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Peace and Security

London Gathering Hears Perspectives on Iraq

An October 6 meeting in London on ‘Perspectives on Iraq’ featured presentations by a Member of the UK Parliament and people from Iraq who are living in the United Kingdom.

Dave Anderson MP, the Joint President of the Labour Friends of Iraq and a long-time official of the Trade Union, 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 which, 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 about how to help them solve their problems. Dave had also taken Iraqis to visit business people in his constituency and 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 civilization."

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 percent of the politicians in the KRG are women, the highest percentage 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, she said, and it will take some time to become a mature democracy with refined systems against corruption. She and the people 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 KRG has big plans, including a huge airport that will have the fifth largest runway in the world. He said 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 that was sponsored in part by the UK Football Academy. He was there in 2007 amid the violence in Sadr City to train football coaches, and 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 trip 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."

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