Saturday, March 21, 2015

World Toronto Kurds remember Halabja and other victims of Kurdish mass murders

The event featured activists, scholars and artists. Photo: Kurdish House
The event featured activists, scholars and artists. Photo: Kurdish House
TORONTO, Canada – Kurds in Toronto remembered victims of the 1988 Halabja massacre with a gathering that honored all Kurdish victims of mass killings.
Activists, scholars and international artists gathered at the city’s Civic Center on Sunday to raise awareness about the mass murder of Kurds, from Halabja to Shingal. 
“As heartbreaking as the Halabja event was, it was neither the beginning nor the end of the Kurdish genocide,” said the head of the Kurdish League Against Genocide, one of the speakers at the event. “Yezidis recently faced massacres for the 72nd time,” he said.
Illana Shneider, the executive director of the Canada-Israel Friendship Association, emphasized the historic ties between Kurds and Jews, announcing that “Israel is in full support of an independent Kurdistan, a nation of warriors and moderate views.” 
She said the geopolitical situation in the Middle East remains complex but that Jews and Kurds have suffered greatly, often at the hands of mutual oppressors. Shneider called for the “solidarity of all oppressed groups.” 
A documentary screened at the event offered a brief glimpse into the human catastrophe that occurred on March 16, 1988 in Halabja, when Saddam Hussein’s forces bombed the town with poison gas in the closing weeks of the 1980-88 war with Iran, killing some 5,000 Iraqi Kurds, nearly all civilians. 
The film highlighted the bitter fact that, despite the tremendous suffering of the Kurds, many countries in the world still refuse to use the word “genocide” in reference to “Anfal,” Saddam’s 1986-88 murderous campaigns that were directed mainly at the Kurds.
Sartip Kakaei, chairman of the Kurdish House that organized the event, honored Canadians helping the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the war against Islamic State (ISIS). He offered condolences to the family of Andrew Doiron, a Canadian special forces killed this month on duty with Peshmerga forces, and wished fast recovery for other wounded Canadian soldiers.
Kakaei also delivered a message to the Canadian government through MPs and Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) who attended the event.  
“I call upon you to realize crimes against humanity so no other nation would be subject to what Kurds suffered from,” his message said. “We call upon the Canadian government to support Kurdish independence for the betterment of the region and the world. The present Iraqi government should apologize to the Kurds and compensate for the damage.” 
He also noted that ISIS still continued to brutalize Kurds.
In a moving performance choreographed by Fethi Karakecil the Dilan Dance Company portrayed how Kurds wanted only to live in peace and let live in peace, and yet had been subjected to the denial of identity and killed in the thousands for politics and power struggles in which they played no part.
Member of Parliament Changsen Leung offered his sympathies to the Kurds and reminded the community of the Canadian government’s cooperation with Kurds in the fight against ISIS.
Mark Adler, the Conservative Member of the House of Commons who has visited Halabja, stated that, “Even though on the surface life seems to be going on in Halabja, the underneath pain continues.” 
Sharing the story of his father, a survivor of the Jewish Holocaust, he said: “We can never forget what was done to Jews and Kurds. We cannot afford to stay still. We must work together.”
Kaziwa Salih, writer and scholar, said that “Kurds are bound to remember genocide -- not just Halabja, but also Dersim and others, as well as the slow genocide of Kurds in Iran and Syria.”
Cautioning against oversimplification, he said it was not only Saddam and a handful of his henchmen who had been responsible for genocides against the Kurds. “Little Saddams” continue to live on in one generation after another, he said.
“Genocide is a culture that can be inherited from a generation and transferred from culture to culture,”Salih warned.
The event ended with poetry, drama and music.

The article was originally published here

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