Even after decades, victims of gas attacks feel lonely and abandoned and are often afraid to marry and have children. And those who managed to start a family are not sure that they did the right thing and their marriage will be strong.
Scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden interviewed 16 survivors of the 1988 Halabja gas attack in Iraq. The team interviewed ten women and six men, aged 34 to 67. Most of the questions were devoted to the marital status of the participants and the relationship in marriage, if they are in it.
A study published in the journal BMJ Open found that most respondents had problems in their personal lives and making connections with others. According to scientists, they avoid communication because they feel unpleasant and perceive the consequences of a gas attack as an infection.
It also turned out that the effects of chemical warfare agents affected the participants in different ways. Men became more insecure and began to see themselves as a burden rather than a breadwinner for the family. Women experience the consequences of the gas attack much more difficult: they began to feel lonely and “thrown out” from life. “They think they are infected and others are beginning to think the same way. They are afraid that they will not be able to give birth to healthy children, although there is no serious scientific evidence for this,”said the author of the study, Faraidun Moradi.
Eight out of ten women interviewed were single. According to them, the impact of chemical weapons "minimized the prospects for marriage and starting a family." Their partners often refused to develop relationships or even divorced after learning that the woman had survived the attack and had health problems (all respondents were diagnosed with chronic pulmonary complications).
Married respondents, two women and six men, said that they do not always consider marriage to be the right decision and are not sure about its long-term due to physical health, which can deteriorate at any time, financial situation and safety of future children. Women noted that they were afraid of miscarriage and the birth of a child with disabilities, and men - that they would die early or become disabled and would not be able to provide for their families. In addition, they were found to have sexual dysfunction, which, according to the respondents themselves, seriously affected relationships with their wives.
The researchers noted that their work had limitations. First, various events, such as life in a war zone, could have influenced the respondents' condition. Second, the interviews of women may have been incomplete, as they may have been shy about the male interviewer and did not give all the details.
Nevertheless, research shows that exposure to toxic substances seriously affects people even after several decades, and efforts must be made to help victims of chemical attacks return to their normal lives.