British formally mark Anfal Day

The British Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, has paid tribute to the victims of the Anfal campaign on Anfal Day, 14 April.

The British Government refused to follow the example of the House of Commons in formally recognising Anfal as genocide in 2013 but agreed that it would mark Anfal Day each year.

The then Middle East Minister addressed a KRG event in London in 2014 and issued a statement last year as the anniversary fell during the British election campaign.

This year, the Minister has also issued a statement which appears on the Foreign Office website. The statement reads: “Today marks the anniversary of the Anfal – Saddam Hussein’s brutal campaign against the Kurdish people in Iraq. Between fifty and one hundred thousand men, women and children were slaughtered during the Anfal campaign. Many more were maimed, separated from their families or forced from their homes. It is not just the scale of the atrocities that is hard to comprehend. It is the chilling fact that people conceived the plans, discussed them and carried them out.

Today our thoughts are with those mourning lost loved ones. We must mark this day to honour the memories of those who died and to ensure that we never forget Saddam Hussein’s monstrous crimes against the Kurdish people. But we must also mark it because the Anfal campaign was a warning of what can happen when evil goes unchecked.

Now all the people of Iraq face a new evil, in the form of Daesh. Daesh seek to tear apart the multicultural society that has existed in Iraq for centuries. Ultimately, the only way to protect the Iraqi people from Daesh is by defeating this barbaric organisation and their poisonous and hateful ideology. The UK is committed to supporting the Iraqi people in this fight.”

Some years there will be statements and other years there may be meetings but the most important point is that marking Anfal Day is on the agenda every year. In an ideal world, the anniversary should be marked in a much more prominent manner.

The Prime Minister could be asked to mention it at the nearest Prime Minister’s Questions as he does for other significant anniversaries and events.

When the KRG High Representation and the all-party parliamentary group began its campaign to win official recognition of the genocide, many questioned the decision and said it was backward looking.

But within months of the 25th anniversary in 2013 of Halabja and Anfal Syrian Baathist soldiers were using chemical weapons in that country. And in 2014 Daesh was committing genocide against the Yezedis in Iraq. Marking the past is the best way of helping ensure Never Again or at least that it will not go unremarked and grow.

The international community failed to punish Assad for using chemical weapons in 2013 and they have been used again by the regime and by Daesh.

Gary Kent

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