Yazidi refugees in Shingal
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – As the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) awaits The International Criminal Court to recognize the ISIS atrocities in Shingal, an earlier act of genocide is back in the news at home.
Members of the Kurdish parliament’s Human Rights Committee put forward three bills to the regional legislature two months ago with the aim of amending the Iraqi penal code. Two of the bills are related to women’s rights and family laws.
The third bill, however, has attracted more controversy. This unprecedented proposed amendment would make it a criminal offense for anyone across in Iraqi who denies the central government committed genocide against the Kurds.
A conviction, according to the bill, would carry a prison term of five to seven years.
Siraj Ahmed, the chairman of the Religious Affairs Committee, said the need for the amendment stems from ignorance on the Iraqi street. He said many anti-Kurdish Iraqis still deny the atrocities suffered by the Kurds.
“The bill calls to amend the Iraqi penal code and punish this type of bigotry, on the Iraqi level,” Ahmed said.
Vala Fareed, a Kurdish parliamentarian, said if the bill passes Kurdistan parliament, another bill will be prepared and discussed with the Kurdish members of the Iraqi parliament, “So they can take the bill to the Iraqi parliament for a vote there.”
“The law is to deal with all those who live in Iraq and deny the former Iraqi government has committed genocide against the Kurds,” she said, adding that the Iraqi Supreme Court has recognized the Halabja gas attack and the Anfal campaign as genocides.
“The bill will not be turned down in the Iraqi parliament. It will add some serious weight to the atrocities committed against the Kurds,” she said.
Lawmakers do not hide the fact the bill was inspired by French and German law that punish those who deny Holocaust and adhere to Nazism.
Bakir Hama Sideeq, former lawyer for the Halabja Genocide case, and a contributor to the bill that mandated compensation for the victims of Halabja Genocide, said Iraq has plenty of citizens who, “Don’t even admit a crime took place in Halabja and Anfal Campaign.”
“Even Iraqi parliament has members with this type of mentality,” he added.
Long-standing tensions between Baghdad and Erbil sometimes boil over, prompting some Iraqi politicians and writers to deny or trivialize the crimes committed against Kurds.
Hakim Sheikh Latif, former member of the Iraqi parliament, refers to this group as “The Neo-Baathists.”
“They have extremist views on the Kurds. It is not surprising if they deny the Kurdish genocides,” Latif said.
Latif recalled an incident from his time as a member of the Iraqi parliament.
“During any Anfal commemoration, they would frown and say ‘This again?’”
Goran Azad, a member of the Kurdistan parliament’s legal affairs committee, believes the stiff penalty the bill carries must be edited or adjusted.
“The bill should not specifically mention the genocides committed by the former regime, but instead it should emphasize denying crimes committed against the Kurds,” Azad said.
Latif, however, believes even without this bill parliament can issue a law in this regard, “because the Iraqi Supreme Court has already recognized the crime as genocide.”