Visas and self-determination for the Kurds raised in the Commons

Kurdistan figured prominently in this month’s oral questions in the Commons to the Foreign Secretary and his ministerial team. The salience of any one issue is largely a matter of luck given that the questions are chosen by lottery – picked out the hat.

But it was good to see a significant exchange on some key issues all prompted by a question from the Conservative MP and APPG vice- chairman Robert Halfon.

Halfon joined the recent delegation to Kurdistan, his sixth visit with me, and whilst the rest of us travelled to Baghdad for the day he stayed to meet academics and students at the University of Slemani and then at the University of Kurdistan-Hewler.

He was keen to do this because he was an Education minister and is now the Chairman of the powerful scrutiny committee on education.

In his diary of the delegation he recorded that the best part of his visit to the university in Slemani was sitting in a lecture hall with students but added that it was both profoundly uplifting and thoroughly depressing.

He found it depressing because students “are upset about our Prime Minster, recently using the expression ‘Kurdish Terrorists’. Theresa May was talking about the proscribed terrorist group the PKK, but that does not cut the mustard with the students. They complain that we call ISIS ‘ISIS’ – not ‘Arab Terrorists’.”

Furthermore, he heard that “the students love Britain, learn about Britain, but question after question is: why is the visa system so complicated, and why can they not travel to Britain to study? I promise to raise this with the Home Office and Foreign Office, but I can’t help thinking just how damaging it is having students as part of the migration target. Here is a pro-western, pro-British nation, tolerant of all religions and backgrounds, whose view of our country is being negatively coloured by the behaviour of the visa bureaucracy, alongside a perception of a hostile environment from GB to foreign students. Very sad indeed.”

He found much the same at UKH and asked himself : “What is wrong with Britain? Why are we not doing more to support the Kurds? Why is it so hard to study at British Universities? I do my best to bat for Britain, but I feel I am on a sticky wicket.”

True to his promise, he used the first opportunity to raise the visa issue in the Commons where he asked the Middle East minister, Alistair Burt the following: “With the all-party group on Kurdistan, I recently visited Sulaimani University and Kurdistan University. Their students love Britain and want to study in Britain, yet are being held back by visa bureaucracy. Given that Kurdistan is in the frontline against ISIL and is a beacon of stability, can my right hon. Friend do more to unwind the bureaucracy so that more Kurdistan students can study in our country?

Alistair Burt replied that “The Government’s position is to say repeatedly that we want the brightest and best students to be able to come to the United Kingdom. Our policy in Irbil is to encourage exactly the same. I will look at the question my right hon. Friend raises, because we want to ensure that students in the Kurdish region, who I have also met, are able to come to the UK.”

The APPG, which will shortly publish a report on its delegation, will pursue the visa issue which it discussed with the Consulate-General in Erbil and the British Embassy in Baghdad.

Other MPs then weighed in. Labour’s Bridget Phillipson asked about Iraq respecting international human rights standards, especially with regards to the rights of women in Iraq? Burt insisted that the UK stresses “that a country is not complete unless women are playing a foremost part both in ministerial and civic society life.”

Burt diplomatically batted away a probing question from Labour’s Seema Malhotra asking him to assess the influence of Russia in the negotiations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government, given the significant investment by the Russian firm Rosneft in Kurdistan’s regional oil pipeline.

Burt opined that “It is true to say that, in the formation of the new Iraqi Government, there are many interests from countries in the region. What is essential is that the new Iraqi Government demonstrate their independence and determination to run Iraq without external interference, and stand up for the needs of all their communities to make sure that the disaster that befell Iraq in the past, when other communities were not properly represented, does not happen again.”

Sir Desmond Swayne, a veteran Conservative MP, who used to be an aide to Prime Minister David Cameron and a minister at the Department for International Development, then popped up with a pithy but profound question: “In what way is the demand for full freedom and self-determination among the Iraqi people, particularly the people of Kurdistan, illegitimate?”

Burt gave a quintessentially diplomatic reply that “Questions of the constitutional structure of Iraq are not for the United Kingdom. There is regular dialogue between different sections of the community in Iraq about the proper constitutional processes and structures that will help all parts of the community to develop effectively and strongly. It is essential that the new Government recognise the needs of all sections of Iraqi society.”

