Kurdish Genocide event at the European Parliament

On Tuesday 26 March 2013, the 25th anniversary of Halabja chemical attacks and Anfal Campaign against Kurds has been commemorated in the European Parliament (EP) by an exhibition organized by the KRG and UNPO.

On the occasion of the Halabja/Anfal anniversary, a three-day Halabja Exhibition has been opened in the EP. The event was organized in cooperation with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) as part of the KRG’s global campaign for recognition of the Kurdish Genocide. The exhibition is supported by the deputy chair of the EP Subcommittee on Human Rights, MEP Joanna Senyszyn. Members of the European Parliament from different political groups attended the opening of the exhibition, among them Hans-Gert Pöttering, former EP President, Ana Gomes, Socialists and Democrats Foreign Affairs Coordinator, Struan Stevenson, Chair of the EP-Iraq Delegation, Jürgen Klute, Chair of the EP-Kurdish Friendship Group and MEP Jim Higgings. Many diplomats, representatives of European and Kurdish NGOs and political parties were also present.

The event was opened by MEP Senyszyn who welcomed the guests and shared her feelings of honour and pride to host the Kurdish exhibition. The Head of KRG Mission to EU, Delaver Ajgeiy presented shortly the historical context of Halabja gas attack and Anfal campaign: “The people of Kurdistan have been victims of internationally recognized crimes committed by the former Iraqi regime and in particular by the Baath regime leaded by Saddam Hussein. At the beginning of the 70s, the Iraqi government carried out an ethnic cleansing programme in Kirkuk, Khaneqin and Sindjar and other areas inhabited by Kurds, Turkmen and other minorities to change the demographic structure of these areas. This annihilation programme continued until 2003. In 80s the Iraqi government was responsible for some ten thousands Feyli Kurds who disappeared without trace. To this day it is not known, but it is believed that they were executed by the Iraqi government. In 1983 the Iraqi government took some 8.000 men and boys from the Barzani tribes. 22 years after their disappearance it has been discovered that they were imprisoned in concentration camps in the south of Iraq, executed and buried in mass graves. At least one hundred eighty two thousand (182.000) people from Kurdistan were killed by the Iraqi regime in the 70s and 80s. The majority of these people were killed from 1978 to 1989 in the genocide campaign that the regime officially called Anfal. During these campaign the Iraqi government abducted and executed tens of thousands of civilians, including large number of woman and children and destroyed our 5 000 of villages”.

Mr. Ajgeiy described the tragic events on 15 March 1988: “The Iraqi military bombarded the town of Halabja with chemical weapons killing at least 5000 civilian, men, women, children, animal, including anything living. The Iraqi military bombarded with chemical weapons many other villages in Kurdistan. In conducting this genocide campaign the Iraqi government destroyed much of the civilian and infrastructure in areas inhabited by Kurds and damaged the environment of Kurdistan. However, this inhuman act has not been taken seriously by the international public opinion and it failed to prevent such acts in the world after Halabja”.

In conclusion of his speech and on behalf of Kurdistan Government, Mr. Ajgeiy urged the European Parliament to recognize formally the Genocide against the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and called the United Nations to do likewise:“We also ask our friends in the European Parliament and other international organisations to play a stronger role in the international recognition of the genocide against Kurds. Kurdistan Region needs resources, as well as help from the international community to deal with the consequences of this genocide. On behalf of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Kurdish people I would like to thank you all to be here today and a special thanks to all those who have worked hard for this event”.


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“We have turned Irbil from a run-down and shabby place into a little Dubai”

Iraqi Kurds, roughly estimated at five million, have stunningly rebuilt a dirt-poor and traumatised society from scratch since they gained their autonomy in 1991. This report at the BBC outlines progress in Iraqi Kurdistan – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21900576

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Snowballing support for recognising the Kurdish Genocide

Westminster MPs from the all-party parliamentary group together with British activists from the three main political parties and writers recently joined many others from across the world to attend the international conference on the Genocide in Erbil and the international civic ceremony in Halabja.

These 25th anniversary events also garnered valuable messages of support. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair sent his warm and full support and said that “Halabja was one of the world’s greatest crimes, the first time a Government used chemical weapons against a civilian population. It should always be remembered and marked.”

The official American message honored the victims of Halabja and the Anfal as part of US efforts to prevent future atrocities and help ensure that perpetrators of such crimes are held accountable.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan sent a very important message which saluted the KRG authorities for organizing the conference in Erbil and Halabja as “a testimony to the deep wound opened in the conscience of humanity that is still bleeding even after 25 years.”

