Staff Voices: In memory of the Baghdad bombing on 19 August 2003
20 August 2021
Dhafer Al-Hussini | OHCHR
On World Humanitarian Day, our OHCHR colleague Dhafer Al-Hussini remembers the 2003 bombing of the UN Headquarters in Baghdad: "We are all still carrying deep scars that exist to this day."
I still remember that sad day of 19 August 2003.
That day will never be forgotten from my memory, where 22 colleagues and friends lost their lives in the bombing of the Canal Hotel, the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad.
More than 150 colleagues were injured - some serious and some less serious - yet we are all still carrying deep scars that exist to this day.
Looking back on that day, eighteen years ago, I see Baghdad suddenly turning into a dark night and the faces of innocent colleagues disappearing in the dust and rubble, these cheerful faces who gave their lives for the service of humanitarian work at the United Nations.
I also sadly remember my fellow Iraqis who were subjected to extortion, kidnapping and killing after 2003 at the hands of the obscurantists because of their work in the United Nations agencies and programmes in Iraq.
To them I say, you will always remain in our hearts because you gave your invaluable lives to serve a sacred cause.
Oh Iraq, my homeland… you know well my own story and the 20 years journey of devotion to the principles of the United Nations, to serve humanity and human rights.
But, undoubtedly, I paid a heavy price, being away from my city Mosul “Nineveh”.
During these years, I lost family members, relatives and friends who were abducted and killed, and I could not say a final goodbye or visit their graves to lay flowers.
Oh, my beloved country… tears roll down my face whenever I hear your hymns in the farthest corners of the world.
And when I recite the Epic of Gilgamesh, I see the Obelisk of Hammurabi, the Hanging Gardens of Nebuchadnezzar, the Nineveh Assyrian Library, the Ziggurat of Ur, the Cradle of Humanity, the Epic of Kawa Asenger, and the Nowruz celebration.
But, my country, weakness creeps into my heart when night falls and your echo whispers in my ear, “It is time to return.”
About the Author:
Dhafer Al-Hussini has worked as a Human Rights Officer at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights since January 2010. He has also worked in Iraq as National Officer from 2001 to 2009. Before joining the UN, he worked as human rights lawyer.
UN entities involved in this initiative
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights