Halabja Chemical Victims Society
Almost 24 years ago, the people of Halabja were subjected to a barbaric crime when the dictator Saddam Hussein’s aircraft bombed the city with chemical gas which led the martyrdom of more than 5,000 people and injured more than 10,000 -- 68 per cent of them were children and women. As a result, the city was destroyed and its inhabitants and those of nearby villages were displaced.
To this day, the citizens of Halabja suffer from the psychological and physical effects of this crime, and many of them suffer from long-term diseases that lead to their death over time.
Fortunately, the Iraqi courts, The Iraqi presidency and the parliament have recognised this crime as genocide; therefore we need to work on the recognition of the Kurdish genocide at the international level as soon as possible.
We ask the British Government to bear the responsibility of humanity, to condemn this crime and the perpetrators, to prevent this crime from happening again and to recognise the bombardment of Halabja as genocide.
We also ask the European Parliaments and all the centres of decision-making in the world to work on the recognition of the Kurdish genocide in order to protect the lives of citizens, to respect human values and to convict the perpetrators.
We in the Halabja Chemical Victims Society thank all the governments, organisations and international figures who sympathise with our people in order to obtain our legitimate rights and ask them to continue this support.
We appreciate and value your meeting in the British Parliament today and ask for your continuing support. We hope that if we will all cooperate and work together to obtain the recognition of the Kurdish genocide at the international level soon.
Mayor of Halabja, Goran Adham Rahim
To the organisers and the participants of this event in the British Parliament
Greetings. We highly value your participation in this occasion.
On 16 of March 1988, a heinous crime was committed against the people of Halabja and humanity, a crime that led to the deaths of more than 5000 people and injured more than 10,000. About 70,000 people were displaced and forced to take refuge where they could. The people of Halabja are still suffering from the wounds of this crime.
We hope and ask for your support and the support of all our friends around the world in recognising the crime of genocide against our people.
We welcome your petition and are ready to support your efforts.
Messages from MPs and Peers (British and Scottish Parliaments)
LORD DUBS, ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP – GENOCIDE AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
“The Kurds of Iraq have suffered appallingly in the past; I very much wish them peace and progress in the future. “
I cannot attend the meeting but here is my view on the Kurdish genocide:
"All right-thinking people should utterly condemn the genocide perpetrated against the Kurdish people."
“Sadly I am not free to attend the rally but wish to add my voice to the petition for UK Government support for the Iraqi Kurds and condemnation of the genocide of the Kurdish people.”
LORD HARRIS OF HARRINGAY
“The tragedy of the Kurdish peoples in Iraq deserves recognition by the international community. The genocidal activity perpetrated against them over the last fifty years must not be forgotten and I support the campaign and e-petition associated with it.”
PAUL BLOMFIELD MP FOR SHEFFIELD CENTRAL
“There are many Kurdish people from Iraq living in Sheffield, with whom I have met, and I welcome this opportunity to offer my support to recognising the wrongs committed the Kurdish people. I know that many Kurds have endured terrible ordeals in Iraq and now is the time to build a brighter future by dealing with the issues of the past.”
MEG MUNN MP FOR SHEFFIELD HEELEY, ALL PARTY GROUP ON THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
“The true horror of the genocide of the Kurds is little known and understood. Just as we recognise and commemorate the Holocaust in Europe over sixty years ago we must recognise the mass killing of Kurdish people. Commemorating what happened helps us to understand the situation of Kurdish people today and is one step we can take to try and stop it happening again.”
IAM MEARNS MP FOR GATESHEAD
“I recently had the privilege of visiting the Kurdistan Parliament in Erbil and talking to MPs. I know from them and my own local contacts how big the genocide was and is to the Kurds of Iraq. I support the campaign for it to be recognised as a genocide by the UK and internationally.”
MICHAEL GAPES MP FOR ILFORD SOUTH
“We must never forget the crimes committed by the Baathist Fascist regime of Saddam including the Anfal against the Kurds of Iraq. Despite problems Iraq is a better place without the Saddamite regime. “
FABIAN HAMILTON MP FOR LEEDS NORTH EAST
“I visited Iraqi Kurdistan last month, travelling to Erbil and Sulaimaniyah. Whilst there, I was privileged to meet many community leaders, elected politicians, officials, business people and students. I also went, with my colleagues, to the cemetery where the remains of those murdered in the genocide against the Kurdish people were being reburied following their discovery in over 300 mass graves around the region in the past few years. There is no doubt that the Kurdish people have suffered from systematic genocide over many decades. The evidence is clear for anyone to see, especially in Northern Iraq. Next year is the 25th anniversary of the horror of Halabja, where Saddam bombed the innocent people of that town with poison gas, killing 5,000 and injuring many more. The mass graves are still contaminated with the poison, posing huge risks for those trying to retrieve the remains of those murdered. It is a tragedy that any people on this earth are still subjected to torture and murder on the grounds of their ethnic and cultural background. At the end of January each year in the UK we remember the Holocaust against the Jewish people and at the same time remind ourselves that, sadly, genocide still continues. The Kurdish people must be allowed their autonomy and freedom from genocide so that, like most peoples in the world, they may live in peace and security wherever they are.”
GREG MULHOLLAND MP FOR LEEDS NORTH WEST
“The Kurds of Iraq have been the victims of a systematic effort to eliminate them as a people. I am glad to say that the British did much to help them survive. It is only right then that the UK takes the lead in formally recognising the Genocide and urging its partners to do the same. “
HANZALA MALIK, MEMBER OF THE SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT
“We owe it to the people of Kurdistan, to engage with them, this is absolutely essential that they do not feel that humanity has given up on them. The Kurds have suffered enough. The idea that people can be ruthlessly murdered and forgotten is unacceptable. Signing the petition is very important. We as a nation have a reputation that we care for human beings and for democracy. Let’s demonstrate that by signing this petition.”