Nonetheless, the right question was posed and it is one that friends of Kurdistan should seek to provide answers for in future exchanges. My own first stab at it is that the Iraqi constitution should be respected, that it defines Iraq as a free union and that, combined with various international declarations on self-determination, make the quest for statehood legitimate.

Who knows, a variant on the Swayne question may arise in future Commons questions with any luck but are definitely on the agenda.

Gary Kent

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AGM

The AGM of the APPG takes place in CR8 on Tuesday 10 July at 6pm.

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Kurdistan in Foreign Office questions

26 June 2018

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)

3. What progress the Government are making on encouraging dialogue between the Kurdistan regional government and the Government of Iraq.

Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)

8. What recent assessment his Department has made of the political and security situation in Iraq.

The Minister for the Middle East (Alistair Burt)

Through ministerial and other engagements, we are urging the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan regional government to resolve differences on all immediate issues. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has pressed this message with Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi. The national elections in May were a pivotal moment. With Daesh defeated territorially in Iraq, the next challenge is winning the peace.

Robert Halfon

With the all-party group on Kurdistan, I recently visited Sulaimani University and Kurdistan University. Their students love Britain and want to study in Britain, yet are being held back by visa bureaucracy. Given that Kurdistan is in the frontline against ISIL and is a beacon of stability, can my right hon. Friend do more to unwind the bureaucracy so that more Kurdistan students can study in our country?

Alistair Burt

The Government’s position is to say repeatedly that we want the brightest and best students to be able to come to the United Kingdom. Our policy in Irbil is to encourage exactly the same. I will look at the question my right hon. Friend raises, because we want to ensure that students in the Kurdish region, who I have also met, are able to come to the UK.

Bridget Phillipson

As Iraq attempts to move forward, what discussions has the Minister had with his Iraqi counterparts about respecting international human rights standards, especially with regards to the rights of women in Iraq?

Alistair Burt

It is a constant part of the conversation we have in Iraq and in other places to make sure that as the country moves forward, particularly after a relatively successful election process, all sections of the community are included in future. When we meet Iraqi parliamentarians, as well as Ministers, we stress that a country is not complete unless women are playing a foremost part both in ministerial and civic society life.

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)

In what way is the demand for full freedom and self-determination among the Iraqi people, particularly the people of Kurdistan, illegitimate?

Alistair Burt

Questions of the constitutional structure of Iraq are not for the United Kingdom. There is regular dialogue between different sections of the community in Iraq about the proper constitutional processes and structures that will help all parts of the community to develop effectively and strongly. It is essential that the new Government recognise the needs of all sections of Iraqi society.

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)

More dialogue is vital and must be supported by the international community. What assessment has the Minister made of the influence of Russia in the negotiations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government, given the significant investment by the Russian firm Rosneft in Kurdistan’s regional oil pipeline?

Alistair Burt

It is true to say that, in the formation of the new Iraqi Government, there are many interests from countries in the region. What is essential is that the new Iraqi Government demonstrate their independence and determination to run Iraq without external interference, and stand up for the needs of all their communities to make sure that the disaster that befell Iraq in the past, when other communities were not properly represented, does not happen again.

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Why UK should continue training the brave Peshmerga

Commons Questions 11 June 2018

Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)

During a recent visit to Iraq, a delegation from the all-party group on Kurdistan met British soldiers who have trained thousands of Peshmerga, helping the brave allies whose sacrifice and resistance to ISIS enhances our safety, and whose rights in a federal Iraq need international protection. Will the Minister confirm that the Department will continue that vital mentoring mission? [905771]

Mark Lancaster

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for highlighting just one of the many training missions the British Army and other services carry out around the world. Indeed, we are currently operating in excess of 20 countries to provide non-lethal training.

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Letter in the Times on debate about moving the Kurds to a new homeland

KURDISH HOMELAND

Sir, Richard Long (letter, May 7) dismisses “pious” talk about supporting the Kurds but suggests an odd possible solution. The Kurds, including several million in Iran whom he omitted to mention, live in four states at varied levels of development. A single Kurdistan is improbable but, having survived for centuries between larger civilisations, the Kurds are deeply attached to their beautiful and agriculturally rich land, rivers, canyons, mountains and plains.

Moving millions to Saudi Arabia, Sudan or anywhere else would deprive the Middle East of a decent people who enrich its mosaic.

