Bakhtiar Amin for the commemoration ceremony of Danielle Mitterrand11/02/2012 16:53
In this special opinion article former Minister of Human Rights in Iraq Bakhtiar Amin celebrates the life of Danielle Mitterrand at a commemoration ceremony held on January 22, 2012 in Erbil.
It is an honor and a privilege to address such a distinguished gathering to commemorate a great friend, loyal and a tireless advocate of the Kurdish cause, the cause of justice for an oppressed people. She was considered as the mother of the Kurds and she was acting accordingly. Danielle Gouze was born on October 29, 1924 in Verdun (Meuse) and died on November 22, 2011 at the age of 87 at Georges-Pompidou Hospital in Paris and buried close to her parents in Cluny close to Lyon. Her mother Renee Flachot was a school teacher and her father Antoine Gouze was a college principal. They were both secular and republicans. Danielle had an older brother Roger (1912-2005), who was a writer and a sister, Christine (1914-2002), who was a film producer. Danielle had three sons Pascal (born in 1945 and died after two and a half months), Jean Christophe (born 1946) and Gilbert (born in 1949). Danielle's family aided the French Resistance and helped lodge its men (Maquis).
Danielle Mitterrand was a great resistant against the Nazi regime. She became a liaison officer in the resistance at the age of 17. She fought courageously the German occupation of her country France along with her husband. She met Francois Mitterrand in the Resistance, and married him three months after the Liberation of France, in October 1944. She was a true and dedicated socialist struggling for social justice, harmonious and fair human societies and a better universe for all to live in. She fought many battles in order to realize her vision. She created three associations then amalgamated them and created her Foundation France-Libertés in 1986. The Foundation got a consultative status at the United Nations Economic & Social Council. This allowed her to address regularly the UN and its various organs. I attended on behalf of her the UN Human Rights Commission, the Sub-commission and many working groups as well as international conferences to promote the Kurdish rights and denounce various aspects of human rights violations practiced against the Kurds in various parts of Kurdistan.
Danielle had a consistent itinerary in her struggle. Francois Mitterrand's presidency between (1981-1995) was no more than an extra opportunity to serve the causes that she was fighting for. She remained active after the death of President Mitterrand in 1996. The luxury of power did not affect her. She remained simple as a person and close to people unlike many other First Ladies of her country and of the world. She chose to spend most of her time witnessing the suffering of various people around the world, in war torn countries and at her working place at her humanitarian and human rights Foundation rather than Elysée.
Despite that she was a true Ambassador of the French elegance; she never stopped to be an active interpreter and defender of the spirit and values of the French Revolution and its Human and Citizen Rights Declaration. No State Raison (Raison D'Etat) could make her renounce her convictions.
Danielle was a world’s citizen and a well-known international personality. She was a champion of international solidarity with the oppressed peoples. She sincerely adopted many causes and made them a part of her life. Once President Mitterrand said that “the Kurdish question is in my bed”. She defended many people around the world and devoted herself to many causes. She fought against apartheid in South Africa; defended the Zapatista peasants in Chiapas in Mexico; the native Americans in Guatemala, Latin America and the US; the Tibetans against the Chinese occupation; the Cubans against the US embargo; the Kurds against their occupiers; the Afghan girls right to education; the children in Salvador and Mali; the East Timorese against Indonesian occupant powers; the Sahrawis against Moroccan Monarch, the Algerian Women in their daily struggle for freedom; the human rights in Bahrain, Tunisia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, Egypt; etc.
She was very humane and fought constantly for human rights and fair distribution of power and resources in the world. She was resisting the international economic and political oppression. She fought against poverty and exclusion and stood with the disenchanted, uprooted and marginalized. She was against ancient and modern slavery. She was struggling for educational rights, for transmission of knowledge and for a responsible economy in order to construct a peaceful world; a world in solidarity within itself.
