Iraq, Genocide and the Kurds

16th July, 2012 4:32 pm

Labour people used to have a very good understanding of the injustices suffered by the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein. The Labour Party’s Socialist International sister party in Iraq is the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, whose leader is Jalal Talabani, the current President of Iraq.

The intervention in Iraq was probably the most divisive issue internally in the Labour Party in the last 15 years. Sadly this has meant that many members shy away from looking at the longer-term issues in Iraq. We need to put the debate about the Iraq War to one side – as does Labour Friends of Iraq – in favour of something we can all agree is an important priority – supporting and showing solidarity towards Iraqi democrats, trade unions, and civil society.

Amongst those who suffered most under previous Iraqi dictatorships were the Kurds. As a councillor in Hackney where there is a large Kurdish community (in Hackney’s case Kurds from Turkey rather than Iraq) I am acutely aware of the suffering the Kurds have endured and impressed by the way the Kurdish community here in the UK engages positively in political life.

The Iraqi Kurds endured decades of demonisation, discrimination and eventually full-blown genocide in which Saddam sought to eliminate them as a people. Most horrifically this included the use of mustard gas and nerve gas against the town of Halabja in 1988 in which up to 5,000 people were murdered, 7-10,000 more injured, and thousands more have died of subsequent medical complications.

In the last two years of that decade some 182,000 Kurdish men, women and children were slaughtered and their agricultural base was deliberately destroyed.

They are not a backward looking people and, as the reports at the website of the all-party group on Iraqi Kurdistan show, they are rebuilding and seeking a democratic, pluralistic and forward looking society.

But the past hangs heavily and it is a matter of elementary justice that the world acknowledges what was done to them.

Now there is an e-petition urging the UK Government to recognise all this formally as a genocide. I would urge all those who care for the Kurds and the whole country of Iraq taking its rightful place in the world to sign this and help the cause of justice. You can sign up in a few quick clicks here.

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  • Brumanuensis

    As an unstinting and bitter opponent of the Iraq War, I agree with Luke Akehurst.

    The key question is what role will the Kurds play in a future Iraqi state? Much of the present violence in the country stems from the conflict between the Arab Sunni and Shia sections of the population. In this environment, the Kurdish area has attained a large degree of de facto autonomy, bordering on independence. However the Kurdish ‘problem’ is greatly complicated by the influence of Turkey, who would never tolerate the creation of an independent Kurdish state. Given the international political issues this raises, limiting discussion of Kurdish issues to Kurds within Iraq might be an unhelpful limitation.
    I have both Turkish and Kurdish friends, so I recognise this is a very sensitive and complex matter. If a future Kurdish state does request recognition from the UK, we will be placed in an awkward position. Hence why I suggest we address this from a pan-Kurdish perspective.

  • Pingback: Iraq, Genocide and the Kurds - IKJ News()

  • Khoshnaf Al-Kadi

    Dear Luke
    Your article should serve as a reminder to Iraq`s new government not to return the country to the dark days of Iraq`s brutal regime of Sadam and the Baath Party and shows thecontinues  struggle our people in Kurdistan has to endure not only to help and establish the building of pluralistic democratic forward looking societies not only for them selves but also to the nations they share the country with. Please keep up your support, more so at the present time because of the volatile situation in Iraq and the rest of the region and count on our support.

    Dr Khoshnaf Al-Kadi

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