Gary Kent
Secretary, all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq

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Jack Lopresti MP’s letter in the Times

Sir,

Your leading article (“Stand by the Kurds”, May 2) rightly emphasises that democracies should not abandon allies such as the Kurds. They were not actually left in the lurch after their uprising against Saddam Hussein in 1991. British people were shocked to see two million Kurds flee to the freezing mountains and this encouraged John Major to win support for a no-fly zone and safe haven. This undoubtedly saved the Kurds from likely further genocide for 12 years. The Kurds regard Sir John as a hero for this; Tony Blair is also greatly respected there for supporting the 2003 liberation of Iraq.

The Kurds now in Iraq deserve greater support. They are militarily reliable and their secular and religiously moderate politics make them a powerful antidote to extremism. Isis has not been eliminated and Iraqi Sunnis, among whom it found support, have yet to resettle. The Kurds could be pivotal in Iraq and the wider Middle East. Your article does much to encourage practical and political support for a people who are natural allies.

Jack Lopresti, MP
Chairman, all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq, House of Commons

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Chemical lessons from history: Jack Lopresti MP

The focus on Assad’s use of chemical weapons may lead some to conclude that we are talking about relatively small numbers of people compared to conventional weapons. That misses the point and the possibilities of much larger-scale deaths there and elsewhere if the line is flunked, as does the example of a people from just thirty years ago.

Deterring and punishing the use of chemical weapons is important whatever the numbers. Chemical weapons cannot distinguish between combatants and civilians. The effects are barbarically cruel for those killed and those who survive are afflicted in deep ways for the rest of their often shortened lives.

In Douma, an estimated 70 people perished painfully and 500 were injured, a term that covers a wide range of illness from the thankfully temporary to chronic and psychological conditions that cross generations, ruin lives, affect babies born to those affected, and cast a long shadow over whole families.

But you don’t have to go far to hear about how chemical weapons can murder people on a more industrial scale and to see that the impact can be measured in decades. Just next door is Iraqi Kurdistan, which on 14 April marked Anfal Day.

Anfal is Arabic for the Spoils of War, and is taken from a verse in the Koran. It was the name of the campaign waged against the Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime and led by his cousin, a general known as Chemical Ali.

He led a campaign aimed in part or in whole to eliminate the Kurds. Readers may be aware that the Commons formally and unanimously decided in February 2013 that this amounted to genocide, a term that is and never should be used lightly.

Anfal was partly conventional but also partly based on chemical weapons. The most notorious example of both was the attack in March 1988 on the town of Halabja, near Slemani and the Iranian border.

Iraqi jets first bombed the town with ordinary ordnance which killed some and blew out doors and windows in many houses. This was deliberate because the second wave of attacks consisted of sarin and mustard gas shells. Houses without doors and windows provided no shelter from the gases for those inside and those in basements suffered more as the heavier than air chemical gases sunk to the lowest possible level.

About 5,000 people were killed almost instantly and many thousands were injured, some very seriously and they have terrible lives, if they have survived, many decades later.

But five thousand villages were also razed to the ground and many of them were attacked by chemical weapons. Another continuing result of the Anfal was the destruction of the traditional backbone of the Kurdistan Region – the countryside, which was declared a free fire zone and from which Kurds were forced to leave, often for ramshackle and so-called obligatory collective villages in the cities, which are best described as concentration camps.

Generations of Kurds have now been in cities for several decades and the plentiful agricultural potential of the Kurdistan Region has been stymied ever since despite it once having been the bread basket of Iraq.

The genocide against the Kurds relied heavily on chemical weapons and highlights the horrors and scale of chemical warfare. Fatalities and casualties were smaller in Syria. Seeking to uphold the civilisational taboo on using chemical weapons could not only prevent further use in Syria but also send a powerful signal to others now or in the future that they may pay a price for using these odious, indiscriminate, and barbaric weapons. The example of the use of chemical weapons in the Anfal genocide against the Kurds should make us determined to hold the line on chemical weapons as a moral priority. Punishing Assad was a legitimate and necessary act.

