Aram Ahmed, Minister of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government, said that the KRG is working hard to gain greater support in the European Parliament to have Saddam Hussein’s “Anfal Campaign,” in which tens of thousands of Kurds were murdered and many buried in mass graves, recognized as genocide. ‘We expect the European Union to put pressure on the Iraqi government to compensate the families of the victims of the Kurdish genocide,’ he said in an interview with Rudaw. He disclosed that work was continuing on a completing a list of foreign companies that sold Saddam weapons of mass destruction, or the material or know-how to build chemical weapons. This, he said, would greatly facilitate the process of seeking compensation from the companies for the victims of Saddam’s massacres. Here is an edited transcript of his interview:
Rudaw: Recently you participated in several conferences in Europe dealing with the recognition of the Kurdish genocide. Were the conferences productive?
Aram Ahmed: Holding conferences in Europe on the Kurdish genocide is in itself a breakthrough in the process of recognition, because at least it shows the willingness of the Western countries to hear stories of Kurdish massacres. Maybe the conferences do not bring about immediate results, but they provide us with great moral and political support.
The last conference was at the European Parliament. The president of Kurdistan Region had visited the European Parliament and encouraged them to pay more attention to the Kurdish case and the crimes committed against the Kurdish people such as Anfal and the chemical attack against Halabja. We had discussions with senior officials of the European Parliament and they promised to take some positive steps. In fact, the European Parliament is very important for us, because it represent 28 European countries, which makes it a very influential player in the Europe’s politics.
Rudaw: What did they promise to do?
Aram Ahmed: They promised to work hard on recognition of the Kurdish genocide. This is a step. Also, at a state level, we talked to the representatives of some states. We clearly asked them to use their influence in the European Parliament. Also, we recommended the establishment of a friendship association between the Kurds and the European Union in order to further the case of Kurdish genocide. When I talked to them, or when I saw them in the meetings with the president of the Kurdistan Region, I sensed that they are very serious in supporting the Kurdish case in the European Parliament.
Rudaw: In they do use their influence, what can they do?
Aram Ahmed: We want political support. A few years ago, if we had asked for support from the European Parliament they would not respond to our request and they would not talk about it. But now, you see that they are holding conferences on Kurdish genocide. Their influence begins with political support and that would result in tremendous outcomes. We expect the European Union to put pressure on the Iraqi government to compensate the families of the victims of the Kurdish genocide.
The efforts of recognizing the genocide are to prevent the occurrence of genocide again, and to express the willingness of the international community in supporting the groups that advocate the cause in the world. Also, the European Parliament can work on securing compensation for the families of the victims of genocide.
Rudaw: Will the European Union only urge Baghdad to provide compensation, or will the parliament offer compensation as well?
Aram Ahmed: It will be influential in both cases. It will urge Baghdad to provide compensation. Through the High Criminal Tribunal, the parliament will also urge the countries that provided weapons to Baghdad to provide compensation, because that is one of the articles of the Rome Statute. This is an opportunity and we will work on it, but it will be mostly from Baghdad.
Rudaw: To what extent will the recognition of crimes against Halabja and Anfal by the European Parliament have an impact on supporting the creation of an independent Kurdish state?
Aram Ahmed: The issue of self-determination and independence is more related to the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Iraqi government and the neighboring countries. But when we secure international and European support through recognition of genocide, this will facilitate our projects. International support will be an encouragement to achieve our objectives.
Rudaw: The families of the victims of Kurdish genocide are tired of waiting to be compensated. They want to know if the conferences will have a short-term result from a practical point of view.
Aram Ahmed: Yes, as I said earlier, in the past we could not talk about the Kurdish genocide. Step by step, through conferences and our activities, we have reached a better situation. Of course, we are desperate to see practical results in the near future.
Rudaw: Out of the European countries, which country has paid the most attention to the Kurdish genocide?
Aram Ahmed: Britain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, France and Italy have all paid attention to the Kurdish genocide. But Britain has been the most supportive one. You see that Britain, politically, has a stronger role than most of the Western countries at the European Union. It also has a specific group that works on the Kurdish government. The British government has also come forward.
Rudaw: I have heard that you are preparing to file complaints against companies that provided weapons to the former regime of Iraq?
Aram Ahmed: Our main objective is to bring to justice those who provided the weapons to the former regime and those who aided the regime in conducting the crimes in any manner. This will make the recognition and compensation process easier. This is one of the objectives of the conferences that we hold on genocide. We have done special work though law experts and we will continue the path.
Rudaw: But I was asking about specific companies?
Aram Ahmed: We have a list. Our legal experts are revising, studying and investigating the list. Along with arranging conferences, we are busy with this as well.
Rudaw: Does the list contain the name of Western companies that provided the former regime with weapons of mass destruction?
Aram Ahmed: This issue requires solid evidence and documents. You cannot bring any companies to the court with weak evidence. The KRG is seeking to obtain strong evidence and our legal experts are working on that. Also, a team in Germany and some other organizations are working on the list.
Rudaw: Does the list contain the names of companies that sold weapons to Iraq? You did not tell me about the content of the list?
Aram Ahmed: The list does not only contain the list of companies that sold weapons to the former regime of Iraq. It also contains companies that sold chemical materials to the former regime, regardless of their knowledge whether the materials would be used for chemical weapons.
Rudaw: If a company agrees to pay compensation for Halabja chemical attacks, would the money go to the families of the victims directly?
Aram Ahmed: Of course, the people of Halabja will receive the money. That is how compensation is. Not only Halabja, all the areas that were destroyed by the former regime will be compensated and their residents will receive compensation.
Rudaw: Why do we hear that searching for mass graves has become very difficult?
Aram Ahmed: The search for mass graves has become very difficult recently for many reasons. Saddam Hussein buried people in the depth of deserts. The landscapes of the deserts change frequently due to wind and sandstorms. The sandstorm covers the mass graves with thick layers of sand, which makes the search and finding of mass graves very difficult.
Rudaw: Where are most of them?
Aram Ahmed: Most of them are in Samawa, near the Saudi Arabian border. As I said, searching for mass graves has become a huge challenge. Change of weather has troubled the task.
Rudaw: Have your teams stopped searching?
Aram Ahmed: We are working; we have other teams that work together. Whenever we hear any news about mass graves, our teams immediately head to the area.
Rudaw: Do you think everyone who was taken to the deserts was buried in mass graves? Did anyone survive?
Aram Ahmed: Most of the evidence tells us that most of them were buried in mass graves. But maybe there are a few survivors. During the last few years, whenever we heard anything about the possibility of someone surviving the mass graves, we followed up the case immediately. It is very hard to find someone after 26 years. We have some news that some people are still alive. We have started investigation, but no results yet.