Iraqi Refugees

Part of Constitutional Reform – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 3rd July 1991.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 5:06 pm, 3rd July 1991

I welcome the clear statement of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that, unless and until a United Nations force can provide effective safeguards for the Kurds and the other persecuted people of north and south Iraq, it would be wrong for the coalition forces to leave them to the mercy of Saddam Hussein. The Select Committee was repeatedly told by refugees that they would not return to their own country until Saddam Hussein was removed from power. I have heard that view on many occasions, and who can criticise those people for expressing that view? Many of us believe that the danger will persist so long as Saddam Hussein continues his evil and brutal tyranny in Iraq and continues to thumb his nose at the United Nations by denying its inspectors access to Iraqi nuclear equipment. He must take the consequences of such actions.

Evidence of torture and repression is legion. On 27 May The Independent headed Robert Fisk's recent report on his visit to the cells of Iraq's secret police in Dihok: A testimony to brutality written in blood". The article stated: The last young women to be imprisoned here died in these fetid cells two months ago. The Peshmerga say they found three of their bodies, naked and with their hands bound, on the floor. One of the girls was 12 years old. Another, older woman had been gang-raped and died later. Anyone who wants to now what propelled the one and a half million Kurds to flee their homes has only to visit Dihok. For eight years I have chaired CARDRI, the Campaign Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq. We have continually exposed the brutality of the Baath regime and have linked up with those in Iraq who are struggling for human and democratic rights in immensely difficult and dangerous conditions. Many have since died. In 1983 an Iraqi mother told us about her son, who was typical of so many thousands of people who have died in Iraq. He was a medical student who went out one day and never returned. Many months later she was told to go to the mortuary and collect his body. She was led to the room where the body was to be found and she said: When I entered and saw what was inside, I could not believe that there are people who could do such things to other human beings. I looked around and saw nine bodies. My son was in a chair. He had blood all over him, his body was eaten away and bleeding. I looked at the others stretchedout on the floor … all burnt … one of them had his chest slit with a knife … another's body carried the marks of a hot domestic iron all over his head to his feet … everyone was burnt in a different way. Another one had his legs cut off with an axe. His arms were also axed. One of them had his eyes gouged out and his nose and ears cut off". There were so many of those chilling accounts that at times, over the years, I found them difficult to believe. But now, the horrors of Saddam's Iraq will continue to shock and astound the world. The stories of the two Britons, Doug Brand and Patrick Trigg, are yet more evidence that nothing has changed. As in the past, Saddam's policy is to intimidate, persecute and kill.

It is therefore to the shame of this Government and others throughout the world that, even after Halabja in 1988, Saddam Hussein was still treated as a valued trading partner. The Ministry of Defence allowed the sale to Iraq of a design for a missile testing concrete bunker, even though there was a ban on arms sales to Iraq. That is yet another example of turning a blind eye to the spirit of the regulations. I hope that a valuable lesson has been learnt.