Jack Lopresti is the Conservative MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke and Chairman of the APPG on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq

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Robert Halfon MP marks the 30th anniversary of Halabja and the Anfal Genocide

Thirty years ago this week thousands of Kurds were murdered by Saddam Hussein’s mustard gas and sarin in the town of Halabja. It’s also the 30th anniversary of the wider “Anfal” Genocide across Kurdistan in which up to 200,000 people were killed and thousands of villages razed to the ground.

At the entrance to the cemetery in Halabja with its mass graves, with many still unidentified bodies, there is a defiant sign saying “Baath not allowed.” This refers to the party of Saddam, who decided to eliminate the Kurds as a people.

I saw this after taking part in a Commons debate which formally recognised Saddam’s attacks as genocide. As with other genocides, we all argued that recognition is a vital part of ensuring “Never Again” means something, although it wasn’t long before the Baathist regime of Syrian President Assad used chemical weapons there.

The Kurds in Iraq picked up the pieces after Anfal and looked after the maimed, mentally impaired, widowed and orphaned. They also rebuilt their shattered villages but have not yet recovered their full agricultural potential as the breadbasket of Iraq.

They also opened museums to document Saddam’s toxic mixture of Hitlerism and Stalinism including the Red House Museum in Slemani which I will never set foot in again. Its recreation of torture chambers, rape rooms, incinerators for babies, and the later genocide against the Yezedis is graphic and would make me ill. The Kurds are people who learn from the past but don’t live in the past.

The Kurds also managed to create a largely decent near-state which aspires to democracy – with recent backward steps that are now being remedied. Their political DNA enthusiastically extols religious pluralism, secularism, women’s rights, and a more dynamic economy to replace their state-heavy and overly oil-dependent economy. The Kurdistan Region has been steadily turning itself into a beacon of moderation in the Middle East, which needs such examples of co-existence.

And their army, the Peshmerga proved to be resilient allies despite chronic under-equipping. Iraq as a whole would not now be largely free of the scourge of the fascistic and genocidal Isis if the Kurds and their Peshmerga had run away, as sadly the Iraqi Army did as Isis took Mosul and then advanced towards Kirkuk and Baghdad and later the Kurdistan Region itself. The Peshmerga did so much at so much cost to resist and then roll back the so-called Islamic State by offering to work with the Iraqi Army which had genocided them before.

Thanks to this, the Kurds were widely hailed but are now in a perilous and diminished position thanks to the distinctly ungrateful and mean policies of Baghdad. While the Kurds are not currently facing genocide they are effectively imprisoned by a new government in Baghdad whose methods reek of the centralising and sectarian playbook of pre-genocide Saddam.

Following years of broken Iraqi promises to a federal settlement with equality and fair revenue sharing, the Kurds clearly endorsed independence in a peaceful referendum last year and wanted to negotiate that with Baghdad over several years, rather than declaring immediate UDI.

Baghdad’s reaction was swift, harsh, violent, and unconstitutional. Kurdish airports were closed and remain shut five long months later. The agreed Kurdish share of national revenues is being whittled down in a spiteful attempt to twist the knife and keep the Kurds in a subordinate position. It is hardly the hallmark of a government willing to treat the Kurds equally and persuade them to remain part of Iraq. One day, the Kurds will escape and they will have my full support so they can themselves defend their people, prevent further genocide, and encourage reform in the Middle East.

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Churchill, Major, Blair, and Anglo/Kurdish relations

Debate on Kurdish rights once more took place in the Commons this week with a brief debate at short notice on the recent Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) report on what the FAC Chairman, Tom Tugendhat called “an important aspect of our foreign policy that, sadly, has often been overlooked by the United Kingdom for many years: the aspiration of the Kurdish people.”

Asked about the UK’s long involvement in Kurdish affairs, Tugendhat acknowledged that it had not all been pretty. Conservative MP Philip Hollobone asked “Is not the truth about the Kurds that British foreign policy towards them has been wrong for about 100 years? They were abandoned by us in 1918, we ignored them in the treaty of Versailles, and the problem has persisted ever since. Is it not true that, without the Kurds, ISIS would not have been defeated?”

Tugendhat was commendably candid in telling Hollobone that he “is absolutely right,” and detailing: Britain’s historical involvement: “We must not forget the air policing, as it was then called. The then Colonial Secretary, one Winston Churchill, was the first person to use chemical weapons against the Kurds. Indeed, it was the RAF that dropped them. One reason that the RAF still exists is that it cut the cost of colonial policing by reducing the number of battalions required. I am afraid that that is true—we do not always have a glorious history.”

