Campaigners win a Parliamentary debate on the Kurdish genocide in Iraq, following more than 27,000 signatures on Government e-petition
13th February 2013: It has been announced today that the British Parliament will debate a motion calling for formal recognition of the mass murder of Kurdish people in Iraq as genocide. The news follows a tireless campaign for recognition, supported by more than 27,500 British citizens, who have all signed an e-petition demanding justice for the murdered Kurds.
The debate will take place in the main chamber at 1:30pm on the 28th February. It will be based on a votable motion, the successful end result of which is that Parliament will have recognised the genocide.
The debate itself represents a significant victory for the campaign e-petition, sponsored by Nadhim Zahawi MP, which was launched in March last year in a bid to urge the British Government to debate the mass killings and recognize the truth. The campaign has since been supported throughout the year by the Kurdish community, the Kurdistan Regional Government UK Representation, and British MPs from all political parties, especially those who are members of the highly supportive All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurdistan including Robert Halfon MP, and Meg Munn MP. Together, they recently made a successful presentation to the Business Committee which allocates time for debates in Parliament.
During the presentation, Nadhim Zahawi MP told the Committee that his father was forced to flee Iraq simply because he was Kurdish and he was not willing to join the Baath party. He said that Britain has been heavily involved with the Kurdish people going back to Sykes-Picot, but more recently with Sir John Major who saved the Kurdish people with the no-fly zone and Tony Blair who is seen as the liberator of the Kurds.
Robert Halfon MP said that unless the genocide is recognised internationally, people cannot be brought to justice. Meanwhile, Meg Munn MP said that the debate would have a wider resonance given events in Syria, and Fabian Hamilton MP cited good cross-party support for a debate. Jason McCartney MP, who served as a Royal Air Force officer in the no-fly zone in Zakho, said it would be a fitting tribute to have the debate on the 25th anniversary of the chemical weapons attack on Halabja.
The Kurdistan Regional Government High Representative to the UK, Ms. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman said:
“The genocide brought unimaginable suffering to our people: families were torn apart, sons and fathers killed en masse or simply buried alive, women and children bombed with poison gas. We believe that this suffering needs to be acknowledged, not just by us Kurds and Iraqis, but by our friends too, so that the victims’ families and the survivors can reach closure and a message is sent out to any other regime oppressing its people or considering using chemical weapons. Imagine how heartened the survivors who are now British citizens would feel to be in the chamber, listening to such a debate.”
Ms. Rahman also told the committee how the Swedish and Norwegian parliaments recently debated the genocide and the Kurdish community is wondering why Britain had not yet done the same.
In January, the British Government issued a response to the e-petition which acknowledged that no group suffered more than the Iraqi Kurds. However, the Government response went on to say that It remains the Governments view that it is not for governments to decide whether a genocide has been committed in this case, as this is a complex legal question.
The debate on the 28th February may encourage the Government to change its position.
For further information, please contact Stephanie Blott or Helen Ayres at KRG@luther.co.uk or call 0207 618 9193.
The Government response to the e-petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014
The e-petition can be found here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014
Campaign website: http://www.justice4genocide.com/index.php
The motion to be debated is as follows:
The 25th anniversary of the Kurdish genocide and its contemporary relevance
That this House formally recognises the Genocide against the people of
Iraqi Kurdistan and encourages governments, the EU and UN to do
likewise; believes that this will enable Kurdish people, many in the
UK, to achieve justice for their considerable loss; further believes
that it would also enable Britain, the home of democracy and freedom,
to send out a message of support for international conventions and
human rights, which is made even more pressing by the slaughter in
Syria and the possible use of chemical arsenals.
Some key facts about the genocide
· The genocide of Kurdish people in Iraq began in the 1960s and continued until the late 1980s.
· In 2006, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) estimated there being 270 mass graves in Iraq containing between 10 and 10,000 bodies in each grave.
· An estimated 180,000 Kurdish people were killed between 1987 and 1988 alone during Saddam Hussein’s genocidal campaign called Anfal. The true scale of the killing from the 1960s to 1990 is not yet known.
· In the 1980s, the Kurdish population was also attacked with chemical weapons. During the most vicious assault, Saddam Hussein dropped bombs containing chemical weapons on the Kurdish city of Halabja gassing as many as 5,000 men, women and children to death indiscriminately and leaving tens of thousands of people injured. They died slowly, in unimaginable pain from chemical burns. Of those who survived, many still live with painful injuries and many children are born with birth defects.
