Van Bommel to attend conference on genocide against Iraqi Kurds

22 January 2008

Van Bommel to attend conference on genocide against Iraqi Kurds

SP Member of Parliament and foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel leaves at the end of the week for northern Iraq where he will participate in a conference on the genocide against Kurds which took place in the 1980s. The conference, ‘Genocide in Kurdistan-Iraq’ takes place from Saturday 26th to Monday 28th January in Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. It will be opened by Nerchivan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdish regional government.

Harry van BommelAs a result in part of a parliamentary initiative from Van Bommel, Dutch poison gas trader Frans van Anraat, who supplied the ingredients for the toxic substances which killed thousands of Kurds, was arrested, tried and condemned to a 17-year prison term. Others who can claim credit for Van Anraat's being brought to book, including Fred Teeven, now a VVD (Liberal Party) MP and at the time a judiciary official, Professor Mient Jan Faber and journalist Arnold Karskens, author of a book on the case, were also invited to the conference.

It is twenty years ago this year that the Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein set in motion the so-called Anfal operation, the campaign of destruction and poison gas attacks against the Kurds in Iraq. The attack on the town of Halabja in March, 1988, became widely known as a striking example of what occurred.

The Kurdish regional government, which is organising the conference, is seeking international recognition of the genocide. In Van Bommel's opinion, such international recognition is vital, as is complete openness regarding the involvement of western governments and corporations in the supply of chemicals used in the gas attacks. The MP also intends to look into what actions the Netherlands and the EU might be able to take to address the major medical and social problems which continue to plague the region as a result of these gas attacks. The SP has long called for increased aid to the affected Kurds, including taking over projects which the previous donors, the British, are no longer willing to finance.

The SP has also for some years participated in the Halabja memorial day of 16th March. This year Van Bommel will use the twentieth anniversary to draw attention to calls from Dutch Kurds for the establishment of a Halabja monument.

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