At a reception in Parliament sponsored by Dave Anderson MP last night, the Kurdistan Regional Government called on the British Government to recognise the mass murder of Iraqi Kurds as genocide.
The reception, which was held on the Terrace at the Houses of Parliament, saw representatives from the KRG including Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, the Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations and Ms Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG High Representative to the UK, and joined by supportive MPs and Peers, along with members of the Kurdish community.
The well-attended event was also the official launch of an e-petition urging the British Government to recognize the genocide of Iraqi Kurds prior to and during Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. The petition requires 100,000 signatures from the public to trigger a debate in Parliament.
Robert Halfon, MP and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, said, "The facts are these: if you define genocide as scientifically planned mass murder with various stages of development - notably, marginalisation, demonisation, and eradication, - then the Kurds suffered genocide."
Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kurdistan and sponsor of the petition, said, "Genocide is the worst crime that can be committed by humanity, and it befell Iraqi Kurds. It is our duty to remember and honour the victims. The recognition of the genocide by the British Government is crucial to ensuring that it never happens again, and this is why I tabled the e-petition calling on the Government to acknowledge the Kurdish genocide."
The KRG Head of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir said, "This is also not just about the past; the international recognition of these acts as genocide is important to help give closure and obtain assistance for the victims now, and to ensure that these acts are never repeated in the future.
Minister Bakir added, "I would like to extend our appreciation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group, and all those who are already supporting this effort and take this opportunity to ask the rest of you to join us in this important initiative."
Ms Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG High Representative to the UK, said, "The Kurdish nation is an optimistic one. We are hungry to develop our economy, society and to revive our agriculture even if, after the destruction of 4,500 villages, we will never get back the rural way of life that was the hallmark of Kurdish culture.
Ms Rahman also said, "We believe in international friendship, in reconciliation within Iraq and peaceful co-existence. But we also believe in justice. And to those who say that we should look forward and not back, we say that there should be no time limit on justice for victims of genocide anywhere."
Hundreds of thousands of Kurdish men, women and children were murdered during a systematic attempt to exterminate the Kurdish population in Iraq from 1963 to the late 1980s. Only after Saddam Hussein was captured in 2003, were the first of hundreds of mass graves discovered, and the true scale of the horror revealed. Nine years later, expert forensic teams are excavating the mass graves and identifying the bodies so they can at last be returned home to loved ones for burial.