On April 8th, 2018, a chemical attack in Syria shocked the world. Footage showed men and women gasping for breath while being hosed down with water by first responders. Gruesome attacks like these are technically illegal and have been banned globally since 1925 when the international community signed the Geneva Protocol. But this hasn’t stopped some world leaders from using them since then.
The first person to use chemical weapons after they were internationally banned was Benito Mussolini after he invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Determined to expand his empire at any cost, he openly used mustard bombs and sprayed mustard gas from planes, killing tens of thousands of people.
Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser also used chemical weapons in Yemen in 1963, as a way to interfere with the country’s civil war, known as the North Yemen Civil War. Under Nasser’s leadership, Egypt used brutal tactics to crack down forces that supported Yemen’s previous leadership, including using mustard and nerve agents between 1963 and 1967.
Bashar al-Assad is also guilty of using chemical weapons in 2013, at the height of the Syrian Civil War against opposition groups who controlled the town near the country’s capital. Assad still denies that the Syrian government was behind the attacks, which killed over 1,500 people, but the attack in April 2018 suggests that they’re being implemented again.