· In 1983, 8,000 men and boys of ‘battle age’ from the Kurdish Barzani tribe were rounded up on trucks and vanished. The bodies are now being discovered in mass graves. From then on, men and boys as young as 13 were targeted , driven far away from their homes in trucks and executed en masse. Many victims were tied together, made to stand on the lip of pre-dug graves and shot in the back so they would fall forward into them. Others were made to lie down in pairs, sardine-style, next to mounds of fresh corpses before being killed. Some, who didn’t die from gun shots were then buried alive.
· Of the total Kurdish victims, an estimated 70% were men, according to Human Rights Watch
· 90% of Kurdish villages and more than 20 small towns and cities were completely destroyed during the campaign to wipe out the Kurdish population in Iraq.
· In 1993, US-based Human Rights Watch launched an extensive investigation into the attack on the Kurds by Saddam Hussein’s regime and concluded that it was genocide.
· In 2005, the court in the Hague established that the chemical bombing in Kurdistan constituted genocide in a landmark case in 2005 – the Frans Van Anraat Trial. During the Appeal, it was later referred to as ‘war crimes’.
· The Iraqi High Tribunal found Sultan Hashim Ahmad, Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, and Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as Chemical Ali) guilty of genocide in 2007.
· The research institute Swiss Peace recognized the genocide in 2008.
· In 2008 the Iraqi Presidential Council approved Resolution 26 ratifying a parliamentary resolution condemning the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime against the Kurds as acts of genocide. This resolution affirmed the previous parliamentary resolution that declared all acts committed against the Kurds in Iraqi-Kurdistan by the former regime were to be considered genocide.
· In March 2010, the Iraqi Supreme Court ruled that the 1988 attacks on the Kurdish population were indeed genocide.
Wikileaks release: February 2, 2009
Publisher: United States Congressional Research Service
Title: The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq
CRS report number: RS22079
Author(s): Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
Date: January 8, 2009
The Kurdish-inhabited region of northern Iraq has been relatively peaceful and prosperous since the fall of Saddam Hussein. However, the Iraqi Kurds’ political autonomy, demands, and ambitions are causing friction with Christian and other minorities in the north, with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Arab leaders of Iraq, and with neighboring Turkey, and Iran. These tensions threaten to undermine the stability achieved throughout Iraq in 2008, although U.S. political influence over the Kurds is likely to prevent a near term de-stabilizing escalation of the disputes. The U.S. ability to keep these tensions contained could wane as U.S. forces, as planned, draw down from Iraq over the next three years.
About this CRS report
This document was obtained by Wikileaks from the United States Congressional Research Service. The CRS is a Congressional “think tank” with a staff of around 700. Reports are commissioned by members of Congress on topics relevant to current political events. Despite CRS costs to the tax payer of over $100M a year, its electronic archives are, as a matter of policy, not made available to the public. Individual members of Congress will release specific CRS reports if they believe it to assist them politically, but CRS archives as a whole are firewalled from public access. This report was obtained by Wikileaks staff from CRS computers accessible only from Congressional offices.
**Download report here. .pdf, 513KB**
One of the common failings among honourable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonourable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.
In Baqi Barzani’s most recent column on KurdNet (25 July 2010), Obama’s administration less supportive of Kurdish rights, I believe he mistakenly portrays what is happening today with Washington’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the Kurds in northern Iraq. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first I want to put this discussion into some context.
In 1973 Mullah Mustafa Barzani said to Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post: ‘I trust America. America is too great a power to betray a small people like the Kurds.’ But betray the Kurds it did. And did it again. And again.
The relationship between Washington and the Kurds has been an abusive and duplicitous one in which the Kurds are kept at bay and become ‘friends’ only when Washington wants to destabilise the government in Baghdad.
Remember the plan cooked up by Henry Kissinger and the Shah of Iran in 1972? Their view was that the Kurds were ‘a card to play’ against Iraq and ‘a uniquely useful tool.’ The Kurds were no longer a useful tool after 1975.
What happened in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War? The US urged the Kurds to rise up against Saddam. And then left them to defend against themselves. The creation of the ‘safe haven’ thereafter was the result of worldwide media pressure on the US and Europe. Not as a result of Washington’s interest in protecting the Kurds.
This is a reflection of long-standing US policy in the region and part of global US policy, which looks out for US interests and US interests only. Washington is in the habit of making promises that it does not keep. Why anyone continues to believe them is beyond comprehension.