He recalled how Turkey had received “Iraqi Kurdish brothers fleeing from the Halabja massacre with open arms, mobilising every resource at its disposal.” He added that Turkey will continue to work with utmost determination so that tragedies such as Halabja never happen again, and so that peace and brotherhood prevail in the region.

He cited massacres and bombardments by the murderous regime in Syria, and how Turkey has “opened its doors to the aggrieved Syrian people and embraced our Syrian brothers in its arms, as we did 25 years ago for our Kurdish brothers struggling for their lives under the oppression of Saddam.”

The message pointedly added that the peoples of the region should be ruled by “leaders who will not resort to cruelty or point guns at them, and that a culture of harmony, tolerance, coexistence and cooperation among different ethnic and sectarian groups prevails.” Baghdad and Syria should take note.

The UK Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, described Halabja as a terrible symbol of inhumanity. His Labour shadow Ian Lucas cited “the dreadful suffering of Iraqi Kurds” and said that we must remember always the attack and respect the loss of its victims which must remain “a continuing lesson for us all.”

Officers of the all-party group have tabled a Commons motion backing the decision of Burt and Lucas to work together and with KRG representatives to try to overcome legal obstacles and find a suitable pathway for recognition by the British Government.

The British Parliament’s official recognition of the Kurdish Genocide was highlighted in speeches by British MPs Nadhim Zahawi and Robert Halfon and seems to have put the continuing global campaign on a new footing. The British Parliament wasn’t the first in the field – that honour rightly lies with the Swedes and the Norwegians – but it is the first major Parliament to do so. This may have started what the Norwegian Deputy Speaker Akhtar Chaudrya told me is a “snowball effect” with parliamentarians elsewhere seeing the need to follow the North European example.

A member of the Scottish Parliament, Hanzala Malik, who was part of a previous all-party delegation, has already tabled a motion which urges the devolved Scottish Government to “consider what support it can give to a growing and global campaign to mark the Kurdish genocide and bring comfort to the people of the Kurdistan region in Iraq, which has many similarities to Scotland and whose people and society continue to suffer the devastating impact of the genocide.” There is a debate on Halabja in the Scottish Parliament this week.

Former French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner also pledged to help persuade the French National Assembly to follow the British example. There is also talk of the German Parliament embracing recognition.

The Iraqi Human Rights Minister also suggested at the Erbil conference that Iraq should ask the UN to set a day for worldwide commemoration of the Genocide. It would be highly symbolic for Baghdad to make that move.

I am no lawyer but acknowledge that there are legal complexities for governments. Important issues of reparations and prosecutions could flow from recognition by governments. But moral and political recognition also has many dividends.

If we don’t remember what happened in the past then it is more likely to happen again. The old slogan, often applied to the Holocaust and anti-fascist causes, is “Never Again.” It’s a fine sentiment but hollow if it doesn’t involve action in real time to prevent such events. The more countries that mark the Kurdish genocide, through parliaments, governments, towns, civic groups, school talks and visits the better. There is a handful of memorials in Britain. There should be more. The 25th anniversary of Halabja has helped develop an international momentum that puts the past Kurdish Genocide and the future of the Kurdish people firmly on the map.

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Dave Anderson MP outlines why world should have intervened against Saddam earlier

Ten years ago, I was utterly opposed to the invasion of Iraq. At the time I was President of Unison and sat on the TUC general council, so like a lot of others in the labour movement I did my bit to lobby against Western intervention, believing that the reasons given for invasion were not justified, that the argument about WMD was not proven and that inspections should have been given a chance to work.

But in the years since I have had to face new facts having been to Iraq to see things for myself. I now see that the international community should have toppled Saddam Hussein earlier, as my Kurdish comrades have told me in clear terms.

One benefit — one very close to my heart — of Saddam’s removal, was the re-emergence of a trade union movement which had been brutally suppressed by his regime. My union Unison decided to help workers by setting up a training scheme for shop stewards and I was really proud when we finally established a training school in Kurdistan in 2006.

Early in that year I joined a Labour Friends of Iraq delegation to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. I was struck by the attitude of the trade unionists: comrades and friends keen to develop their skills so that they could better stand up for working people.

