The British parliament unanimously recognised the Kurdish genocide in Iraq while the government and opposition pledged to work together do more on acknowledging the genocide even though the government does not formally recognise it.
The formal recognition by the British parliament comes after a year-long campaign to raise awareness of the genocide in Britain and to gather signatures for a petition calling on Britain to formally acknowledge that the crimes committed against the Kurds amounted to genocide. Almost 28,000 people have signed the petition so far.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the decision and thanked those who campaigned and the MPs who spoke in the debate. He said, "The British parliament's recognition of the genocide follows similar acknowledgements by the Norwegian and Swedish parliaments last year. We thank them all and hope that this will inspire our friends and friends of human rights and freedom in other countries to do the same. We must all stand together against tyranny, wherever it may appear."
The Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs Aram Ahmed said, "This was a milestone for the Kurdish people, especially the victims of the genocide, and we thank the British parliament for their support for those who suffered so much. The parliament's decision and the government's positive attitude means we are a step closer to wider international recognition and justice."
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG's High Representative to the UK, said, "The recognition today was a major and historic step forward for all Kurds. Parliament unanimously recognised the genocide. The British government Minister for the Middle East was so moved by the passionate advocacy of the case for recognising the genocide that he moved away from his prepared speech and committed the government to work with the Labour opposition to work out how the British Government could make its position on the genocide more positive. This is a very unusual development. We must thank the Kurdish community and all those who signed the petition, and the members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Kurdistan Region who spoke so compellingly in the debate."
The debate was attended by the Minister, the High Representative, the chief of mission at the Iraqi Embassy Dr Muhiadin Hussein and over 100 members of the Kurdish community and British friends of Kurdistan.
Nadhim Zahawi, the first Kurdish-born British MP, put forward the motion that the British parliament recognises the Kurdish genocide and will encourage governments, the United Nations and European Union to do the same. He began the debate by speaking of his own family's flight from Iraq for fear of being killed by the Baathist regime.
He and other members of parliament from the two main political parties, Conservative and Labour, spoke of the crimes committed against the Kurds over several decades, the chemical bombardment of Halabja, the disappearance of the Barzanis and the Anfal campaign in which 182,000 were killed.
They all called for recognition of the crimes committed against the Kurds as genocide. They also highlighted the good relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the UK and the Kurdish people's hospitality and optimism. They pointed out that other European parliaments and the Iraqi courts had already recognised the genocide formally.
Ian Lucas, the opposition's Shadow Middle East Minister, echoed the sentiments of the speakers and called for the MPs, the government, opposition and KRG to work together on the government's position on the issue of recognition. The British government in February said that no one suffered more than the Kurds in Iraq but that it was not up to governments to recognise genocides, it was up to the international courts.
However, following the passionate speeches by several MPs, Alistair Burt, the Middle East Minister, said during the debate that the government will work with the opposition party to collectively find a way to do more on acknowledging the genocide even though the government does not formally recognise it.
He also spoke about the strong relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Britain, his two visits to the region and the many visits to the UK by Kurdish officials. He said he had listened to the debate carefully which included moving advocacy from MPs. He said he had great sympathy with the motion of the debate and the government would find the parliamentary debate helpful.
The motion was then put to a vote and was unanimously carried.
The speakers included Meg Munn, Robert Halfon, David Anderson, Ann Clwyd, Jeremy Corbyn, Mike Gapes, David Lammy, Stephen Metcalfe and Bob Stewart.