Danielle created a very prestigious award named Prix de la Memoire in order to highlight the causes she struggled for. She awarded Maison de Gorrée (House of Slaves) in Senegal to commemorate the African victims of slavery which started from this place towards America. She supported the preservation and development of endangered cultures and languages in peril. She awarded Prix de la Mémoire to the famous Algerian singer of Berber origin Lounes Maatoub in support of the Amazigh culture and awarded musicians and film makers of Roma (Gypsy) origin. She printed a European passport for her campaign against racism and xenophobia, to alert the Europeans against the growing danger of extreme right in Europe and the intolerance and non-acceptance of immigrants and refugees.
Danielle fought for access to potable water worldwide and struggled for including this right as an alienable human right to be enshrined in national constitutions everywhere. She was always saying that water is strategically more important than oil. You can live without oil, but not without water. She used to say that the primary reason for the occupation of Kurdistan is Tigris and Euphrates which originates from Northern part of Kurdistan.
I had the honor and privilege to be with her in many of these struggles. We fought for Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, Rigoberta Menchu on behalf of Native Americans and Jose Ramos Horta on behalf of East Timorese to be awarded Nobel Peace Prize to advance their causes and they were awarded. We fought for Leyla Zana to be awarded both Nobel Peace Prize and European Parliament's Sakharov Award. She was awarded just the latest and Zana remained to be a candidate for many years and, I hope that she will be awarded one day. I believe that the time has come to that, that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee Awards her or a Kurd. This longtime suffering and struggling nation deserves this Committee's and the international community's attention, but most importantly that the international community adopts a peace initiative to solve the problems of over 40m Kurds in the Middle East peacefully, who have suffered tremendous historical injustices. Danielle herself deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.
I recommend that the Kurdish Administration awards Mitterrand the highest award of Kurdistan as the best friend and advocate of the Kurdish people to express our utmost gratitude, loyalty and respect towards her. I seize this occasion to ask the Kurdish Administration, the Kurdistan Parliament and Governorates to create a special award(s) honoring our friends and naming streets and other public places after those who supported our cause in our dark days. Mitterrand visited prior and after the mass exodus of our people in 1991 three parts of Kurdistan (Turkey, Iran and Iraq). She risked her life for us. She survived a terrorist attack of a car bomb explosion on July 6, 1992 on the route between Sulaimaniya and Halabja. She courageously continued, after the attack, her trip to Halabja accompanied by Dr. Bernard Kouchner, who is another loyal friend of the Kurds who visited Iraqi Kurdistan for the first time during the war of 1974-75 with the central government of Iraq. Unfortunately, in this terrorist attack several of Mitterrand's Peshmerga guards by the names (Bapir Osman Gomashini, Abdulla Shekhani and Sami Feyli) were martyred and several other peshmergas by the names (Omar Hussein, Ali Hussein, Majid Ahmad, Fakhir Bayiz, Kamaran Abdulla and Saadi Maghdid) were wounded. Several of them are now disabled. Those heroes are part of our historical pride. I salute them and salute their families.
This will be also a way to tell our history to our new generations. There are many forgotten and non-forgotten friends of the Kurds and organizations who stood with our people in the region and in the world, such as Senator Dr. Bernard Kouchner, Claiborne Pell, Olof G. Tandberg, Ambassador Bernard Dorin, John Major, Ann Clwyd, Kathryn Porter, Lord Avebury, Andrew Whitely, Monica Frassoni, Michael Angel Martinez, Olivier Dupuis, Rolf Ekeus, Emma Bonino, Congressman Porter, Peter Mueller, Martin van Bruinessen, Karim Pakzad, Thomas Hammerberg, Rolf Ekberg, Conny Fredriksson, Louis Ayala, Hussein Ayat Ahmad, Ephraim Sine, Niccolo Figa Telemanca, Gote Ask, Hanne Bramness, Venca Larsen, Christian Radberg, Oswald Soderqvist, Birgitta Ostlund, Alar Kutman, Dr. Bernard Granjon, Maryam Elahi, Francoise Brie, Michel Tubiana, Antoine Bernard, Christopher Perrin, Jost Hilterman, Baroness Emma Nicholson, Hans Branstedt, Claudia Ruth, Sandro Gozi, among many others.
We can make a more comprehensive list of our friends who have defended sincerely our rights inside Iraq, in the region and in the world. Also, we need to award and commemorate our own talents, intellectuals and creative people as well as those who served their nation while they are alive. These could also become subjects of several artistic works. I hope that the Kurdish Administration will find a mechanism or create events to invite these friends of our people and award them and express our people's gratitude. These people have contributed to our freedom and rights.
