The towns of Penjwen and Halabja lie to the east of Sulaymaniyah, near the border with Iran. Oil tankers exporting crude oil queue for miles at a key border crossing near Penjwen. The idyllic pastoral scenes in the surrounding countryside are tempered by the many land mines that remain from the Iran-Iraq conflict.

In 1988 Halabja was attacked with chemical weapons as part of the Anfal campaign in which Saddam Hussein violently suppressed Kurdish revolt during the Iran-Iraq war. At least 5,000 people died as an immediate result of the Halabja chemical attack. It is estimated that 4,500 villages were destroyed and as many as 182,000 people were killed in the Anfal campaign.

In 2013, thousands of Kurdish people and foreign guests gathered in Halabja to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this attack. Many of those attending the event, and thousands more worldwide, wore the white tulip memorial badge conceived and designed by Della Murad and Richard Wilding.