Former French Foreign Minister Dr Bernard Kouchner supports campaign for recognition of Kurdish genocide in Iraq


Dr Bernard Kouchner, the former French Foreign Minister, in London joined eye-witnesses, survivors, ministers, MPs and experts from several countries in calling for the international recognition of the Kurdish genocide in Iraq.

Speaking at a major conference in London on the Kurdish genocide in Iraq held on January 17, Dr Kouchner said, “We were a witness of mass murder in Halabja, it’s time to have an examination of the facts. Of course it was genocide. In Iraq, who was supposed to protect the Kurds? The international community.” 

Dr Kouchner, the co-founder of the international NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, said, “I am not a special guest here today, I am a special friend of the Kurdish people.”

The conference was supported by President Masoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Britain’s Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt, all of whom wrote messages in the conference programme.

The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs, Aram Ahmed Mohamed, spoke about why recognition of the genocide is so important to the people of Kurdistan: to prevent more genocides, to honour and compensate the victims, to send signals to potential perpetrators and to work for reconciliation.

The KRG’s Head of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir paid tribute to the Kurdish Diaspora for highlighting the genocide to foreign governments and the public. He said. “Our tragic past took place before the rise of the internet, social media, mobile phones and satellite television?The challenge fell to the Kurds abroad, particularly those in Europe, to bring the plight of their fellow countrymen to the world’s attention. They didn’t give up. They were driven by the injustices carried out against what most of the world knows now as the largest nation without a state.”

The Deputy Speaker of the Norwegian Parliament, Akhtar Chaudhry, and Swedish MP Fredrik Malm spoke about how recognition of the Kurdish genocide was achieved in their countries’ parliaments. British parliamentarians, many of whom were at the conference, are supporting a campaign to achieve recognition in the UK as well through an online petition. Baroness Morris, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council and the UK’s trade envoy to Kuwait, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, attended the conference to publicly sign the petition calling on the UK to recognise the Kurdish genocide.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG’s High Representative to the UK, and her team organised the international conference. She said, “This year, 2013, is not only the 25th anniversary of the poison gas attack on Halabja and the Anfal genocide campaign, it is also the 30th anniversary of the abduction and killing of men and boys from the Barzani clan and the 10th anniversary of the West’s intervention in Iraq, which we Kurds refer to as the liberation. Apart from noting this unusual coming together of memorable dates, we see this conference as an opportunity to reveal the horrific crimes that the Kurdish people have fallen victim to since the 1960s, to tell the secret story of life under Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship, to give the victims and survivors a voice and to have a debate on the issues that surround genocide.”

The conference heard from survivors Kamaran Nawrooz Haider, the UK Representative of the Halabja Chemical Victims Society, and Thana Al-Bassam, a Faylee-Kurd, who recounted their experiences of the atrocities they and their families suffered. Richard Beeston, foreign editor at The Times newspaper, recounted the horror that he saw on arriving in Halabja immediately after it was attacked with poison gas and Tom Hardie-Forsyth, who was in the British army, described how he and his colleagues worked to establish the safe haven for Kurdish refugees who had fled in fear of chemical attacks in 1991. Dr Zryan Yones, former KRG Health Minister, testified in Saddam Hussein’s trial after treating people who had chemical wounds.
Kamaran Nawrooz Haider, UK Representative of the Halabja Victims Society and survivor of the Halabja chemical attack

Dr Mahmoud Osman, an MP in the Iraqi Parliament and longtime Kurdish politician, said he would speak ‘as a victim of the regime and a witness of the genocide’. As a political opponent of Saddam Hussein, he was poisoned with thalium (rat poison), only surviving with the help of smuggled medicine from abroad. Of his time with the Peshmerga, he recalled watching the mustard gas bombs being dropped on villages and his attempts to help the doctors treat the civilians, wearing a rudimentary gas mask made of coal and wet cloth.

Peter Galbraith, former United States diplomat, witnessed the genocide as it unfolded when working for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said: “The US government acknowledged that chemical weapons had been used against the Kurds but decided against imposing sanctions.”

The conference was also addressed by numerous British Parliamentarians, international genocide and legal experts and eyewitnesses. Together they highlighted how, during Saddam’s Hussein’s regime, thousands of ordinary Kurdish people suffered unspeakable cruelty and violence with many ending up in mass graves or dying from chemical weapons attacks, while the world remained largely silent.

Many speakers called for formal recognition of the genocide and compensation for the victims.

The conference was attended by 300 people including 40 journalists, and several hundred watched it live via the internet. A recording of the event will be available on YouTube next week.

source: Kurdish Globe

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