I would like on this occasion to highlight some of Mitterrand's works in favor of the Kurdish people.
Mitterrand helped with the creation of Institut Kurde De Paris, which became for many years the main diplomatic center or rather the only Kurdish "embassy" outside Kurdistan lobbying in favor of the Kurdish cause, denouncing the diverse violations committed by occupants of Kurdistan and preserving the Kurdish culture and heritage. Mitterrand played an important role in empowering this institute and its activities in making the Kurdish question more known to the public opinion and in international institutions. I was the Secretary General of this Institute for six years and Dr. Kendal Nezan was its president and many prestigious Kurdish personalities were and some are still board members or contributed to this very important institution of the Kurds in difficult days such as (Yilmaz Guney, Shewki Ozkan, Ali Bucak, Seydo Aslandag, Ismet Sharif Wanly, Dr. Siyamend Othman, Dara Attar, Dr. Halkawt Hakim, Farhad Shakely, Lutfi Baksi, Mahmut Baksi, Dr. Ali Babakhan, Tuwana Qashani, Shivan Perwer, Hoshmand Othman, Kamaran ji Kikan, Akil Marceaux, Jose and Jean Bertolino, Huner Salim, Marlyse Lescot, Khasraw Abdullahi, Joyce Blau, Professor Abbas Wali, Dr. Fuad Hussein, Dr. Najmaddin Karim, Dr. Hamid Bozarsalan, Hussein Saado, Teymur, etc.). Also many Kurds of different parts of Kurdistan, Diaspora and Kurdish leaders of different parts of Kurdistan supported the Institute in particular Dr. Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou and Dr. Sherefkendi. The Diaspora Kurds in particular Kurdish workers and refugees as well as certain Kurdish businessmen such as Dara Attar and Dana and Tuwana Qashani contributed financially to buy the building of the Institute.
When I was at the Kurdish Institute, among many other activities, I was involved in organizing two very important events in which Mitterrand played an important role in them:
1- The first International Kurdish Conference in Paris in 1989 on Kurdish Identity & human Rights, and
2- The Kurdish conference at the US Congress in Washington DC in 1991 in cooperation with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Senator Claiborne Pell and with Senator Kennedy and Congressional Human Rights Caucus were most of the Kurdish leaders of various parts of Kurdistan participated including current President of Iraq Talabani, Hoshyar Zebari, Adnan Mufti, Sami Abdul Rahman, Helen Ghassemlou and the European representative of KDPI Fattah Abduli who was assassinated in Berlin in 1991 with Dr. Sharafkendi and Kurdish parliamentarians from Turkey. These conferences helped immensely in breaking the wall of silence around the Kurdish question and were important efforts in internationalizing the Kurdish question.
After the bombardments of Halabja in 1988, I met for the second time Mitterrand, which was a beginning of a long friendship and cooperation. We were a small group of five Iraqi Kurds and Syrian Kurds decided to go on a hunger strike in front of UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The group was composed of Kamal Hama Rash, Azad Hawrami, Bakhtiar Amin (Iraqi Kurds), Akil and Barzan (Syrian Kurds). Many others joined us later and all political groups from all parts of Kurdistan sent their members to join the hunger strike and we were organizing two to three demonstrations on a weekly basis in Paris. Paris was at that time the fortress of Iraqi regime's lobby in the world. There was a Silence on Halabja, Anfal and Saddam's genocidal policy in Kurdistan. The media were refusing to show images of Halabja. We were desperate and full of anger. We planned a series of actions as a Kurdish community with the support of all Kurdish political parties from all parts of Kurdistan out of our tent before UNESCO, which was provided to us by a French medical organization called Aide Medicale Internationale (AMI) for the duration of our hunger strike. Also, we managed to launch a diplomatic campaign by visiting important embassies and occupy all touristic places of Paris simultaneously, such as Eifel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Mont Martre, Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame. We sent memorandums and letters to UN, heads of states and various organizations about the Kurdish tragedy in all aspects. Our hunger strike lasted 37 days and brought a lot of attention of the French and international community. All these actions were the beginning of breaking down the wall of silence around the Kurdish people's suffering and the demolishment of Saddam's lobby. Mitterrand, Bernard Kouchner, parliamentarians, French Trade Unions, Anarchists, UNESCO visitors and diplomats, and media were visiting us expressing their solidarity with us and our demands. Talabani and Dr. Mahmoud Othman visited our tent and expressed their gratitude in the name of Kurdistan Front at the time. This action was a big embarrassment for the Iraqi government and lobby. They were harassing and intimidating us in an attempt to stop us. One night they attempted to crash our tent by a vehicle while we were sleeping in it.
