The APPG and the KRG UK held a large rally in the House of Commons on Monday 6 March to mark the chemical bombardment of Halabja on 16 March 1988 and the Anfal genocide. It was chaired by Nadhim Zahawi MP and by Gary Kent with contributions from Jason McCartney MP, Henry Smith MP and Ann McLaughlin MP as well as Karwan Jamal Tahir, KRG High Representative to the UK, the Minister for Anfal and Martyrs in the KRG and the Iraqi Ambassador. The following are from MPs who were unable to attend but wished to extend their solidarity.
Jack Lopresti MP: Halabja hangs heavy over the history of the Kurds and humanity as a whole. The atrocity was and remains one of the worst ever single atrocities in world history. We continue to struggle against such barbarism but the starting point in the present for preventing history repeating itself is to mark the memories of the victims and their loved ones.
HALABJA DAY LETTER FROM ANN CLWYD MP
The 16th of March 1988 has become a dark day in the history of the Kurdish people. It was on this day that the regime of Saddam Hussein attacked the town of Halabja with chemical weapons. Halabja has become a symbol of the atrocities committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein against the Kurds, in the genocidal campaign known as ‘Operation Anfal’.
Over 5000 Kurdish civilians were gassed to death between the 15th to the 19th of March; thousands more acquired cancers and deformities. They carry the scars of this attack, both physical and emotional, to this day.
The long term medical effects on the people of Halabja include permanent blindness, disfigurement, respiratory, digestive, and neurological disorders, leukaemia, lymphoma, and colon, breast, lung, skin, and other cancers, increased miscarriages and infertility and severe congenital malformations and other birth defects. Livestock and pets were killed, and the earth became contaminated by the poison gas.
However, to most Kurds, Halabja is not solely about the actions of Saddam Hussein, but the silence and inaction of the international community. World leaders failed to intervene in the horrors, atrocities, and genocides of the twentieth century, including Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo and Halabja. This is despite the body of law that has been developed since World War Two to protect those who face persecution, including the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
While British, Swedish, Norwegian and South Korean parliaments have all recognised the al-Anfal campaign as constituting genocide, no governments have done so – except for that of Iraq. We believe that states do have a responsibility to protect those whose rights are threatened, whether at home or abroad.
This is why Kurdish communities around the world have made the 16th of March a day of remembrance for Halabja, and a day of action to remind the world community of their responsibility to act to prevent any future acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Lord Clement-Jones CBE: As one who has often visited the Kurdistan Region, I am well aware of the enormous damage done to people and the economy by the Anfal genocide which was linked to the horrendous Halabja atrocity. Yet many people have forgotten or are too young to recall the misery and massacres of Saddam Hussein. It is right that the Kurds face the future but marking the past makes it more likely they will never again face genocide and mass murder.
Rt Hon Rosie Winterton MP: Having seen the Kurdistan Region. for myself I ally myself with those who say Halabja and the wider genocide need to be marked and remembered for the sake of the victims but also to seek to prevent it happening again.
Rt Hon Pat McFadden MP: Halabja, where Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against his own people, is one of the most appalling atrocities of the 20th century. Many years on it is right that it is remembered and commemorated. Certainly the Kurds will never forget. But neither should the rest of the world. And it should serve to remind us how precious is the right to live a peaceful life, free from oppression and free to make our own choices about the future.
Dave Anderson MP: Having visited Kurdistan three times, most recently for the 25th anniversary of the Halabja atrocity in the town’s memorial to its martyrs, I wholeheartedly endorse your rally tonight and join with those on all sides of the House and in both our countries who say Never Again. The Kurds suffered under a vicious regime and I am very happy to pledge my continuing solidarity as they advance and reform their society.
Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool. Independent Crossbench Member of the House of Lords: It is important that the Halabja atrocity, which was part of the wider Anfal genocide campaign by Saddam Hussein, is commemorated. The use of chemical weapons and the shocking brutality and cruelty of his regime should never be forgotten. When we indifferently forget, it paves the way for such atrocities to happen all over again. Tragically, the region continues to see new crimes against humanity and new genocides and the world’s failure to effectively bring those responsible to justice creates a climate of impunity in which war lords and dictators believe they can get away with murder.
Ian Austin MP: The chemical weapons bombardment on Halabja was one of the worst crimes of the Baathist regime. I know that the Kurdistan Region is recovering from the genocide and Halabja, as it will recover from the Daesh death cult, although many Kurds still suffer deep physical and psychological pain from the barbaric attacks of both Baathism and Daesh. But marking Halabja and the Anfal genocide are duties of the whole world if we are to draw a line and make sure they never happen again.