Fabian visits Kurdistan in Northern Iraq

On 12th February 2012 Fabian undertook a 4 day visit to the Kurdish autonomous region of Northern Iraq as part of his work with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurdistan. This was his second visit to the area.

A red carpet welcome for the All Party Parliamentary Group visitors to the Kurdistan Presidential Palace.

Umbreen Khalad (administrator Scottis Parliament)) Robert Halfon MP (Conservative Harlow) Garry Kent (administrator Westminter), Stephen Metcalf MP (Conservative Basildon and Fabian Hamilton MP

The region of Kurdistan to the north of Bagdhad. Arbil is an alternative spelling of the name of the capital of the region.

The region comprises about 20% of the country of Iraq and has a recent very painful history. It became autonomous in 1993 after the infamous Halabja massacre when some 5000 Kurds were killed by the Sadam Hussein regime bombing their villages with poison gas in the closing stages of the Iran - Iraq war with the bodies then being put into mass graves. Even today the poisonous traces remain as recently two people died from gas after opening the graves of those who died.

One of the mass graves of Kurds massacred by poison gas under the regime of Sadam Hussein and the memorial to their memory and suffering.

There are three main centres of population, Erbil (the capital), Duhok and Sulaymaniyah with a population that is almost exclusively Kurdish. Erbil is one of the world's oldest continaully inhabited cities. The Kurdish people live spread over adjoining areas in Iraq, Turkey and Iran and speak a language that is a mixture of Turkish and Persian with a script that is more Persian than Arabic. Kurds are Muslims although the culture is not conservative and the feel of the community seems more secular than religious.

Kurdistan and its inhabitants were first offered some protection after the initiative by the John Major government which established a safe haven. This was then later reinforced by the Blair government cooperating with the USA to put in place a no fly zone, a measure that effectively prevented Sadam conducting further acts of genocide against the Kurds. Although firmly established as a part of federal Iraq, a visa is required even today by travellers from Baghdad whereas Erbil has direct flights from Europe used by Fabian and his colleagues from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kurdistan. Today Northern Iraq is a major safe haven for Kurds and there is a great deal of respect for the UK following the support from our country that the Kurds received in the years of oppression.

While in Kurdistan, Fabian and his colleagues met politicians including the President Massoud Barzani, visited a secondary school where they were treated to a display of Kurdish music and dancing, were taken to an oil field run by a Canadian company and had tea in a traditional village. They found that the region was a haven of tranquility and prosperity with ordered government in a part of the world where where this is not the norm. President Barzani is to step down at the end of his second four year term of office.

President Massoud Barzani (centre) greets APPG visitors at the Presidential Palace

Local girls who gave a display of traditional dancing

An oil rig installed by Zagros a Canadian company

The APPG visitors meet members of the Kurdistan Regional government

The visit by Westminster MPs was important. Kurdistan offers many opportunities for UK investment as very significant oil reserves have been discovered that offer great opportunity for the benefit of the country as well as supporting world-wide economic development. The genocide experience suffered by the Kurds has given them a sympathy and understanding of the history of the Jewish people and there is an open minded attitude towards Israel. The country leans as much towards the west as to its own roots in the east and is concerned to build its future not only on prosperity from its natural resources but also on the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law. During his previous visit Fabian had helped with a seminar for political leaders in the Kurdistan Regional Parliament. Fabian noted that while the country had much work still to do, it nevertheless is a role model for the development of other Middle Eastern countries whose peoples crave freedom, peace and control of their own destinies.