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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 701

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (13:24): by leave—I move:

That this House notes that:

(1) March 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the genocidal chemical attack by the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on Halabja in the Kurdish region of Iraq that took at least 4,000 lives within a few minutes and displaced many thousands more, and was part of Saddam’s brutal Anfal Campaign of the 1980s, targeting Kurdish and other minorities in Iraq;

(2) some 4,000 villages, 2,000 schools and 300 hospitals were destroyed, including through the use of chemical weapons across dozens of Kurdish villages;

(3) the Saddam regime was also responsible for the:

(a) deportation or forced relocation of tens of thousands of Faili Kurds on the basis that they were not considered Iraqi;

(b) abduction and execution of an estimated 8,000 Barzani Kurds who were subsequently buried in mass graves in southern Iraq; and

(c) arrest, execution and subsequent burial of up to 100,000 Iraqi Kurds in 1988, including women and children; and

(4) the former dictator Saddam Hussein and Ali Hassan al Majid, known as Chemical Ali, were subsequently prosecuted and convicted for these and other crimes.

I note the attendance here today of Haval A Syan, the Liverpool based representative of the government of the Kurdistan region in Australia.

Obviously, this attack in 1988 was, by any international standard—including by comparison with Bosnia, Rwanda or Syria—an extremely disturbing assault by the government of Iraq upon its own citizens. Before utilising chemical weapons the government of Iraq bombed the Kurdish village of Halabja for quite a while. It is thought they did this to make sure that the windows were open so that the gas would be more effective. The legacy of this was that in 1998 about 7,000 people were still being treated. The local areas—the water and land—were contaminated.

It was part of a broader thrust by the administration of Iraq—the Anfal assault on the Kurdish areas—leading to mass deportations, mass graves, forced relocations and the destruction of thousands of Turkish villages and households. John Simpson of the BBC was on the spot very shortly afterwards. Even though he had not been there at the time of the assault he spoke of his eyes prickling and of grave headaches for hours afterwards. He said:

I saw a woman whose body was twisted almost into a circle, the back of her head touching her feet. There was vomit and blood on her clothes, and her face was contorted in agony.

There were reports of burning and blistering and of people coughing up green vomit. There were very long-term impacts upon genetic diseases and the youth of that region. Cancers, respiratory problems, skin and eye debilities, reproductive and fertility issues were manifest.

In 2010, the Iraqi High Criminal Court tried President Hussein and the man known internationally as Chemical Ali, his close relative, for their participation in this activity. Memos have been discovered in the President's office which told of the provision of mustard gas and sarin. There were internal communiques, between the military and intelligence of the then Iraqi Ba'athist government, confirming approval of these actions. These are actions to be condemned internationally.

Let us talk today, also, about the current situation in Kurdistan. We must reflect on the gains that have been made. It is an area that has the sixth-largest known petrol reserve in the world. There have been significant negotiations with a number of companies, most particularly in Turkey. Today, 27 foreign and diplomatic representatives are situated in Erbil, including four of the five permanent United Nations Security Council members. By the end of this year, China will also have established its first diplomatic mission in the Kurdistan region.

There are, of course, some issues to be dealt with. It is a bit like Lebanon, which has not had a census since the 1930s because they do not want to discover the huge growth in the Shiite proportion of the population. Similarly, in Iraq they are not too keen on taking censuses because there is a livelihood to be had from the current deal, where Kurdistan receives 17 per cent of the oil revenue. Unfortunately, the revenue goes through the Iraqi administration in the first place and is slowly paid back in very paltry amounts over very significant periods of time. Despite that there is an estimate that the Kurds currently constitute a quarter of the population. Obviously, the question of a negotiation based on 17 per cent raises some questions about the ethical distribution.

On the other hand, there is also the issue that a very significant part of Iraq's revenue comes from this zone. So whether it is based on population or revenue, there are significant arguments for a renegotiation of this deal. I am pleased to see that a significant number of nations are dealing directly with the Kurdistan regional administration with regards to the future of these revenues.

The Kurds have been supressed for many centuries. We know about the plight of the Kurds in Turkey, Iran and Syria. They have had very little access to human rights. They have had very little right to language and to culture. They have very few broadcasting rights within those countries. But Kurdistan is making a very real example to the world and to the Kurdish people about their ability to conduct administrations, have their autonomy, and to fight for the preservation of their culture and their rights.