Parliament debate Kurdish genocide – selected articles

The British Parliament has not recognised the ANFAL genocide. British MP’s adopted a ‘symbolic motion’ that called on the British government to recognise it. And the British Government had already made a statement a few weeks ago in response to the petition that it could not frecognise it for legal reasons…I have selected a few relevant articles (ie Gary Kent makes fairly accurate assessment) and highlighted red the important bits, also attached the text of the petition and the response of the Government.

Ruwayda MustafahBritish-Kurdish activist, writer and law graduate.


(Should have “some” to be correct, maybe 20 out of 600) British MPs Officially Recognise Halabja Genocide

Posted: 01/03/2013 19:36 – Nadhim Zahawi, Conservative MP was born to Kurdish parents in Iraq. He told the House of Commons on Thursday, “As the horrors of holocaust pass beyond living memory, there is a danger that we dropped our guard, that we believed such terrible events are safely sealed in the history books, that they could never happen again”. He went to explain that between 1987 and 1988, the horrors of genocide and mass-murder were committed by Saddam Hussein’s regime against Kurdish people.

The Parliamentary debate was scheduled on March because during this month the genocide is commemorated. British MPs adopted a ‘symbolic motion’ that called on the British government to recognise the mass-murder. The Halabja poisonous gas attack is known by several names, namely ‘bloody friday’, which took place on March 16, 1988. Chemicals weapons were used against civilians indiscriminately by the Iraqi government. The attack killed thousands of people, and injured more than 10,000.

Thousands of Kurdish civilians died of complications caused by the poisonous gas, and birth defects were reported years after the attack. The attack has been recognised as an genocidal attack against Kurdish people, and remains to be the largest chemical weapons attack by a government against its own civilians.

It is crucial to note that the Halabja genocide is different from the Anfal campaign, where Saddam Hussein and his ilk attempted to wipe Southern Kurdistan of Kurds, and Arabize it. According to Human Rights Watch, some 4,000 villages out of 4,655 were wiped out. More than 250 of these villages were attacked with chemical weapons. This includes 1,700 schools, 2,450 mosques and 27 churches during the Anfal campaign.

On March 1st of 2010, the Iraqi High Criminal Court recognised the Halabja massacre as an act of genocide. The decision was welcomed by Kurdistan Regional Government, and since then the attack has been condemned as a crime against humanity by the Parliament of Canada.

The attack lasted for nearly five hours. Photos show local children with their faces burned. Some survivors have explained that the gas smelled of sweet apples at first, and that in some instances it caused immediate death, while others coughed continuously until they died from ‘burning and blistering’.

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

Since the Parliamentary debate, some websites have mistakenly claimed that the British Parliament has recognised the Genocide against Kurdish people. The confusion is partially due to the lack of understanding of the nature of such debates, and authority of the debates, as well as the lack of coverage given to the debate by mainstream media outlets explaining its significance.


Historic Debate Secures Parliamentary Recognition of the Kurdish Genocide

 01/03/2013 15:04 by Gary Kent – 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, led by Iraqi born Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, to break the silence on this untold story. The word historic is often overused but for once we can say that this debate 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.

The debate was also 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.

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.

But this debate was radically different. The Government made clear weeks before that it couldn’t recognise the genocide although it acknowledged the unique suffering of the Kurds. The Labour opposition reached the same conclusion.

The Foreign Office was 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.”

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 that “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. He 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.


British government reluctant to recognize Kurdish murders as genocide

Mon Feb 4, 2013 6:16PM GMT – Dale McEwan, Press TV, Arbil

The British government is reluctant to recognize the murder of thousands of Iraqi Kurds by former dictator Saddam Hossein as genocide. London says it’s waiting for an international judicial body to make such a declaration first.

The British government calls it a “complex legal question”. But the Kurds who lived through the crimes call them genocide. The British government is reluctant to recognise the murder of thousands of Iraqi Kurds as genocide.

A statement from the British government says: “… It is not for governments to decide whether a genocide has been committed in this case, as this is a complex legal question. Where an international judicial body finds a crime to have been a genocide, however, this will often play an important part in whether we will recognise one as such.” But Britain does admit that “no group suffered more than the Iraqi Kurds”.

Britain’s response comes amid an online petition calling on the parliament to hold a debate to recognise the deaths as genocide. The petition will close in March and still needs over 72,000 signatures.

The Anfal attacks against Iraqi Kurds ran from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Hundreds of thousands were murdered. Saddam Hussein spearheaded a chemical gas assault on Halabja town in 1988.

In December Sweden’s parliament became the first to recognise the murders as genocide.

Some observers say recognition of the attacks as genocide could help to prevent similar atrocities in other countries. But if governments become reluctant to take their own action, independent of what others believe, when will the international community feel compelled to take decisive action on such crimes?

– See more at: