Over three hundred people from NHS bodies with their friends came together recently for a glittering charity ball in Newcastle Civic Centre. They had gathered to support and raise funds for Kurdish born orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Deiary Kader who founded the Newcastle-Gateshead Medical Volunteers to bring much needed medical relief to Kurds back in Erbil.
The more countries that mark the Kurdish genocide, through parliaments, governments, towns, civic groups, school talks and visits the better. There is a handful of memorials in Britain. There should be more. The 25th anniversary of Halabja has helped develop an international momentum that puts the past Kurdish Genocide and the future of the Kurdish people firmly on the map.
Last week Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, called for a ceasefire with the Turkish state. The announcement garnered widespread international coverage largely because the announcement was made to coincide with the Persian/Kurdish New Year and not long after the government announced it was in direct talks with Ocalan himself. But will this lead to a meaningful lasting peace?
The great achievement of post-Saddam Iraq is its transition from a centralised and mainly Sunni dominated one-party rule to federalism and power-sharing between Sunnis, Kurds and Shia, and small minorities. All this is, or should be, governed by the constitution, approved by over 80% of the people in a referendum in 2005.
The Kurdistan region is clearly thriving as the safest, most stable, and prosperous part of Iraq, with a headstart of 12 years of relative freedom from Saddam. The number of deaths through terrorism is about 200 since 2003. It has built a major energy sector from nothing in just a few years. And it has helped stabilise the rest of Iraq and could be a model for it to follow.
The current campaign to win formal recognition of the Kurdish genocide is nearing its finale in Britain. Last week, leading supporters of the all-party group on Kurdistan urged a business committee, which allocates time, to endorse an historic parliamentary debate on the Kurdish genocide and its contemporary relevance.
We are not only marking the tenth anniversary of the fall of Saddam but the 50th anniversary of the beginnings in 1963 of a campaign of demonisation of the Kurds that proceeded to full-blown genocide, most notably at Halabja where 5,000 people were killed and many more hideously injured by Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction.
After the recent ill-health and suffering from a stroke, Iraqi President and the PUK leader, Jalal Talabani has been out of the political scene and very much missed. This has prompted jockeying for position and lobbying by potential successors for both posts of Iraqi president and the leader of PUK.