So Baqi Barzani begins his column by saying that ‘foreign policies and relations can shift with the rise of new administrations to power.’ This is true to some extent, but I believe that with regards to the Middle East, Israel, oil, and the Kurds there is really no change from one administration to the next. There are shifts in nuances to the policies, but forces in place in Washington do an astounding job at keeping the status quo. If they want you to think the policy has changed, they just lie about it.
Barzani says that George W. Bush ‘will be extolled for generations to come’ and that Bush’s ‘unrelenting support for Kurdish rights in Iraq’ has put him forever into ‘the hearts and minds of myriad Kurds all over the world.’ Please find me something that truly supports the notion of George W. Bush’s ‘unrelenting support’ of the Kurds in Iraq.
Bush and his administration did not invade Iraq because of any love for the Kurds. The plan to remove Saddam was in place before Bush took office. The attacks of 11 September then provided the perfect cover to go ahead with the invasion. Bush has become an accidental hero.
As Quill Lawrence writes, Bush ‘was hoping to send his troops through Turkey and was willing to make a deal with the Turkish government by which they would be able to send up to 60,000 troops of their own into northern Iraq with the invading force. The Kurds were pretty sure that these troops were not going to be friendly to them.’
Does that sound like the plan of someone with Kurdish rights in mind? Thankfully, on 01 March 2003 the Turkish parliament voted to reject the US plan and did not allow US troops through Turkey.
The Kurds then, whose aspirations of greater autonomy were encouraged by Washington, helped US troops gain control of the northern Kurdish regions, fighting side-by-side with coalition forces.
Less than a year later, Paul Bremer, head of the coalition government in Iraq, ‘told Kurdish leaders brusquely…to forget the past US autonomy policy and get with the unity program.’ The need for Kurdish assistance had ended and the US began pushing Kurdish forces back from Mosul and Kirkuk, focusing on the bigger Iraq picture.
Baqi Barzani refers to as the Obama administration being ‘less supportive of Kurdish rights’ than the Bush administration. While I do not appreciate Obama’s relative silence on the issue of the Kurds, I do not see what is happening now as an intentional decrease in support. It is merely an outcome, albeit a disappointing one, of Washington’s policy of Iraqi unity. Just as what happened with the 2003 invasion was an outcome of policy under Bush.
Obama met with Mesoud Barzani (KRG President) in January of this year in Washington, after which the White House released a rather bland statement: ‘the President extended the US’ good offices to help Iraqis move forward in forging a broad political consensus to resolve outstanding disagreements between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Government of Iraq, in accordance with the Iraqi constitution and working closely with the UN in these efforts.’
As Marina Ottaway, the Director of the Middle East Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Deutsche Welle earlier this month: ‘From the point of view of Washington, the Kurds were useful to the US in the days of Saddam Hussein, but now they make things more complicated with the issue of the contentious region of Kirkuk and indeed tensions along the entire order between Kurdistan and Iraq.’ Hence the meaningless statement from the White House.
The KRG has an impressive lobbying machine in Washington. In fact, it has been placed in the ‘top ten’ in terms of money spent on lobbying firms. Is all that spending getting them anywhere? No amount of money is strong enough to sway US decision-making policy in Iraq on any policy of strategic US national importance. Rather, money spent is to build a ‘special relationship’ between Washington and Hewlêr (Erbil).
To increase their lobbying potential, Baqi Barzani suggests the KRG in DC become friendlier with the ‘neoconservative party, republicans and leaders of Jewish and Zionist Christian communities.’ What?!?! Who are the ones now benefitting from the lucrative oil deals? All the neocons from the former Bush administration. Be careful what you wish for, Baqi. Their track record in the Middle East is dark and dubious.
Barzani continues in his column saying that ‘[m]ost Americans commiserate with the Kurdish national struggle.’ I say that most Americans do not even know who the Kurds are, so how can they ‘commiserate’ with the national struggle? Perhaps of the handful of enlightened Americans who know about the situation, most of them empathise with the Kurds. However, if we are to talk about the US government, I do not feel much empathy emanating from Washington.
Obama is pedalling more of the same old, tired policy. It’s not ‘less supportive’, but rather, just packaged a bit differently.
Iranian-born filmmaker, Soheil Sokhanpazhuh, has announced that he will produce a film about the Anfal atrocities. Sokhanpazhuh hopes to start shooting the film in the coming weeks on locations in Kurdistan where the atrocities took place.
