This is the conclusion of a longer report by APPG Chair Rt Hon Robert Halfon and APPG Secretary, Gary Kent. The full report can be found at Zooming into Kurdistan Robert Halfon and Gary Kent PDF
Initial APPG delegations heard many stump speeches from Kurdistani politicians praising British interventions in 1991 and 2003 before focusing on Britain’s role in trapping the Kurds in Iraq. That was accompanied by pleas to make up for that history. The danger is that approach ignores Kurdish divisions after the First World War and passivity rather than proactively seeking change. We hear less of this now because KRG leaders understand they need to make their own luck.
The small political class bears a huge burden and the KRG can punch above its weight in winning friends. A variety of think-tanks could help nurture a more sophisticated discourse, increase state capacity, and help build a vibrant civil society. We also urge the KRG, the UK, and businesses to focus on encouraging the skills and culture of entrepreneurialism and good management.
A professional and free media with solid journalistic ethics is essential to increasing public understanding and involvement as well as undermining hoaxes and conspiracies that are especially common in the Middle East. We don’t accept the recent closure of media outlets and urge the KRG to uphold media freedoms.
If a nation is a daily plebiscite, then Kurdistan needs constant renewal. Like much of the Middle East, it is a young country and many are under 30. Covid is tough for youth everywhere but great efforts are needed to make sure the new generation of Kurdistanis is included and cherished in renewal.
Kurdistan needs to be a bigger part of the UK’s foreign policy discussions. The APPG works with the KRG UK Representation to help do that. It is, therefore, deeply regrettable that the recent BBC Documentary, Once Upon a Time in Iraq, almost completely ignored the Kurds. We suggest that the BBC commission a documentary on the Kurds in Iraq.
We hope that the British people understand that Kurdistan matters to us all. Just imagine if the barbarians of Daesh had breached the gates of Erbil in 2014 and captured its oil wealth. Apart from a huge toll in human lives, Daesh would have been better able to menace Iraq and other countries and that would have required massive Western intervention.
Thankfully, the Kurds held the line then. They are pioneering moderation now. The UK is well-placed to lend a hand for its own interests as well as theirs.