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Focus on awareness

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The following interview was conducted by Raz Jabary, the UK correspondent of SOMA Digest an English language newspaper published in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.  For further details visit:

http://www.soma-digest.com/Details.asp?sid=588

 

You recently invited the governors of Erbil, Slemani and Dohuk to the UK Parliament. Why?

 

The UK is generally very happy to help with the development of democratic institutions in many countries and regions including Kurdistan and the governors were coming over to spend time discussing that in detail. They were invited to the Houses of Parliament, and were involved in a very wide range of discussions. There were a lot of people who came along to those debates, including British people interested in Kurdistan, quite a lot of Kurdish people living here in the UK, as well as parliamentarians. We talked about the differences in different parts of Kurdistan, how things are developing, the need for more contact between the UK and Kurdistan, and so forth.

 

Have there been any official outcomes from the talks between the governors and MPs and Lords?

 

So far there have not been specific outcomes. Developments will follow in time. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Kurdistan is hoping to have another visit to Kurdistan soon, and I think what was interesting in having all three governors was to hear about the different parts of Kurdistan, not just to focus on the capital Erbil.

 

You are the Chair of the APPG for the Kurdistan Region. Do you also stand for the other parts of Kurdistan, and, just like you have been working with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), do you also have relations with Kurdish organizations from Iran, Syria or Turkey?

 

Because we are an All-Party group, we are looking to work closely with the APPGs that cover those countries. We have got plans at the moment to meet with the Chair of the APPG for Turkey. From our last visit, one of the issues which was included in the drafted report was to do with Turkey.

 

What are the main objectives of your All-Party Group?

 

The impetus for an All-Party Group is to increase knowledge and awareness about any particular subject or region, and obviously, with Kurdistan being part of Iraq, there has been such a huge focus in the last five years on the war and the problems around the media focusing on Baghdad, Basra and other specific parts of the country only. We are concerned that an impression is given about Iraq which is not the true impression of how it is now, and we believe that regardless of the position people took in relation to the invasion of Iraq, that it is our responsibility now to act as friends to the people of Iraq...

 

There should instead be a focus on raising awareness of the reality of the situation. We know the region needs an awful lot of investment... We know that many economies are in recession because of the global crisis, and yet there are parts of the world such as Kurdistan where there is need for investment and development... We are concerned that the negative image that a lot of people have of Iraq puts people off from taking the first steps in finding out about the opportunities in Kurdistan.

 

Do you see the Kurdistan Region as a future independent state?

 

It is our view that it is not for us outside of Kurdistan or Iraq to take strong views on this. We are keen that the federal, decentralized system should be supported and that is the Constitution that was democratically approved. We would like to see this developed properly.

 

Do you believe that self-determination is the Kurdish people’s right?

 

I think that where we are at the moment is that the approved position I just laid out is the one that we are supporting. It is not ultimately for people outside of a country to make those decisions.

 

Do you agree with Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution which deals with the normalization process in Kirkuk and other disputed territories?

 

Yes. That is certainly something that has been taken up in our recommendations to the British Government... The Group was advocating that the normalization process should be completed by the June 2008 deadline. Since this deadline has passed, the Group recommends that this issue should be resolved in line with the Iraqi constitution and within a time frame that shows clear progress is being made towards a lasting solution. It is obvious that this is a complex situation and therefore it has not yet happened as much as we would have liked.

 

What does it say to you that Kirkuk was added to the three KRG governorates in not participating in the recent Iraqi Provincial elections?

 

Again, I think these are complex issues that have been happening on the ground and that our Group’s position is that we support the implementation of Article 140.

 

What has the Kurdistan APPG so far achieved in getting the Anfal campaigns recognized by the British Government as a genocide against the Kurdish people?

 

Our aim is to raise awareness about Anfal more widely. The group specifically wants to take the opportunity to make those points if there is a debate on Iraq. In general, we try to give people a much better understanding of the suffering the Kurds went through. There have actually been debates on Iraq and this issue was raised on the floor of the House of Commons.

 

What is your future expectation of the Kurdistan APPG and how do you view future relations between the UK and Kurdistan?

 

The Group wants to be as effective as possible. To do that, we have to encourage more MPs and Peers to become involved. One of the best ways to do that is to give people the opportunity to learn more about Kurdistan. Our last planned visit had to be postponed because there were parliamentary discussions in Iraq and the politicians were not going to be in Kurdistan. Key visits like those would motivate more people to be in the position to raise these issues and recognise the important issues that are happening there... We should encourage more academic and business activity to bring Kurdistan and Iraq forward... This is not all in one way by any means. The group provides an opportunity for many British institutions to create contacts in Kurdistan...

 

Is there anything you would like to add?

 

Yes. I would like to talk about women’s rights and domestic violence. Before Christmas I met with Youssif Aziz, who is Kurdistan’s Human Rights Minister. We talked at length about human rights issues and also about women’s rights and domestic violence. I think that a lot of people do not realise the extent of domestic violence that women in the UK suffer from. By having involved these people in discussions, this had led to a reduction of our homicide rate. Mr. Aziz was very clear about domestic violence not being acceptable, but it is a very difficult and hidden problem to tackle. Therefore, we are very keen to share information on this topic which I think we could all work on.


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