The first thing that they said was, “We need your help. We need your Government to start investing in this country, because if they do not invest we will not have work, and without work we do not have a trade union movement.” That was a very simple equation.

The other thing they said, very clearly, was “We thank you, as a nation, for what you did for us in 1991, and we thank you even more for what you did for us in 2003, when you liberated us.” That was a shock for me. I saw 2003 as an invasion by an unwanted occupying power.

However, it was all very well for me, sitting in the comfort of Blaydon, to say that it was really, really wrong for the allied forces to invade. It was not me being wiped off the face of the earth by Saddam’s thugs. It was not my parents being buried alive. It was not my village being flattened.

It did not change my view that we invaded Iraq for the wrong reasons, but what became ever clearer to me was that we should have liberated Iraq many years earlier. If we had, we could have stopped genocide being unleashed against the Iraqi people.

In the 1980s, before Saddam overplayed his hand and invaded Kuwait, we were doing the bidding of Saddam Hussein by doing nothing to curb his murderous instincts. We sat on our hands, supporting Washington’s position, and watched while the Iranians and the Iraqis wiped out one million of their own citizens in their bloody, pointless eight-year war. And when Saddam, under the cover of war, launched a genocidal campaign against the Kurds, we ignored it. It was a price worth paying for Saddam to control the Ayatollah and his acolytes. Indeed, not only did we ignore such terrible bloodshed and repression, but we sold arms to both sides.

Many who have been to Kurdistan have, like me, visited the “Red House”, the torture chamber in the northern city of Sulaimani. It is a huge building in the main street. No attempt was made by the Baathist authorities to hide what went on there; indeed, every horror was documented in triplicate.

While I was there I saw some guards — Kurdish men — watching the trial of Saddam live on television. The juxtaposition was extraordinary — for those men, sitting in what had been one of Saddam’s torture chambers, the trial of the dictator being played out on the TV screen, this was life-changing: it would give them a chance to get their lives back. For people such as me who had not wanted this country to go into Iraq, it was a wake-up call that could not be ignored.

I visited villages where people saw their way of life terminated. Squads of Baathists snatched men from their homes and killed them. But they were not even give the quick death of a bullet in the brain; they were chucked in trenches and then bulldozers got to work, burying them alive.

I also visited a former concentration camp in Erbil. There we found the children and women who had been snatched from the countryside, once the bread basket of Iraq. All that they wanted to do was return home to their abandoned fields and farms. But they cannot because they know longer know how to farm — their fathers had been killed years before, so they have nobody to tell them how to do things.

A close friend of mine, Hangaw Khan, a Kurdish union leader, asked me to campaign to recognise the genocide against the Kurds — “in the name of our burned country, the pure pink blood of our genocide martyrs, buried alive innocent women and children, burned and drowned thousands Kurdish by chemical gas.”

His words should haunt all of us. The uncomfortable lesson I draw is that Britain could have stopped this. We, and the rest of the world, could have taken real action before Saddam’s genocide and repression became industrial. We could have, and should have, toppled Saddam years before we did.

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Energy, Federalism, the Constitution and Iraqi Unity

The great achievement of post-Saddam Iraq is its transition from a centralised and mainly Sunni dominated one-party rule to federalism and power-sharing between Sunnis, Kurds and Shia, and small minorities. All this is, or should be, governed by the constitution, approved by over 80% of the people in a referendum in 2005.

However, the constitution is largely ignored in Baghdad by a Prime Minister accruing authority through subterfuge by, for instance, appointing military commanders on a supposed temporary basis which bypasses parliamentary approval.

The health of power-sharing in Baghdad has worsened dramatically since American troops quit in December 2011, with Kurdish energy resources a main victim of the dysfunctional federal government in Baghdad.

Baghdad recently defaulted again on agreed payments for oil exports, which were halted. Baghdad’s sabotage of the Kurdish part of the Iraqi economy undermines Iraq’s unity and the constitution.

Baghdad repeatedly issues threats to cut the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) budget. There is even talk that Kurdistan should go its own way: “good riddance” as one senior member of the PM’s coalition put it recently. They should be careful what they wish for. Iraq as a whole would be immeasurably poorer without Kurdish political, cultural and economic contributions.

The Kurds are not planning independence but are determined to continue their economic miracle by exporting energy via new pipelines, with or without the consent of Baghdad and soon.

