Kurdish UK MP
Kurdish Globe interview with
as I mentioned earlier, that everyone remembers their history, heritage and background, and I believe it is a duty upon all Kurds, whether they have become US citizens, Swedish, German or British, to do their bit for the Kurdish cause.
I think I have contributed in the past two and a half years. the first thing I did when I came here is to join the All Party Group for Kurdistan and I am now cochairman of that group. We then decided to spend a lot of time, resource and effort into looking at the genocide that occurred in Iraq against the Kurdish people. We have a genocide committee, which I asked one of my colleagues here, an excellent campaigning MP, Robert Halfon, to chair and which is making real progress now.
We had a petition that has now received almost 30,000 signatures, although we would like to see it get to 100,000 and I would ask every Kurd, whether in Kurdistan or the UK, to ask their friends and family to sign the petition. I think that it is very important that the British Parliament recognises the genocide of Kurdistan, particularly with the 25th anniversary of Anfal and of course Halabja coming up. So this is an important year and it is important that we play our part to ensure that the world knows and never forgets.
UK-Kurdistan ties were solidified in 1991, and have generally remained strong up to today, could the UK do more in Kurdistan? Is the UK government doing enough to support Kurdistan economically, politically and to promote business?
Whenever we talk about relations between Kurdistan and the UK, we have to recognise the contribution that John Major made in protecting the Kurdish people in 1991 with the no-fly zones. The current Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary William Hague, have both referred to that protection of the Kurds in the House of Commons in relation to the Libya crisis and our part in protecting the Libyan people. I understand that this is because the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, at a meeting of foreign ministers during the crisis, reminded the room that he would not be there if it hadn’t been for John Major protecting the Kurdish people. So one must always remember.
I think business wise we can always do more. I would like to see direct flights from the UK to Erbil, Sulaimaniya and hopefully Duhok and other cities in Iraq as they develop their aviation infrastructure. I would like to see more UK businesses being involved in the oil and gas industry, which is becoming an incredibly important industry in Kurdistan. In fact, Kurdistan is now referred to as the exploration capital of the world, thanks to the hard work of Dr. Ashti Hawrami, who has been an extraordinary Minister of Natural Resources, and a real visionary for the country. But as he would say, if he were here, we need to see more service companies coming in because it is not just the upstream that you need, the Exxon’s, Chevron’s and Total’s and the Talisman’s of this world. But you also need the service sector, because at the end of the day the companies in the service sector are the ones that do the hard work, that ensure that the oil and gas is extracted and delivered internationally and to the domestic market.
In other areas, we are very strong in the UK in accountancy, in the legal system and in various other industries. 2012 saw the UK become a net exporter of cars. On the border of my own constituency of Stratford-on-Avon I have got Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin head-quartered there. So the automotive industry needs to be reflected in a bigger way, although I know that Jaguar and Land Rover are doing great business in Kurdistan and can only do more.
All these sectors need to be enhanced and the UKTI is working very hard with the KRG representative office in UK, who do a great job I have to say. The representative office in London is best of breed, in organising conferences and match making between business and needs in Kurdistan. There was a fantastic water and agri conference here with the minister coming over, with 18 projects that were very clearly outlined with clear targets, with British businesses to look at and hopefully bid for.
In terms of electricity, Kurdistan benefits from almost 24-hours of electricity provision, but the consumption has increased exponentially with more industry coming in and the rise in consumer consumption. We can do more with our British companies. In the gas industry, British Gas and others should get involved in our incredible gas finds in Kurdistan.
So in all these areas, I try and work very hard, both in my role as the co-chairman of the All Party Group but also I sit on the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee, that is a parliamentary committee that scruitinises the work of the Business department, and I always make sure that they are playing their role in delivering that relationship between the UK and Kurdistan.
The great persecution and terror of the Baathist regime is one of the reasons why you and many other Kurds fled to sanctuary of the UK, in the ethno-sectarian turbulence of Iraq and the monopolisation of power in Baghdad is the UK ready to protect Kurdistan and Kurdish people against any new tyranny?
In post Saddam Hussein Iraq the political groups came together and drafted a constitution, which the Iraqi people ratified through a referendum. It is very important that the whole of Iraq and all its political components respect that constitution and that constitutional arrangement. That arrangement recognises very clearly the rights of the Kurdish people, the autonomous right of the Kurds, their parliament and the ability to design the way they want to be governed is all there. There are issues, of course, around Kirkuk, the hydrocarbons law and a number of other issues which do need addressing.
I think it is important that Iraq continues on the journey of democratisation. And democracy by the way, isn’t just about a cross in the ballot box on a piece of paper, democracy is about establishing and strengthening institutions, institutions that protect the rights of all citizens of a country,