Living the Legacy, Genocide in Iraq

It is with great honour that I welcome the launch of the Genocide in Iraq conference and a greater respect, that this conference be held in the United Kingdom. 

For over a decade the people of Iraq have suffered the forefront experiences of modern genocide, and similar to the situation of NAZI occupied Europe, have also witnessed the exact same denialism and ignorance to the plight of our people. 

Never before in the history of the Middle East, have a people experienced so much suffering, where since the establishment of sanctions after the first Gulf War, through to the invasion and occupation in 2003, to the current Holocaust by ISIS, has a population remained so patient and still loving to the world around them. 

At present, we watch with horror as our families and friends experience the first hand actions of 21st Century Fascism, which much to the shame of the United Kingdom, includes it’s own citizens, in the systematic attempts to establish, not an Islamic caliphate as the ISIS claim, but the echoes of Auschwitz, that still represents this evil, which began in the 20th century. 

What such a conference as this represents, is the coming together of people who represent true humanity and the rejection of genocidal methods, with the aim and purpose of creating a safer world for children to grow up in. 

The children of Iraq, were born into war, have grown up in war and their lives have been shaped and influenced by war. 

This is an unavoidable fact but we live with the physical and psychological evidence of this and for us, genocide in Iraq, is not a theoretical question but a concrete reality, where we hope to bring resolution to the lives of those most vulnerable and those most greatly affected. 

It is easy to embrace the politics of hate, sectarianism, revision and exclusion, but as history has shown, such divisions have always been met with resistance inside of Iraq. 

As a people, we come with the history of Ancient Mesopotamia, where we have grown intertwined with the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome, where our religions are Abrahamic and our stories are still recited from the Torah, Bible and Quran. 

We have also grown and developed within the history of Empire, where our legacy remains that of Persia, Ottoman and British. Along with Iraq being a central feature in the battlefields of World War’s One and Two, and in the strategic reliance and defiance of the US-Soviet Cold War. 

For us, if history has taught us anything, then history’s greatest legacy has been the framework of history alone, where present or historic genocide in Iraq, does not have to remain a subject isolated, or exclusive to the Iraqi people, or those of Iraqi heritage. 

As history has again shown, the Romans introduced Mesopotamians to historic Briton in around AD400, Britain’s General George Keppel in 1824 provided unique and vivid insights, through his travels up the Tigris and Euphrates, while the Commonwealth War Graves of North Gate and Kut, serve as examples, of the historic framework which connects both Britain and Iraq. 

Organisations such as the Royal British Legion and the mental health charity Combat Stress, were both founded in the wake of World War One, and supported those British servicemen who returned from battles, like those fought in Mesopotamia. 

After Armistice and until to this day, both still remain as clear examples, of how treatment and support can be provided, to those with unique war injuries, where other organisations within modern Britain, simply lack experience. 

And when we look at Europe, since the end of World War Two, survivors of Hitler’s Holocaust have given the gift of an educational legacy, which we share in the form of Holocaust Memorial Day and charities like the Anne Frank Trust, who with the rallying cry of “Never Again”, provide an educational framework to millions of young people, including the new generation of Europeans of Iraqi heritage, so that future generations can play an active role in bringing genocide, to its much needed end.

I would like to draw to a close, my contribution to this conference, by wishing it the very best of success but also by urging people, who are troubled, disturbed or directly impacted by recent events in Iraq, to remember the words of Anne Frank, the life saving efforts of Oskar and Emilie Schindler, to embrace fully the memory of Poland’s Irena Sendler and the courage demonstrated, by the women of Britain’s Special Operations Executive. 

It’s now the turn of each delegate, to this conference, to make a new history, and carry forward this remarkable legacy!