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March 14, 2012

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KRG UK Representation and parliamentarians mark Halabja anniversary and launch e-petition on recognition of Kurdish genocide


The event was held in a packed hall in the houses of parliament where more than 200 people from the Kurdish community as well as British friends of Kurdistan gave their backing to the petition and spoke out in support of the people of Halabja. Representatives of the leading political parties in Kurdistan in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria gave their parties' support to the effort to win recognition of the genocide. The petition is an electronic one that needs 100,000 signatures on a UK government website in order to trigger a debate in the British parliament. It calls on Britain, as the home of freedom and democracy, to recognise what happened to the Kurds as genocide and to encourage the United Nations and European Union to do the same. The petition can only be signed by British citizens and residents, including Kurds living in Britain who have that status. The campaign is being coordinated by the KRG UK Representation with the parliamentarians and the Kurdish Genocide Advisory Group. Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon and sponsor of the e-petition, said, “Genocide is the worst crime that can be committed by humanity, and it befell Iraqi Kurds. It is our duty as a civilised society to remember and honour the victims. It’s important that our parliament in the UK leads the way in the European Union and the United Nations to recognise the genocide against the Kurds. One hundred thousand signatures isn’t a big ask for those who gave their lives for our freedom.” Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the UK, said, "The chemical attack on Halabja, which has come to symbolise the entire genocide, was one savage act among many in the genocide against the Kurds which included the targeting of Faylees, the arabisation of Kirkuk, the disappearance of the Barzanis and the Anfal campaign." She added, "I urge every Kurd who is a British citizen or resident to sign this e-petition and to encourage their British friends to do the same. If we get a debate in parliament and then recognition of the genocide by the British government, your signatures will have made history. It's the least we can do for those who died." The chairman of the rally, Robert Halfon MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, said, “It is strange that whilst the world knows much about modern genocide -- the Bosnians by the Serbs, the tragedy of Rwanda -- little is known about the Kurdish story. In fact, their genocide which is known to most as Anfal, is not even recognised as a genocide by the United Nations -- something that I, chairing a committee of academics, lawyers, and parliamentarians, am trying to change. Mr Halfon added, “ There has been little justice meted out to those responsible for the Kurdish genocide. The Kurds have waited too long for justice.” Ann Clwyd MP, a longtime friend of Kurdistan, spoke of the efforts she and others had made over the past two decades to indict leading figures in Saddam Hussein's regime and to help the victims of Halabja and the Anfal campaign. She also spoke of visiting the mass graves in Iraq. "There is nothing more awful than standing on the edge of a mass grave to watch the bodies being dug up and their families looking on, identifying them, saying this is my husband, this is my son," she said. Lord Archer, in a rousing speech, recalled his first visit to Halabja which he described as a 'ghost town' and said that one of the great delights of his life was to see justice against Saddam Hussein. He added, "Let's get those 100,000 names and let the world never forget the evil that was perpetrated against the Kurds." In a powerful and moving account, Richard Beeston, foreign editor of The Times, who was one of the first journalists to be in Halabja just after the bombings took place, said, “Looking down from the helicopter we sensed something was wrong. There were no people and no traffic. When we landed we could see the bodies. I was a young reporter but I knew this was an enormous crime. I went on to cover many wars but the memories of Halabja are fresh in my mind." Mr Beeston also said, “I went back to Halabja many years later, in the spring, and in the hills there were young people picnicking, happy. It was a very emotional moment. It reminded me of the power of humanity to overcome the worst of war. Kurdistan is a shining example to others of what's possible if you take your fate into your hands and fight for your democratic rights." Gwynne Roberts, director of the Kurdistan Memory Project, showed a short film highlighting the many communities that were targets of poison gas. Other speakers included Hemen Hawrami, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's head of foreign relations, and Shahnaz Ibrahim Ahmed, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's UK office. Other Kurdish parties from Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria also had messages of support. Tom Hardie-Forsyth, a former British army officer who helped to establish the safe haven in 1991, Hugo Charlton, a human rights lawyer, Dr Gregory Kent of Roehampton University and Laween Atroshi, a healthcare professional, also spoke. Several parliamentarians attended the meeting to show their support for the signatures drive, including Lord Clement-Jones and Meg Munn MP calling on everyone eligible to support and sign the e-petition. Several other messages were read out at the rally, which were sent from MPs and peers as well as others keen to help gather 100,000 names. The written messages sent included statements from Lord Dubs, Lord Truscott, Baroness Meacher, Lord Harris, Paul Bloomfield MP, Ian Mearns MP, Michael Gapes MP, and Fabian Hamilton MP. The Halabja Chemical Victims Society as well as the Mayor of Halabja also sent messages of support. Click here to read all the messages of support received so far

The petition to the British government says: 

“We urge the Government to recognise formally the Genocide against the people of Iraqi Kurdistan and to encourage the EU and UN to do likewise. This will enable Kurdish people, many in the UK, to achieve justice for their considerable loss. It would also enable Britain, the home of democracy and freedom, to send out a message of support for international conventions and human rights. The Genocide perpetrated over decades, known collectively as the Anfal, began with the arabisation of villages around Kirkuk in 1963. It involved the deportation and disappearances of Faylee Kurds in the 1970s-80s, the murder of 8,000 male Barzanis in 1983, the use of chemical weapons in the late 1980s, most notably against Halabja, and finally the Anfal campaign of 1987-88. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people perished, families were torn apart, with continuing health problems, and 4,500 villages were destroyed between 1976 and 1988 undermining the potential of Iraqi Kurdistan's agricultural resources.” To sign the e-petition, please go to the link below. We appreciate your support. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014 

For the photo gallery, please click here.

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