British Parliamentary members recognize Halabja genocide
The House of Commons in United Kingdom held a debate on the recognition of Halabja genocide
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