DR BRIAN BRIVATI, DIRECTOR OF JOHN SMITH MEMORIAL TRUST, AND CO-CHAIR OF THE KURDISH GENOCIDE ADVISORY GROUP
Formal recognition by the UK government and the wider international community of the crime of genocide committed against the Kurdish people by the government of Saddam Hussein is long overdue and vitally important. It is important in terms of justice for the victims, it is important in terms of compensation for the survivors but it is a required requisite for judgement of history to be clear and it is an essential element of achieving reconciliation and unity in Iraq. The international community and the UK government have an important role to play in bringing justice, articulating a judgement and enhancing reconciliation. This e-petition is a significant step forward and should be supported by all in the UK human rights world.
Excerpts from speakers at the rally
BAYAN SAMI ABDUL RAHMAN, KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HIGH REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UK
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the UK, said, "The chemical attack on Halabja, which has come to symbolise the entire genocide, was one savage act among many in the genocide against the Kurds which included the targeting of Faylees, the arabisation of Kirkuk, the disappearance of the Barzanis and the Anfal campaign. She added, "I urge every Kurd who is a British citizen or resident to sign this e-petition and to encourage their British friends to do the same. If we get a debate in parliament and then recognition of the genocide by the British government, your signatures will have made history. It's the least we can do for those who died."
RICHARD BEESTON, TIMES FOREIGN EDITOR
In a powerful and moving account, Richard Beeston, foreign editor of The Times, who was one of the first journalists to be in Halabja just after the bombings took place, said, “Looking down from the helicopter we sensed something was wrong. There were no people and no traffic. When we landed we could see the bodies. I was a young reporter but I knew this was an enormous crime. I went on to cover many wars but the memories of Halabja are fresh in my mind." Mr Beeston also said, “I went back to Halabja many years later, in the spring, and in the hills there were young people picnicking, happy. It was a very emotional moment. It reminded me of the power of humanity to overcome the worst of war. Kurdistan is a shining example to others of what's possible if you take your fate into your hands and fight for your democratic rights."
NADHIM ZAHAWI MP FOR STRATFORD-ON-AVON, ALL PARTY GROUP ON THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
“Genocide is the worst crime that can be committed by humanity, and it befell Iraqi Kurds. It is our duty as a civilised society to remember and honour the victims. It’s important that our parliament in the UK leads the way in the European Union and the United Nations to recognise the genocide against the Kurds. One hundred thousand signatures isn’t a big ask for those who gave their lives for our freedom.”
ROBERT HALFON MP FOR HARLOW, ALL PARTY GROUP ON THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
It is strange that whilst the world knows much about modern genocide -- the Bosnians by The Serbs, the tragedy of Rwanda -- little is known about the Kurdish story. In fact, their genocide which is known to most as Anfal, is not even recognised as a genocide by the United Nations -- something that I, chairing a committee of academics, lawyers, and parliamentarians, am trying to change. There has been little justice meted out to those responsible for the Kurdish genocide. The Kurds have waited too long for justice.
If it were not for John Major’s safe havens established over Kurdistan in 1991 and Tony Blair’s subsequent determination to get rid of Saddam Hussein, it is likely that Saddam would have succeeded. There would be no Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq. Unlike Nazi Germany, where many of those responsible for the killing were tried at Nuremburg, there has been little justice meted out to those responsible for the Kurdish genocide. It is said that organisers of the Anfal, and some of the pilots remain at large - some even in Europe.
Whilst the Kurds are a people that learns from the past rather than lives in it, they have waited too long for justice. The state of Iraq has now officially recognised the Iraqi genocide: it is the duty of the rest of the world to do the same, to ensure all the perpetrators are brought to the International Court and help with a programme of education and remembrance, so that the true story of Saddam’s butchery can never be forgotten by future generations.
GARY KENT, ALL PARTY GROUP ON THE KURDISTAN REGION IN IRAQ
It’s good to see so many old and new friends from the Kurdish community in this country. The epetition is a real opportunity to bring the community together with its growing number of British friends. The past is still with Kurdistan but the important thing with this campaign can enable the Kurds to know that never again will they be abandoned and therefore that they are able more freely to construct a better future for themselves. There are various bonds of friendships. For instance, several British students from Bury St Edmunds are going to Erbil and Sulymania. This is the first visit of school students to Kurdistan, and I think this will be the first of many such visits. These bonds and connections between the past, present and the future and between Kurdistan and Britain can make it all stronger.
ANN CLWYD MP, ALL PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ON IRAQ, AND APPG ON CAMBODIA
Ann Clwyd MP, a longtime friend of Kurdistan, spoke of the efforts she and others had made over the past two decades to indict leading figures in Saddam Hussein's regime and to help the victims of Halabja and the Anfal campaign. She also spoke of visiting the mass graves in Iraq. "There is nothing more awful than standing on the edge of a mass grave to watch the bodies being dug up and their families looking on, identifying them, saying this is my husband, this is my son," she said.
Lord Archer, in a rousing speech, recalled his first visit to Halabja which he described as a 'ghost town' and said that one of the great delights of his life was to see justice against Saddam Hussein. He added, "Let's get those 100,000 names and let the world never forget the evil that was perpetrated against the Kurds."