The current pipeline from Kirkuk-Ceyhan in Turkey should carry 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) but can only carry around 1.2 million bpd of light to medium and heavy crude. Yet the KRG expects to export at least 2 million bpd. Furthermore, exports from Kirkuk and surrounding fields could increase from around 400,000 to 1 million bpd. The northern corridor oil export capacity should be increased to 3 million bpd by constructing two new pipelines from the KRG direct to Ceyhan.

This infuriates Baghdad which claims that the KRG is acting illegally. Turkey fears that Baghdad’s threats to isolate the KRG and cut its budget will undermine stability and Iraqi unity. Autonomous Kurdish oil exports could make Baghdad reasonable. American policy could be decisive but is unclear.

The impasse is best resolved by returning to the 2005 constitution. Constitutions are dry documents but form the basis of transactions, not least given a history of caprice, centralisation and brutality in Iraq.

The constitution states that Iraq is a federal state, binding on all parts of Iraq. Baghdad’s refusal to implement proper power sharing, revenue sharing, and resolving the status of disputed territories undermine the constitution and Iraqi unity.

The constitution specifies Baghdad’s exclusive competences as: foreign policy; national security and defence policy; fiscal and customs policy; standards, weights and measures; citizenship and immigration; broadcasting and postal policies; budget; planning of waters flowing to Iraq; census and statistics. The constitution specifies that management of customs; generation and distribution of electric energy; environmental policy; development and planning policy; public health policy; educational policy; internal water resources policy are shared between federal and regional authorities.

The constitution recognises Kurdistan and its existing authorities. Its legislation, government decisions, court decisions and contracts enacted since 1992 are valid unless amended in Kurdistan or unless they contradict the constitution. Regional powers, outside defined federal roles, cannot be taken away without the approval of the concerned region’s legislature and a majority in a referendum.

The KRG can exercise all powers, particularly internal security, except for exclusively federal ones. It should receive an equitable share of national revenues. Federal law prevails on exclusive issues but regional law comes first on all others.

How does all this relate to oil and gas? The constitution stipulates that Baghdad, together with producing governorates and regional governments, undertakes the management of oil and gas from present fields. Crucially, they should together “formulate the necessary strategic policies to develop the oil and gas wealth in a way that achieves the highest benefit to the Iraqi people using the most advanced techniques of market principles and encouraging investment.”

In relation to energy “extracted from present fields,” Baghdad has a management role, with three important qualifications. Management is jointly undertaken. This role is limited to transportation, export and marketing. And revenues are fairly distributed.

This means that the operational management of extraction and production falls outside the federal role in any joint management. The clear inference is that present production includes fields developed in 2006, when the constitution begun.

But new finds are outside Baghdad’s control and for relevant governorates and regional government to manage. The KRG accepts that oil and gas are owned by all Iraqis but that they can determine how ownership is managed.

Baghdad has legislative authority and the constitution does not stipulate that contracts for present or future fields wait until strategic policies are agreed. Baghdad doesn’t have a constitutional veto.

The KRG can decide, subject to strategic policies jointly agreed with the federal government, on the terms and conditions for new fields. Baghdad has no such rights over new fields although Kurdistan could co-operate with the federal government.

Although the constitution gives Baghdad only a qualified right on transportation and marketing oil and gas extracted from present fields, the KRG has so far accepted a broader management role for Baghdad but may not do so in future without revenue sharing and a constitutionally correct hydrocarbons law.

This year will be one of reckoning for Iraq. Warmer relations between the Kurds and the Sunnis as well as between Kurdistan and Turkey illustrate that divisions can be overcome when economic self-interest and political will are combined.

Ancient strains and stresses are being exacerbated by the current PM. If the Iraqi Parliament’s decision to limit him to two terms is enacted, he will go in a year or so. That could allow Kurds, Shia, Sunni and small minorities, to make a federal Iraq work. The constitution is the country’s unity certificate and should be implemented.

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Interview with KRG UK Representative on British parliament’s recognition of Kurdish genocide

Last week the British parliament formally recognised the Kurdish genocide in Iraq. This follows a year-long petition campaign in the UK and lobbying within parliament by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation initiated and coordinated the campaign. KRG.org asks Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG Representative to the UK, about the debate in parliament and to clarify what recognition means.

More here http://www.krg.org/a/d.aspx?s=010000&l=12&a=46823

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Statement by Prime Minister Barzani on recognition of Kurdish genocide by British parliament

February 28, 2013

Earlier today the British parliament held a debate on whether to recognise the crimes committed against the people of Kurdistan in Iraq as genocide. We are pleased not only that such a debate took place but also that the British parliament now formally recognises the Kurdish genocide.

