Kurds call it a liberation

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ENGLAND is ‘the mother of parliaments’ and inspires people around the world.

I often meet overseas visitors who say they look to us for a lead on human rights and democracy.

One such people are the Kurds of Iraq, who thank John Major and Tony Blair for saving them from extermination.

Major helped establish a no-fly zone in 1991, which protected them from Saddam’s jets until Blair overthrew Saddam Hussein ten years ago.

The intervention is controversial here but the Kurds call it a liberation. And it’s no wonder why.

They lost hundreds of thousands through a genocide against them.

The most infamous act was the gassing of Halabja 25 years ago when 5,000 died in seconds, frozen as they fell victim to mustard gas and nerve agents.

Yet this has been almost lost in the mists of time, and many young people simply don’t know the scale of Saddam’s crimes.

The Kurds have been asking the British to formally recognise this genocide, just as we mark the Holocaust.

They say that if it is not recognised as such it becomes easier for others to follow the example of Saddam.

Their neighbour Syria has seen about 70,000 killed in the last two years, and it could even use chemical weapons.

MPs, including myself, won a Commons debate. Sadly, I couldn’t make the recent debate but my north east colleague Dave Anderson and others spoke eloquently for me.

The Commons recognised the genocide.

Unusually, the minister shifted his legally cautious approach and agreed to work with the Labour opposition and the Kurds to see how government could follow suit.

The UK can bring comfort to the Kurds as they rebuild their society and work with us for pluralism and prosperity rather than fear and death.