The Anfal campaigns, a systematic programme of ethnic cleansing, were carried out in 1988; the centrepiece of several years of genocidal warfare against the Kurds in Iraq. 180,000 Kurds perished in this genocide. Thousands of villages were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were forced to flee.
The filmmaker says that he wants to show the film at international festivals, raise awareness about the Kurdish nation and about the tragedies of al-Anfal.
Sokhanpazhuh, born in 1968, is a graduate of the Film Department at Tehran’s Academy of Fine Arts. He has participated in numerous Iranian and international film festivals. He produced and directed a film called ‘88’ about Halabja, where 5,000 Kurds were massacred in a chemical gas attack in 1988 by the Saddam regime.
In 2005 Kurdish director Mano Khalil co-produced a 52-minute TV documentary for Swiss TV called ‘Al-Anfal, In the name of Allah, Ba’ath and Saddam.’
مخرج ايراني ينتج فيلماً سينمائياً يتناول فاجعة الانفال . AKNews, 15 July 2010.
Genocide in Iraq. HRW report, 1993.
Original cartoon published on Soparo, 25 June 2010
In 1972 Iraq nationalized its oil industry giving the state new, unrestrained power over the local population. Government power became state suppression.
Ba’athists claimed they would “assimilate Kurds into a crucible of the Arab nation and if necessary, by force.” And force they did use.
It was the beginning of the scorched-earth policy in Kurdistan. Kurdish villages were razed and families were forcibly relocated to other parts of the country—most notably the southern desert areas. At the same time thousands of Arab families from the south were moved to Kirkuk. The Arabization of the Kirkuk region was under way.
With Arabization came the ethnicization of oil-rich Kurdish territories, particularly Kirkuk, changing the face of Kurdish identity. The petroleum debate centered the perception of Kurdishness (Kurdayetî) on the ethnic origins of Kirkuk.
The 2005 Iraqi constitution states that the executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).
Article 58 of the TAL, without going into all the details, provides for the return of and compensation for forced migrants and for the resolution of
disputed territories including Kirkuk through arbitration. Basically it tries to remedy the injustices of the coercive Arabization policies of Saddam Hussein’s regime, which also included the redrawing of administrative borders to include more Arab towns in the region.
There is a referendum afoot that will decide if the Kurdish portions of four provinces (Ninevah, Ta’mim [Kirkuk], Salahuddin, and Diyala) will become part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kirkuk Referendum is a part of this larger referendum procedure. See map of Iraq provinces. There are three provinces now in the KRG: Dohuk, Erbil, and Suleimaniyeh.
Before the referendum is carried out however there must be a reversal of the Arabization policies. A last-minute provision to the 2005 constitution, Article 140 provides for that. It states that, Article 58 of the TAL shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization, census, and referendums in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens) by a date not to exceed December 31, 2007.
Swedish diplomat and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Staffan de Mistura, proposed extending this deadline by six months. The Kurdish regional parliament agreed to his proposal. Now almost a year later it still has not been implemented.
Some say that with the original deadline past that there is no longer a constitutional obligation for Iraq to hold a referendum on Kirkuk or any other disputed territory. Kurds vehemently disagree.
The KRG is now lashing out at de Mistura for his delaying tactics accusing him of favoring the old Arabization policies. De Mistura had promised to issue a package of recommendations in September or October (of 2008) to cover eight areas in dispute.
Said de Mistura, “I don’t want to enter into polemics with the Kurdish leaders but I decided to postpone until next year the announcement of my proposal to avoid creating tensions before the provincial elections.” The elections are slated for 31 January 2009.
It will certainly add to the tensions between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq. If the Iraqi Constitutional Court rules in favor of implementing Article 140, regardless of timeframe, then the UN will continue its work in implementing normalization efforts. If the court rules against the implementation of Article 140, differences between the KRG and Baghdad will take a turn for the worse.
-Janabi, Nazar. Kirkuk’s Article 140: Expired or Not? The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, PolicyWatch #1335, 30 Jan 2008, www.washingtoninstitute.org
–Kurds Upset over U.N. Article 140 Report. Middle East Times, 12 Jun 2008. www.metimes.com.
–Kurds Push for Article 140 Passage. UPI.com, 09 Oct 2008
–Article 140 and the Future of Iraq. 09 May 2008. Washington Kurdish Institute, www.kurd.org
–Iraqi Kurds Accuse UN of Delaying Report on Disputed Areas. Easy Bourse, 30 Nov 2008. www.easybourse.com
-Natali, Denise. The Kurds and the State: Evolving National Identity in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2005.