I have called for this debate to recognise the genocide committed against the Kurdish population of Iraq for a number of reasons.
I firmly believe that as the horrors of the holocaust pass beyond living memory there is a danger that we drop our guard. That we believe such terrible events are safely sealed in the history books and that they could never happen again.
But sadly the truth is that they already have, genocide did not end in 1945. We have seen this in the Srebrenica genocide of 1995 which saw 8,000 Bosnians murdered, the Rwandan genocide in 1994 where 500,000 people were killed in just 100 days and the campaigns of persecution unleashed by Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish population of Iraq ending in the 1990s.
During these years over a million Iraqi’s ‘disappeared’, most presumed dead, murdered by Government forces. In its final stages alone, the 1988 ‘Al Anfal Campaign’ over 182,000 Kurds are believed to have died. Thousands of men, women and children systematically murdered. All in all over 2,000 Kurdish villages and towns were destroyed including the town of Qla Dizeh which along with its 70,000 inhabitants was literally wiped off the map.
Yet while the terrible crimes in Kosovo and Rwanda have officially been recognised as genocide, those in Iraqi Kurdistan have not. No International Criminal tribunal has been convened to investigate the extermination of the Kurdish people. There has been no international campaign to bring those responsible for these atrocities to justice. The British government have not formally stated that the actions of Saddam and his lieutenants constituted genocide.
These unprovoked attacks also included the unspeakable horrors of the 1988 gas attacks on Halabja. Here five thousand civilians died in incredible agony and estimates suggest a further 7,000 were injured or suffered long term illness. Saddam had unleashed all the resources of a modern, industralised state on the Kurdish population of his own country. His forces used chemical weapons, concentration camps and aerial bombardment, all methods that were last seen during the Second World War. If it was not genocide then one has to ask what would be?
That is why I have called this debate, and why within it I will call for the Government to act on and state what is already clear; that these crimes were an act of genocide. Only then can they be treated as such by the international community.