British-Kurdish UK Minister warns Halabja could happen again

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi warned that massacres like Halabja could happen in the future
British-Kurdish MP Nadhim Zahawi in an interview with Kurdistan 24 in 2017 (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
British-Kurdish MP Nadhim Zahawi in an interview with Kurdistan 24 in 2017 (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A UK government minister warned in a message of solidarity with the British-Kurdish community that another massacre like Iraq’s chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja 33 years ago could happen again.

On March 16, 1988, Iraqi aircraft launched a chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja, killing some 5,000 people and injuring 10,000 more. The event was part of the former Iraqi regime’s murderous Anfal campaign of the late 1980s against the Kurdish people that ultimately led to the deaths of over 180,000 people.

Nadhim Zahawi, a member of the UK parliament who is currently the minister in charge of the British government's vaccine rollout, was born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents who fled to the UK to escape the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in 1978, when Zahawi was nine years old, according to his parliamentary biography.

The minister shared a video message of solidarity with the British-Kurdish community that was published by the Kurdish Policy Board, an organization that promotes the integration and representation of British Kurds in the UK.

He said the “incredible agony suffered that day was just one part of the Anfal campaign, a campaign that destroyed more than 2,000 Kurdish villages and killed more than 182,000 Kurdish men, women, and innocent children.”

"Perhaps many many more lost their lives. The Anfal campaign was simply the culmination of a longer, wider genocidal movement against the Kurds, one of discrimination, demonization, forced relocation, Arabization and ultimately death perpetrated by Saddam Hussein's Baath regime against the people of Iraqi Kurdistan,” Zahawi said.

He said he earlier argued in the UK parliament on the 25th anniversary of the Anfal campaign in 2014 that "as the horrors of the Holocaust, pass beyond living memory, there is a danger that we drop our guard that we believe such terrible events are safely sealed in the history books and that they could never happen again."

"But the truth is, they already have happened again, they happened, in Bosnia happened in Rwanda, and they happened in Iraq and Kurdistan. Only by continuing to raise awareness of these atrocities will we ensure that people are educated against the intolerance and the hatred that led to these despicable acts. We must never forget, so that we never, ever repeat,” he said.

Last year, during a reception for the Newroz, the Kurdish new year, Zawahi recalled the historic theme of justice to stress that the world should not be allowed to forget genocides that have taken place since World War II.

Read More: Kurdish-British business minister hosts Newroz reception in London

“We pledged never again, but we allowed it again to happen to the Kurds during Halabja and the Anfal campaign,” he said.

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly