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Robert Halfon MP: The British Government should formally recognise historic atrocities against the Iraqi Kurds

HALFON-robertRobert Halfon is the Conservative MP for Harlow and a Vice-Chair of the APPG on the Kurdistan Region. Follow Rob on Twitter.

The British Government should formally recognise historic atrocities against the Iraqi Kurds as genocide according to a report from a cross-party group of MPs, launched today in the Commons in co-operation with the Henry Jackson Society.

The report of the all-party parliamentary group says that "recognising the genocide in Kurdistan is a vital part of respecting those who died and helps ensure that the ideology that groomed such barbarism is constantly challenged and never again allowed to re-emerge."

UK and international acknowledgement "helps the Iraqi Kurds make a transition from a people who were abandoned to one that is a full part of the world community with the UK being a valued political, cultural and commercial partner."

We back an e petition, sponsored by Nadhim Zahawi, which needs 100,000 signatures to trigger a Commons debate. The group also suggests that the law "seek reparations from companies guilty of supplying the chemical weapons and to prosecute those responsible, including a few who may live in the UK."

The report highlights growing commercial and "human-scale" cultural connections between the UK and Kurdistan. We praise the first ever visit to Kurdistan by sixth-formers from Bury St Edmunds who have been invited to the Commons to outline their experiences.

There is a deep affection and regard for the UK in Iraqi Kurdistan. Most postgraduates on their government funded scholarship programme choose to come here and will return as ambassadors.

We have spent years banging the drum for British companies in Kurdistan. At first people didn't know where it was and were wary of anything with Iraq in the sentence. But the penny has finally dropped and Kurdistan is now on the map. It has plentiful oil and gas supplies as well as so far largely unexploited high value minerals and great potential in agriculture and tourism. Yes, tourism for it's a beautiful place and very open to foreigners, especially Brits.

The report describes "a gold rush atmosphere for quality goods which is driving the renewal of infrastructure and improvement of services." We met Kurdistan Region President Barzani who listed "oil and gas services, electricity, health, education, agriculture, tourism - 'you name it.'"

The report notes "a growing warmth between Turkey and the Region, based on diligent political engagement and burgeoning trade with oil and gas being seen as a major asset for both places."

We met all major parties including the Opposition, and also examine how Kurdistan is making "the transition from a politics and economy based on wartime imperatives in which distinctions between parties, the state and business have been blurred."

We urge greater transparency, independent institutions and a bigger private sector but accept that the 2009 elections were free and fair and deny "that the KRG can reasonably be compared with the regimes of Egypt and Tunisia which were overthrown in the Arab Spring."

We acknowledge documented cases of human right abuses but say that the Region is overwhelmingly free and our delegation, coincidentally composed of two Muslims, two Christians and two Jews, was welcomed everywhere and never felt constrained.

The team consisted of Robert Halfon MP, Stephen Metcalfe MP, Fabian Hamilton MP, Hanzal Malik MSP, Umbreen Khalid (the Administrator of the Scottish Parliament's Cross-Party Group on the Middle East and South Asia), and Gary Kent, APPG Administrator. The  group were guests of the KRG but met anyone we wanted.

> You can see the APPG report here.

> Details of the e petition on Kurdish Genocide are here.


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