June 7, 2016 [2]

Transcript of President Barzani’s message at 25th anniversary of Operation Provide Comfort in Washington, DC

Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd) – The following message was delivered by Head of the Department of Foreign Relations of the Kurdistan Regional Government Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir at the Middle East Institute’s 25th anniversary commemoration of Operation Provide Comfort.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to start these brief remarks by apologizing for not being able to attend this very valuable event.

I use the word “valuable” here very carefully as the passing of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 was indeed a valuable event for the people of the Kurdistan Region.

It was through that resolution that we began to form a new life here in the Kurdistan Region, a life that carried with it hope and certainty.

The people of Kurdistan had witnessed the unspeakable cruelty of the Ba’thist regime.

We had been subjected to the act of the Anfal genocide of 1988 where 182,000 Kurds were murdered for the mere “crime” of having been born Kurds.

We had been gassed with chemical weapons all across Kurdistan, but infamously in the town of Halabja where in a matter of only a few minutes 5,000 civilians were poisoned to death.

We had witnessed the mass murder of 12,000 Faili Kurds and 8,000 Barzanis; again they were murdered only because their identity cards read “Kurdish” under nationality.

4,500 out of 5,000 of our villages were completely demolished by the Saddam regime.

Our share of Saddam’s Iraq was that assortment of those crimes against humanity.

Our share of the Ba’thist rule in Baghdad was misery and mass graves.

So ladies and gentlemen:

We have every right to cherish April 5, 1991, to treat United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 as a valuable document because the silence of the international community had finally come to an end and the world began to tell Saddam that enough is enough.

The international community, through Resolution 688, condemned the Saddam regime for its repression.

Today we attribute much of our achievements in the past quarter of a century to that condemnation through that Security Council Resolution.

The Resolution and Operation Provide Comfort paved the way to the holding of the first free elections in Iraq, the 1992 Kurdistan elections, the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdistan Parliament and a number of institutions of which the people of Kurdistan were deprived.

That Resolution gave the people of the Kurdistan Region, for the first time after a very long period of suffering and pain, a sense of hope and they began to optimistically look into the future.

Resolution 688 and Operation Provide Comfort enabled us to demonstrate to the world that we can transform this land of mass graves and misery into a land of hope and coexistence.

That Kurdistan is a Region of opportunities and not vengeance, a region where human dignity matters far more than absurd nationalistic and racist propaganda whose end result was the destruction of so many lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to thank the international community from the depths of my heart and on behalf of the people of the Kurdistan Region for the brave decision to act against the Saddam regime.

Again please accept my appreciation to the people and government of the United States and other allies for their support during Operation Provide Comfort in 1991.

Finally I call upon your support and prayers for Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces fighting our shared enemy, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS.

The Peshmerga represent a school of thought which emphasizes courage, sacrifice and selflessness, and throughout history they have become a symbol of our national pride.

Today we are engaged in an existential war against some of the most barbaric human beings in modern history.

In spite of the many challenges, the Peshmerga are fighting to rid the Kurdistan Region and beyond of terrorists who do not share our principles of peace, co-existence and freedom,

And they continue to defend communities fleeing violence and persecution from Iraq and beyond.

As I have said in the past, our Peshmerga forces are not only defending our land and dignity, but they’re fighting on behalf of the civilized world against an enemy that targets freedom-loving people indiscriminately whether it is in Sinjar or Paris, Kobane or Raqqa, Mosul or Brussels.

Once again thank you and God bless you.
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