The cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq war is good news for millions of civilians on both sides, but not for the Kurds. Iraq can now attack this separatist minority with its full military might, including its stockpiles of poison gas.

Iraqi officials vehemently deny that their government is using chemical weapons, but their word cannot be trusted. Investigators from the United Nations have found that Iraq was using poison gas against Iranian civilians as recently as last month.Iraq refuses to let outside observers into the isolated areas where the atrocities allegedly took place. What do the Iraqis have to hide?

History has been unkind to the Kurds, a distinct ethnic group with its own language and customs. They are scattered among five countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, the Soviet Union and Turkey) none of which has a good reputation for respecting minority rights. They probably will never achieve their dream of an independent homeland. That is all the more reason to protect them from uncivilized governments like Iraq,