This is an important milestone in our struggle for justice, recognition and compensation for the thousands of men, women and children who died at the hands of the former regime. It is a significant landmark for the survivors of the Anfal and chemical bombardment and for the children of those who were martyred as they try to rebuild their lives.

We thank all those who worked hard to make this debate take place: the thousands of Kurds in the UK and British friends of Kurdistan who signed a petition calling for acknowledgement of the genocide; the British members of parliament, especially the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region, who worked to secure the debate; and the KRG UK Representation who initiated this project and followed it through to its successful conclusion.

We also welcome the statement by the Middle East Minister Alistair Burt during the debate that the government will work with the opposition party to collectively find a way to do more on acknowledging the genocide even though the government does not formally recognise it.

The British parliament’s recognition of the genocide follows similar acknowledgements by the Norwegian and Swedish parliaments last year. We thank them all and hope that this will inspire our friends and friends of human rights and freedom in other countries to do the same. We must all stand together against tyranny, where ever it may appear.

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Cathartic Commons debate on the Kurdish Genocide

The Commons has formally agreed to recognise the genocide against the Kurds 25 years after the poison-gas attack on Halabja and following a concerted campaign by Kurds and their British supporters to break the silence on this untold story.

The word historic is often overused but for once we can say that this debate on a motion moved by APPG Co-Chair Nadhim Zahawi MP was just that and showed Parliament at its best. It was an electric debate with passionate advocacy of recognition from both sides of the Commons, detailed and honest examination of the genocide and past relations with Iraq and powerful encouragement to deeper links between the UK and the Kurdistan Region. It was watched live around the world, not least by Kurds.

Many Commons debates are theatrically scripted. One side moves, the other opposes. They slug it out and one of them wins following prepared speeches with little or no quarter given to arguments from the other side. The Government had made clear weeks before that it couldn’t recognise the genocide although it acknowledged the unique suffering of the Kurds. The Labour Opposition reached a similar conclusion.
The Foreign Office is typically wary of unintended consequences. The Middle East Minister Alistair Burt very candidly told the Commons that he was sure that his brief and that of the Shadow Minister, Ian Lucas “said exactly the same thing: be very careful.”

The debate was, however, cathartic in moving the official Opposition and the Government from saying why they should resist recognition to being willing to work together to find how they can do it.
However, the passionate advocacy of the moral and political case for recognition shifted both from their prepared positions. The dynamic was first picked up by Lucas who said that “the cause of recognising the genocide in Kurdistan has noble, well informed and eloquent torchbearers.”

He outlined the legal complexities but accepted the need to find further common ground with the Government and the Kurds collectively. The theme was developed by Burt who admitted that his position was “clear, but not necessarily comfortable or sufficient” and “to the horror, no doubt, of officials,” conceded that “I do not think that I would be respecting the mood of the House and the way in which this issue has been debated if I were simply to say, ‘Look, this is our position, which you all know very well, and that is where we are.’” He added that both government and the Opposition know the implications, “but I think we both recognise that we would like to go a bit further.”

The formal recognition of the genocide by Parliament places the issue on a new plateau. The Government and the Opposition made formal commitments to co-operate in finding a legal pathway for recognition. It is not a done deal but it is much better than myself and others expected.

The debate was also characterised by searing honesty and soul-searching about the past from MPs with a long track record of support for the Kurds. Stalwarts Ann Clwyd and Jeremy Corbyn were the first to condemn Halabja. They both rounded on past British Governments that continued business as usual with Saddam including support for the Baghdad Arms Fair after Halabja. The Minister said that his predecessors were probably not right about that.

Labour MP Dave Anderson, who “completely and utterly” opposed the 2003 intervention explained how he had changed his mind through links with Kurdish trade unionists. We both went together in early 2006 to the Kurdistan Region as guests of its labour movement. Dave told the Commons that they had told him “We thank you, as a nation, for what you did for us in 1991, and we thank you even more for what you did for us in 2003, when you liberated us.’”