But Tugendhat also made the point about the positive experience of the no fly zone initiated by John Major from 1991 and that “the truth is that our role today is as a peacemaker and as an engaged friend of the whole region. In that, we should recognise that the Kurdish people have the right to self-determination, and we do recognise that, but we should encourage them to stay as part of the Republic of Iraq in the areas where they are within Iraq. Many witnesses we spoke to said that, although the referendum had called for independence, they were looking for greater autonomy within the Republic of Iraq, so there is more tension within the Kurdish position than appears immediately obvious.” I would add that Tony Blair deserves praise for helping to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.

APPG Chairman, Jack Lopresti MP, who was unable to attend the debate, later said: “I would have commended the report in acknowledging the fears and views of many Kurds in Iraq but would have asked for more passionate pressure from the FAC for the need to persuade Baghdad to lift its restrictions on Kurdistan. As one who has been lucky enough to visit Kurdistan three times in recent years, I would praise the efforts of the Peshmerga, which was vital in defeating Daesh. I would also have highlighted the outrageous ban by Baghdad, for no constitutional or safety reasons, on flights to and from Kurdistan. It is unacceptable that this blockade has lasted for five months and I very much hope it will be lifted well before Newroz on 21 March. I know it is very difficult for many Kurds to use Baghdad to get in and out of the country and the damage is being done to those who need medical treatment, want to see relatives, and to do commerce. Unless it mends it ways and soon, Baghdad is proving the case for independence when a more far-sighted leadership should be asking what it can do to encourage Kurds to stay in Iraq as equals, and with the comprehensive implementation of the Iraqi constitution.”

I think that there is insufficient awareness that Iraq does not seem to have good intentions towards the Kurdistan Region. It cannot be said enough that there would not have been a referendum if Iraq had complied with its compact to uphold federalism which the Kurds made absolutely clear before rejoining Iraq and since was the condition of their staying.

The parameters of the discussion are often still confined to the need for what Tugendhat stressed was “supporting the autonomy of the people of the Kurdish region is important, but so is supporting the Iraqi Government’s right to territorial integrity.” But what is done when these imperatives clash. Merely asserting two conflicting rights in this case gives moral equivalence to the jailer and the prisoner: Iraq and Kurdistan. Yet the Commons debate shows there is much goodwill towards the idea that the Kurds deserve better treatment and that needs to be built upon.

The full debate is at https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-02-22/debates/18E4F28D-EE09-47D2-8D00-AF8FDEE0CF45/ForeignAffairsCommittee

Gary Kent is Secretary of the APPG but this is his personal view.

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UK MPs recognise “many Kurds feel imprisoned” in Iraq

“Many Kurds feel imprisoned in a country that they see as not implementing its commitments of equality to them. The FCO [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] must therefore (my emphasis) press for these commitments to be fulfilled. The FCO should press the government of Iraq to lift the restrictions placed on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq after the referendum” and “relations between Baghdad and the KRI are now at an historic low, and the risk of fighting was described to us as being high.”

These observations are made in the report of the five month long inquiry by the influential Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) into Kurdish aspirations and the interests of the UK. The cross-party report also analyses the situation in Syria and Turkey, where it says “the FCO’s view is currently incoherent,” and which deserves separate attention.

On the Kurdistan Region, the report further observes that “the overwhelming vote in favour of independence was a manifestation of deep frustration and dissatisfaction with the KRI’s place in Iraq,” and that restrictions imposed by Baghdad “will inevitably be seen as punitive, and collectively so.” It says when these restrictions are combined with the role of the Shia militias connected with Iran in confronting the Kurds they “are only likely to encourage the Kurds on the path to departure rather than integration.”

It makes several recommendations that, if implemented by the British government, could boost the UK’s role in defending and advancing the interests of the Kurds. This is also seen as a British interest and the report quotes UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who told the FAC that “we owe a great debt to the Peshmerga for their bravery and sacrifice. What they are doing is on behalf of all of us. That is why instinctively we are so supportive of the Kurds and their aspirations—the KRG.”

The FAC accepts the ministerial view that the UK cannot mediate on a sovereign matter but concludes that “The FCO should offer itself alongside international partners in an enhanced role of facilitating dialogue, and should secure the backing and support of the wider international community to play such a role,” given that “different interpretations of the constitution are raising tensions and risking conflict.”

