Bri­tish Par­lia­men­tary mem­bers rec­og­nize Hal­abja geno­cide

The House of Com­mons in United King­dom held a de­bate on the recog­ni­tion of Hal­abja geno­cide

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE - Sofia Bar­barani

Bri­tish MPs for­mally rec­og­nized Hal­abja as a geno­cide against Kur­dish civil­ians that de­serves recog­ni­tion. De­spite the low turn-out of MPs, the sur­vivors of the geno­cide were pleased with the re­sults.

On Thurs­day 28th of Fe­bru­ary the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment unan­i­mously rec­og­nized the Kur­dish geno­cide. Par­lia­ment’s for­mal recog­ni­tion co­in­cides with the 25th an­niver­sary of the geno­cide, and fol­lows a se­ries of Lon­don-based con­fer­ences and talks on the sub­ject mat­ter.

De­spite a poor turnout by the mem­bers of par­lia­ment, and a lack of Bri­tish me­dia cov­er­age, the pub­lic gallery was filled with buzzing an­tic­i­pa­tion and hope­ful si­lence as Kurds (amongst which sur­vivors of the Hal­abja mas­sacre, Ira­nian Kurds and Kirkukians) and non-Kurds lis­tened to the de­bate.

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

Fol­low­ing a heart­felt speech by Kur­dish-born Bri­tish MP Nad­him Za­hawi, dur­ing which he re­minded the House of Sad­dam Hus­sein’s sys­tem­atic mil­i­tary agenda of ‘dis­crim­i­na­tion, de- mon­i­sa­tion, re­moval and death’, the re­main­ing speak­ers took to de­bat­ing the need for recog­ni­tion with as much pas­sion.

Par­al­lels with Syria were cre­ated by most speak­ers, fear­ful of a tragic rep­e­ti­tion. ‘Af­ter all’ ex­plained Za­hawi, ‘his­tory has shown that when a dic­ta­tor thinks they will get away with it, they will com­mit atroc­i­ties against their own peo­ple. We need only turn our gaze to Syria to re­mind our­selves of that’.

Jewish MP Robert Hal­fon, chair of the Kur­dish Geno­cide Task Force, re­it­er­ated the his­toric im­por­tance of the de­bate. Hal­fon has had a key role in push­ing for the de­bate. Fol­low­ing his speech, re­plete with emo­tional re­marks such as ‘there is an­other Iraq buried un­der­neath Iraq’, he con­cluded with a heart­en­ing mes­sage of sup­port to­wards op­pressed com­mu­ni­ties:

‘My mo­ral duty is to help other na­tions who have been per­se­cuted’

Labour MP Ann Cl­wyd was par­tic­u­larly tena­cious in her call for recog­ni­tion. She re­called protest­ing for this cause in 1988 and 1989, and how her ar­gu­ment fell on deaf ears due to Bri­tain’s ties to Sad­dam.

‘There were con­tin­u­ous protests in cham­ber - why did no one lis­ten?’ asked Cl­wyd.

The speak­ers also high­lighted the need to bring all per­pe­tra­tors to jus­tice, as well as the recog­ni­tion of peo­ple within their na­tional bor­ders as a means to pre­vent fu­ture tragedies.

‘Gov­ern­ments need to rec­og­nize their own peo­ple; their cul­ture, tra­di­tion, rights - this cre­ates a safer world’ said Labour MP Jeremy Cor­byn.

Shadow FCO min­is­ter Ian Lu­cas and Mid­dle East Min­is­ter Alis­tair Burt made the clos­ing re­marks, and largely echoed the speak­ers’ con­vic­tions.

Lu­cas con­grat­u­lated the speak­ers on their elo­quence and sin­cer­ity, firmly re­it­er­at­ing that such a mat­ter must be taken for­ward. He de­scribed the events of An­fal as fe­ro­cious and in­hu­mane, and stressed the need to use Bri­tain’s in­sti­tu­tions to recog­nise the geno­cide as such.

Fol­low­ing Ian Lu­cas’ sense of hope, Alis­tair Burt’s re­marks ap­peared some­what sharp as he high­lighted the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion: the government would not be chang­ing its be­lief that the recog­ni­tion of a geno­ci­dal act is a le­gal mat­ter, not a po­lit­i­cal one. Mean­ing that although par­lia­ment did unan­i­mously rec­og­nize the Kur­dish geno­cide, the Bri­tish government has not.

Fol­low­ing the de­bate, KRG high rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the UK, Bayan Sami Ab­dul Rah­man, ap­peared hope­ful in spite of the in­con­clu­sive re­sult, say­ing that Par­lia­ment’s recog­ni­tion was a his­toric step for­ward, and thanked all of those who took part in the de­bate and the pe­ti­tion.

A view of the Bri­tish Par­lia­ment's House of Com­mons

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