Private Members Motion: Kurdistan

Thursday 19 March 2014

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Mrs VLAHOS ( Taylor ) ( 12:00 ): I move:
That this house—
(a) supports the Kurdish people who have contributed positively to South Australia's multicultural
community;
(b) notes that 16 March 2015 marks the 27th anniversary of the genocidal chemical attack by the Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein on Halabja in the Kurdish region of Iraq;
(c) acknowledges the Kurdish people's culturally inclusive, secular and democratic values; and
(d) recognises the Kurdish actions against ISIS and religious extremism in their homeland.

I rise today to support what is a relatively unknown story of a strong and thriving community in South
Australia, the Kurds. For those who are not familiar, Kurdistan is a region that encompasses parts of
Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Following World War I, the 1920 Treaty of Sevres made provision for the Kurds in this region to be
granted their own national state; however, this has never eventuated because of the Treaty of Lausanne
which established modern Turkish boundaries. It is understood that there are approximately 20 to 30
million Kurds in this region today.
According to the latest ABS 2011 Census data, there are 728 people in South Australia recording
themselves as having at least one Kurdish ancestor. We should recognise and acknowledge the
complexity of the background of our Kurdish South Australians. They are a very strong community. The
Kurdish story is one of struggle, resilience, bravery, equality of gender, courage, cultural persecution
and gross acts of genocide.
From 1974 to 1991 more than 4,000 villages were destroyed. Mass killings by the Iraqi Baathists were
brutal and took place between 1983 and 1991, culminating in the horrible al-Anfal campaign which
included an attack using chemical weapons on Halabja, killing 5,000 people. Many of the people who
find their way to our nation today and our state have been affected by this conflict. More recently, only
a few months ago, the Kurds suffered further genocide in Shingal with the UN stating that 7,000 Kurdish
Yazidi were thought to be killed by ISIS and also in the onslaught of ISIS on Kobani.
Despite the catastrophic and inhumane acts directed toward the Kurdish people, they have achieved a
self-governing region where they can develop their rich culture and human capital. Development in the
Kurdistan region in Iraq has been extraordinary since liberation, spurred by a highly secure environment
and a proven track record of investment. New construction has sprouted, along with improved electricity
supply, new universities and opportunities for a better life for all, and this is regardless of gender or
religion.

The Kurdistan region today is far different from when it started functioning autonomously in 1991. Today
the Kurdish people have built a government where none had existed before. They are now in their
seventh cabinet, and it is a multiparty democratic system to be praised in this region. It now
encompasses ministries and departments that are all concerned with every sector of society and the
economy. With this achievement, the Kurdish people are now striving to ensure that it is the right size—
not too large, not too small—and to ensure that they have the right people in the right positions with
their Vision 2020 document.
The Kurdish community in South Australia have overcome significant disruption in their livelihoods and
have taken extraordinary steps to normalise their commitment to building a peaceful life here in Australia
but also a peaceful and inclusive region in Iraq. This is testament to the resilience of the Kurdish people,
many of whom have made South Australia their home.
On 16 March 2015, let us never forget the innocent lives that were tragically lost as a result of the
barbaric attack on the Kurdish people. The Kurdish peshmerga forces are on the front line battling ISIS
and are bravely continuing to advance and recapture territory held by Islamic State in the northern part
of Iraq known as Mount Sinjar. They are truly heroic men and women doing this for us and their nation.
It is important that we note that the Kurdish forces involve men and women fighting on the front line
against ISIS.
Reports from journalists write that Peshmerga forces have been able to regain control over the majority
of areas that have been under ISIS control. A sense of unity between local Kurdish people and those
living internationally has increased. Through every disaster the Kurds have united in the region and
within the diaspora around the world to strengthen their cause.
I put on the record two particular female Kurdish leaders who have inspired me and serve as a centre
of hope with community members. To date the most decorated and internationally recognised female
Kurdish leader is Leyla Zana. Mrs Zana was the first Kurdish woman to be elected to the Turkish
parliament in 1991, and has been nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize. Closer to home the
Kurdish community here is strong, with recognition in South Australia of the state finalist of the Young
Australian of the Year 2014, Ms Tara Fatehi, who is in the gallery today. I welcome Tara and also the
community members who are with her in the youth group.
Tara Fatehi fled her homeland at the age of three. She is a young PhD student studying medicine and
also gives back to the community by volunteering her time with the Kurdish community. Among many
achievements, Tara founded the Adelaide Kurdish Youth Society with her friends, with the aim of
helping her community to promote its rich heritage and culture, and to forge strong ties in their new
land, Australia.
She co-founded the Kurdistan Health Project, and is the Australian ambassador for youth-led charities
such as the WHAM Project and Vision Libraries, which aim to create the largest English library in South
Kurdistan and Iraq. Tara, and other members of the local Kurdish community: I look forward to
celebrating Newroz with you on Friday night. On 21 May we will gather, with many other Kurdish
community members, to celebrate new year or Newroz. Every year a fire is lit on Newroz Eve to mark
the coming of the new year. The fire night is a symbolic event that symbolises the coming of the new
year, the coming of spring in Kurdistan, an age of growth and regeneration, and also the revolution and
struggle of the Kurdish people and their resilience.
This chamber is a symbol of our rich democratic history and of democracy that lives and thrives in South
Australia. It is an appropriate venue for us to recognise the struggle of the Kurdish people today. I
support this motion and acknowledge the Kurdish community, who value democracy, actively fight for
it to grow and enrich our world, and contribute a rich tapestry of multiculturalism in our state.