The report caveats this with “if desired” by Baghdad but says it would be “an offer from a sincere and concerned ally that has a long history of close ties and cooperation with both sides and a shared interest in preventing conflict. The FCO should also secure the backing and support of the wider international community to play such a role.”

The report highlights Middle East Minister Alistair Burt’s point about the UK using its diplomatic influence, “as we have been trying to in the region for some time, to point to those areas where conflict might arise, and to offer advice about how conflict might be scaled back and about institution building, non-sectarianism and things that can be done to prevent communities feeling excluded or being pushed towards an area of conflict […]. In future, I think that that will be a more important role in the region for the United Kingdom than anything else.”

The report says disputes in the different Kurdistans can only be resolved locally but urges the FCO to “support meaningful political participation and representation for Kurds, as well as cultural recognition, equal rights, and economic opportunities for them, underpinned by national constitutions and achieved through negotiation, as a means of fulfilling Kurdish aspirations. It is not in the UK’s interests for any state to deny Kurdish identity through law or force. It is likewise not in the UK’s interests for Kurdish groups to seek their goals through violence or unilateral moves.”

The MPs also make a useful suggestion that the UK “should supply and encourage others to provide capacity-building courses and training that equip KRI policy-makers and others with the greater ability to promote political reform and economic reform and diversification.”

The MPs endorse the FCO’s long-standing One Iraq approach but complain that the FCO has not adequately addressed the behaviour of Baghdad and internal Kurdish problems. It asks the FCO to “not shy away” but set out assessments of the role of Shia militias in retaking disputed territories such as Kirkuk, whether reports of crimes being committed by them are credible, and how much Iran supports, or controls, these militias. Given that the role of the Shia militias and Iran was obscured in and after the attack on Kirkuk, this could usefully redress the balance of blame for the Iraqi reaction to the peaceful referendum.

The report also says “The FCO must be prepared to criticise both Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurds when criticism is due,” and urges the FCO to explain its view of and response to what it describes as corruption and the monopolisation of power or curtailment of democracy in Kurdistan. Corruption, it adds, is a serious problem in Iraq in general, and risks impeding reconstruction.

The report argues that such criticism should be part of an effort to achieve not only a dialogue between leaders, but a positive interaction between people on both sides to turn—as far as possible—mutual suspicion into a shared belief that they can all benefit from being diverse regions of a united country.

My written evidence argued that the referendum did not justify Iraqi violence but the Iraqi violence justifies eventual independence. This is not on the agenda for now but it would have been better if the FAC had examined tensions between self-determination and supporting the status quo.

After all, the UK put the Kurds in Iraq in the first place and against their will and they have suffered ever since apart from one decade after the overthrow of Saddam. I have previously praised the Estonian Parliament’s motion on the Erbil-Baghdad dispute which affirms that “…it respects the territorial integrity of the Republic of Iraq, as long as preserving it will not bring along violent suppression of the human and political rights of the Kurdish minority in Iraq.” That could have been usefully recognised by the FAC.

There is also much “he said, she said” in surveying the evidence conflicting from bodies as varied as the KRG, the Iraqi Embassy, the KDP, and Gorran. Oddest was the noted contrast between Kurds denouncing the closure of the airports as a blockade while the FCO dispassionately said Baghdad had “closed Kurdish airspace to inbound and outbound international flights”. Our friends, the Kurds, deserve more passion and calling a spade a spade but despite that there is enough in the report to expose the shameful treatment of the Kurds to a wider audience.

The FAC report is less substantial than the one released by a previous FAC in 2015, but that took a year, involved visits to Iraq and Kurdistan, and focused exclusively on UK-KRG relations, while this was involved no visits, and also examined other Kurdistans.

The FAC report can only recommend actions to the Government, which will respond within two months. It won’t automatically change British policy or Baghdad’s bullying but at least shows they are being watched carefully. The Kurds currently in Iraq can take criticism on the chin and it should prompt continuing and thorough economic and political reform, but Baghdad’s vindictive and punitive imprisonment of Kurds cannot be evaded.

* The full report is at https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2017/kurdish-aspirations-report-published-17-19/

Gary Kent writes in a personal capacity.

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