TORONTO (Kurdistan 24) – A Toronto city councillor and members of the local Kurdish community have called for continued efforts from Kurds and non-Kurds in Canada and abroad to end genocide against the people of Kurdistan.
On Saturday, dozens of Kurds and members of the Canadian Parliament and local city council gathered at Toronto City Hall to witness history. For the first time in Canadian-Kurdish history, the Kurdistan flag was raised to honor the victims of the 1988 Halabja massacre.
The brutal genocide, which occurred during the former Iraqi regime’s Anfal campaign, killed nearly 5,000 people and injured 10,000 others.
Toronto City Councillor Jim Karygiannis, who was at the heart of the flag-raising initiative, said the crimes Saddam Hussein committed against the Kurdish people would never be forgotten.
“We’re going to remember what Saddam Hussein did, and we’re going to be joined by other nations as we say: never again,” he told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday following the flag raising ceremony.
“However, we got to be vigilant and make sure that the ‘never again,’ is really, truly never again,” Karygiannis added.
The Toronto city councillor also said he would join his colleagues and ask other cities in Canada and around the world to do the same thing next year.
Chato Wany, President of The Greater Toronto Kurdish House (GTKH), a local non-profit group who has worked tirelessly for the Kurdish cause in Canada, said the historic day was a tribute “to honor the victims of Anfal and Halabja.”
Wany, who has led countless initiatives in Toronto on behalf of the Kurdish community in Canada and abroad, said Kurds need to remain united to achieve their greater goals.
Kurdish unity is important because it would pave the way for the Canadian government “to give us support and help and solidarity in order to make Kurdish people live in dignity, freedom, and peace,” he explained.
Sartip Kakaee, an executive member of GTKH, worked closely with Karygiannis to submit a proposal to the City of Toronto to bypass a protocol on the city’s flag raising criteria.
The City rejected previous requests on grounds the Kurdistan flag “is an official symbol of the sub-national Kurdistan Region of Iraq.”
Kakaee told Kurdistan 24 he sent nearly 3,000 emails to MPs calling on them to vote for an amendment. He also sent thousands of emails to the Kurdish community, encouraging them to do the same.
Following the historic ceremony, the Kurdish activist called on diaspora youth to remember their Kurdish heritage and “take the flag and go forward.”
“Don’t forget that you are still Kurdish, and don’t forget your Kurdish nation,” Kakaee said. “This is how we can be united, and this is how we can keep our land in Kurdistan safe.”