He confessed that “that was a shock for me: it was a slap in the face. I had seen what happened in 2003 as an invasion. However, it was all very well for me, sitting in the comfort of (his constituency) Blaydon, to say that it was really, really wrong. It was not me who was being wiped off the face of the earth, it was not my parents who were being buried alive, it was not my village that was being flattened, and it was not my real life—my community—that was being devastated and destroyed. That was happening to these people. Listening to what they said did not change my view that we went into Iraq for the wrong reasons, but what became very clear to me, and has remained clear to me ever since, was that we should have done it 20 years earlier. Why on earth did we not do that? If we had, this disgraceful thing (Halabja) would not have happened.”

It is clear that the testimony of survivors, and the eloquence of the advocates could result in formal recognition of the Kurdish genocide by the British Government as well as its Parliament. This can then make it much more likely that the world will finally understand what happened to the Kurds and that the genocide will come to be marked in similar ways to other genocides.

Gary Kent

The whole debate can be read online at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130228/debtext/130228-0002.htm#13022853000002

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British parliament unanimously recognises Kurdish genocide

London, UK – (KRG.org) – Today the British parliament unanimously recognised the Kurdish genocide in Iraq while the government and opposition pledged to work together do more on acknowledging the genocide even though the government does not formally recognise it.

The formal recognition by the British parliament comes after a year-long campaign to raise awareness of the genocide in Britain and to gather signatures for a petition calling on Britain to formally acknowledge that the crimes committed against the Kurds amounted to genocide. Almost 28,000 people have signed the petition so far.

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the decision and thanked those who campaigned and the MPs who spoke in the debate. He said, “The British parliament’s recognition of the genocide follows similar acknowledgements by the Norwegian and Swedish parliaments last year. We thank them all and hope that this will inspire our friends and friends of human rights and freedom in other countries to do the same. We must all stand together against tyranny, wherever it may appear.”

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs Aram Ahmed said, “This was a milestone for the Kurdish people, especially the victims of the genocide, and we thank the British parliament for their support for those who suffered so much. The parliament’s decision and the government’s positive attitude means we are a step closer to wider international recognition and justice.”

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG’s High Representative to the UK, said, “The recognition today was a major and historic step forward for all Kurds. Parliament unanimously recognised the genocide. The British government Minister for the Middle East was so moved by the passionate advocacy of the case for recognising the genocide that he moved away from his prepared speech and committed the government to work with the Labour opposition to work out how the British Government could make its position on the genocide more positive. This is a very unusual development. We must thank the Kurdish community and all those who signed the petition, and the members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region who spoke so compellingly in the debate.”

The debate was attended by the Minister, the High Representative, the chief of mission at the Iraqi Embassy Dr Muhiadin Hussein and over 100 members of the Kurdish community and British friends of Kurdistan.

Nadhim Zahawi, the first Kurdish-born British MP, put forward the motion that the British parliament recognises the Kurdish genocide and will encourage governments, the United Nations and European Union to do the same. He began the debate by speaking of his own family’s flight from Iraq for fear of being killed by the Baathist regime.

He and other members of parliament from the two main political parties, Conservative and Labour, spoke of the crimes committed against the Kurds over several decades, the chemical bombardment of Halabja, the disappearance of the Barzanis and the Anfal campaign in which 182,000 were killed.

They all called for recognition of the crimes committed against the Kurds as genocide. They also highlighted the good relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the UK and the Kurdish people’s hospitality and optimism. They pointed out that other European parliaments and the Iraqi courts had already recognised the genocide formally.

Ian Lucas, the opposition’s Shadow Middle East Minister, echoed the sentiments of the speakers and called for the MPs, the government, opposition and KRG to work together on the government’s position on the issue of recognition. The British government in February said that no one suffered more than the Kurds in Iraq but that it was not up to governments to recognise genocides, it was up to the international courts.

However, following the passionate speeches by several MPs, Alistair Burt, the Middle East Minister, said during the debate that the government will work with the opposition party to collectively find a way to do more on acknowledging the genocide even though the government does not formally recognise it.

He also spoke about the strong relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Britain, his two visits to the region and the many visits to the UK by Kurdish officials. He said he had listened to the debate carefully which included moving advocacy from MPs. He said he had great sympathy with the motion of the debate and the government would find the parliamentary debate helpful.

The motion was then put to a vote and was unanimously carried.

The speakers included Meg Munn, Robert Halfon, David Anderson, Ann Clwyd, Jeremy Corbyn, Mike Gapes, David Lammy, Stephen Metcalfe and Bob Stewart.

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Nadhim Zahawi makes the case for recognition of the Kurdish Genocide

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.

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