TEHRAN, Iran – FOX News' Amy Kellogg recently visited Iran, where she interviewed journalists, students and others on life inside the Islamic Republic. This is the last in a series of eight installments about that trip, which will be aired every night on FOX News Channel.
Mehdi Asgari is one of 50,000 Iranians suffering from the affects of exposure to Saddam Hussein's mustard gas.
Most of the victims were soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war, which took place in the 1980s and left nearly one million people dead between the two countries. Some of the war veterans observed by FOX News could barely breathe.
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The West rarely hears about them because it mainly focuses on Iraqi victims of Saddam's terror during his reign as president of Iraq.
During a 1987-88 campaign called Anfal, Saddam used mustard gas on Kurds in northern Iraq. The worst attack occurred in March 1988 in the Kurdish village of Halabja. A combination of chemical agents including mustard gas, sarin and possibly VX killed 5,000 people and left 65,000 others with severe skin and respiratory diseases, abnormal cancer rates and various birth defects.
Some Iranian victims say they are glad the former Iraqi dictator is finally facing justice. But Asgari, weak and getting sicker by the day, just wants someone to find a way to cure him so he can take care of his family.
"If anyone can find some medication for me, please God … I need to get better … I have no other chance," he told FOX News.
Dr. Mostafa Ghanei looks after the Iranian veterans of the war. He says many are bitter that no one is punishing the Western powers that helped Saddam procure his chemical weapons and that no one condemned Saddam when he was attacking Iranians with mustard gas — one of the most potent chemical weapons.
"The United Nations also confirmed that the Iraqis used this agent but nobody cared [about] this problem and nobody punished Saddam for using these agents against us," said Ghanei, who works at Baqiyatallah Hospital in Tehran.
Even though the war between Iran and Iraq ended in 1988 — close to two decades ago — the losses suffered by Iranians are still very real and very much a part of the present. There's always a steady stream of people visiting the Martyrs Cemetery in Tehran; mourning ceremonies are also broadcast constantly on loud speakers.
It's an eerie place but the scene can be moving as children play atop an old Iraqi tank to the strains of funeral music.
One can find some family members of the war dead who are indifferent to Saddam's trial because it won't bring their children back. The way they cope is to be proud, so powerful is Shiite veneration of those considered martyrs.
"My son was a martyr. What he did was good for his religion and the country and I am sometimes even thrilled about that," said Reza Hatami, who lost his son in the war.
Even though Muslims fought against Muslims, Iranians consider their war with Iraq a holy war because Saddam's regime was a secular one. And many of the devout at the Martyrs Cemetery believe that the former Iraqi dictator, while he'll be tried in a traditional court, will also have a more important judgment day sometime in the future.