinet meeting in Baghdad.
Amanj Rahim, the secretary of the KRG council of ministers, earlier today told Rudaw that the Iraqi government in the meeting has accepted all federal procedures for making Halabja Iraq's 19th governorate.
The Iraqi government has yet to officially announce the decision. Sudani is scheduled to visit Sulaimaniyah in the coming days, he may also visit Halabja and announce the decision on the 35th anniversary of the city's massacre.
Halabja became a district in 1889 during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
The KRG on 13 March 2014 decided Halabja to become a governorate.
However, the people of Halabja still suffer from the lack of basic services and high unemployment rates among the youth.
On the eve of the 35th anniversary of the chemical attack, communities in Halabja plan to hold widespread demonstrations tomorrow afternoon to protest the lack of public services and negligence by both the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous KRG in Erbil.