Hanzala Malik: Iraqi Kurds want the Scots’ support. And they deserve to get it

DISCUSSING the nature of national identity and its complex links to political power doesn’t apply just in Scotland.

The Kurdistan region in Iraq is also such a place; it has about five million people, a strong historic identity and is in a union with a larger nation.

However, its recent history is filled with tragedy. Many of us remember the images of Halabja in 1988 when Iraqi jets bombed the town with chemical weapons and 5,000 people were killed instantly. This is only part of the story; overall, nearly 200,000 people died and thousands of villages were destroyed.

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As an MSP and convener of the cross-party group on South Asia and the Middle East, I am backing an e-petition urging the UK government to formally recognise this as genocide. Details can be found at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/31014.

The Kurds survived decades of persecution and they now seek Scotland to support their major economic, social and political transformation of their region.

The Kurdistan region has one of the largest oil reserves in the world, plentiful water and a good security situation. Living standards and services are on the up. Relations with its neighbours are improving too. However, the path to democracy and an open economy will take time. There is a need in Kurdistan for a larger private sector – a better balance to build a dynamic and a socially just society. Democracy is not just about voting – functioning democracy requires due process, political maturity and independent institutions.

My fact-finding visit took me to the two main cities to meet political and business leaders. I was impressed by their confidence and deep regard for the British. This is because they credit us with saving them from mass murder and because many citizens have returned from exile and safety in the UK. The Kurds can now afford to be choosy about services and products they buy in from the rest of the world. They are keen on the quality and professionalism of British and Scottish companies and public institutions.

All this and more is detailed in the report of the friendship mission undertaken by me and Westminster MPs. It can be found at appgkurdistan.org.uk

• Hanzala Malik is a Labour MSP for Glasgow

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