Last night we held a meeting entitled ‘Perspectives on Iraq’ to hear the views of several people about the current situation in Iraq.
Dave Anderson MP, Joint President of the Labour Friends of Iraq and a long time official of the Trade Union, Unison, said that he had been opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq but had become involved in the Labour Friends of Iraq. He had accepted an invitation to visit Iraq from the Iraqi Trade Union movement who, he discovered, had welcomed the invasion as a liberation from Sadaam Hussein. He felt the most important point was to listen to the Iraqi people in how to help them solve their problems. Dave had taken Iraqis to the North East to his constituency to visit business people and to show them how the political and civil system worked. He said, “we’re a helping hand” from which Iraq can gain a lot but also we have a lot to learn from Iraq which is, after all, the cradle of civilisation.
Talar Salih Faiq is a UK representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), an autonomous region in Iraq since 1991. She explained that the KRG is a secular Government that observes human rights and that 27% of the politicians in the KRG are women, the highest in the whole Middle East. There were some critical comments from the audience about corruption in the KRG to which Talar replied that every nation in the world has to struggle against corruption. The Kurdish people have suffered a great deal and are only now developing. It will take some time to become a mature democracy with refined systems against corruption. She, and all she knew, were doing all they could to help the people of the KRG and the rest of Iraq.
Gary Kent, who is the Parliamentary Adviser to the Kurdish Regional Government and Director of the Labour Friends of Iraq, said he wanted to listen to the Iraqi people themselves. Dave Anderson and he had wanted a ‘warts and all’ view of Iraq. The Kurdish people are the largest people without their own nation. They have every reason to be bitter after their suffering. Even so the KRG have big plans including a huge airport that will have the 5th largest runway in the world. He expressed that contact with the wider world and in particular investment is very important both for Iraq and for the KRG. Sadiq Al-Wohali had just returned from a visit to Iraq part sponsored by the UK Football Academy. He had been in 2007 amid all the violence to train football coaches in Sadr city when 40 people graduated his course. This year he returned to train coaches in several more areas around Iraq. Surprisingly he said there are several football teams in Sadr city including a women’s team! Aziz Al-Naib, the founder of Messengers of HOPE, drew attention to the plight of refugees within Iraq and talked of his upcoming visit to make a documentary film.
One of the final comments of the night was from Dave Anderson. He emphasised his determination to continue to help the people of Iraq. ‘I will work with whoever you vote into power. If someone is not good you have the right to work to get them voted out. That’s the great thing about democracy.’