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EU must recognise the Kurdish Genocide - April 2013

Struan Stevenson MEP

March the 16th marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the massacre of almost 5,000 people in the Kurdish village of Halabja in northern Iraq.

The gas attack on these defenseless villagers was the deadliest assault carried out by Saddam Hussein during his al-Anfal campaign against the Kurdish population. Three quarters of the victims in this horrific chemical-weapon attack were women and children.

I believe that it is important for the European Parliament to support the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in formally recognising the massacre in Halabja and the al-Anfal campaign as a "genocide" and March 16 as an international day against the use of chemical weapons.

Many countries have taken the lead in recognising the al-Anfal campaign as a "Kurdish Genocide," the latest being Britain. The EU must now follow suit.

Saddam's assault on the Kurdish population of Iraq began in 1987 and culminated with the Halabja massacre on March 16, 1988. In total, nearly 200,000 Kurds were killed, but the real number of deaths continues to rise as many people affected by the chemical weapons still suffer from chronic illnesses years after the attack.

The scale of the genocide is chilling. According to Human Rights Watch, some 4,000 villages out of 4,655 were razed to the ground between April 1987 and August 1988, 250 of which had been attacked with chemical weapons. More than 1,700 schools, 2,450 mosques, as well as 27 churches were also destroyed.

Sadly, it is hard to see if the awful lessons of the Kurdish genocide have been learned by the current government in Baghdad led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who continues to stoke up tensions with the KRG.

The almost daily bomb attacks and assassinations in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, the abuse of human rights, the secret prisons and unjust trials and the mounting number of executions, has plunged Iraq into another prolonged sectarian crisis. Persecuted minorities are fleeing in increasing numbers to Kurdistan seeking a safe haven.

The EU owes a debt of gratitude to President Massoud Barzani and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Kurdistan for the protection they have afforded to these persecuted minorities. Kurdistan is a shining example of how peace and stability can in turn create economic growth and economic growth has created jobs and prosperity for the Kurdish people.

Prime Minister Barzani told the United Nations that after 25 years, the trees of Halabja have started bearing fruit once more. Let us hope that this sign of re-birth and renewal will act as a reminder to us all that we must never again allow another al-Anfal to take place.

There must never again be another genocide of the Kurds or of any other minorities in Iraq and the world must ensure that in commemorating the victims of Halabja and formally recognising the Kurdish genocide, chemical weapons are never again deployed.

Article published in Scotland Europa