The Iraqi government felt embarrassed by our action which coincided with the executive committee meeting of UNESCO, which was a ministerial meeting. The Iraqi government sent Taha Muheddin Maarouf and Nizar Hamdoun to France asking the French authorities to stop our activities. They failed because of the high level attention that we got and the numerous visits we got from Mitterrand, Bernard Kouchner and French NGOs and the public opinion. In those days there were a strike of medical employees in front of Ministry of Health in the same place of our hunger strike which brought a lot of attention and sympathy to our action as well as other demonstrations were coming to our place as a result of protest against the assassination of the Representative of African National Congress in France and the closeness of Ecole Militaire to our tent, from where helicopters were taking and bringing President Mitterrand and other high level officials visiting France.
We managed with the support of Mitterrand, Kouchner and the French League of Human Rights, The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Aide Medicale Internationale, Medecins du Monde (MDM), Medecins Sans Frontier (MSF), MRAP, and many other personalities such as Dr. Frederic Tissot, Ambassador Bernard Dorin, Michele Bonnot,, Francoise Brie, Florence Weber, Chris and Edit Kutchera, Marlyse Lescot, Caroline Batzdorf, Aileen Philips, Amanda Harding, Khulia, Gerard Chaliand, are just few of these names along with several Kurdish artists and patriots as well as representatives of Kurdish political parties who are not known enough to Kurdish public opinion, they played an important role in denouncing the Iraqi regime's and other occupant powers of Kurdistan's brutal policies, they were beyond our successful lobby in France. All those friends of our people should be remembered and awarded.
I met Mitterrand in 1988, when I moved from Sweden to France. After the chemical attack of Halabja she asked me in relation to a visit of King Hussein of Jordan with his spouse Queen Nour to show the photos of the victims of Halabja to them and others. I provided her with both photos and video materials. She told me afterward that Queen Nour cried and King Hussein has told her that he did not known about it and was not aware of the dimension of this tragedy.
Again I met Mitterrand at UNESCO at a human rights event and she sat listening to human rights activists from various parts of the world. She did not leave the room after her speech as many other dignitaries of less importance and daily commitments did. She listened carefully to all of us and paid great attention to the story of the Kurds and my recommendations in particular, as she was very positive to consider visiting the three Iraqi Kurdish refugee camps In Turkey (Mardin, Mush and Diyarbakir). These were Kurdish refugees mainly from Barwari Bala area in Bahdinan fleeing the gas attack of Saddam Hussein's troops after the end of Iraq-Iran war in 1988. The Camp of Mardin was poisoned by Iraqi Mukhabarat through their local agents in Mardin through the bread that was distributed to them where over 2,000 people were poisoned among them were many women and children. I told her that France can make a gesture as you are celebrating the Anniversary of 200 years of the French Revolution you can bring a group of these Kurdish refugees to France and this will allow us to internationalize the Kurdish question and show their suffering to the international community and they will be life victims of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons. She accepted the suggestion and traveled afterward to Turkey, which brought a lot of attention to the Kurdish cause and the plight of these refugees, and upon her return she recommended to the French government who accepted to bring 1,000 Iraqi Kurdish refugees to Bourg Lastic in Clermont Ferrand in Massive Central area of France.
Current Consul of France in Erbil, Dr. Fredrik Tissot accompanied her in her trip to refugee camps. Dr. Tissot is a longtime ardent and wonderful friend and defender of Kurdish rights, who started his advocacy and solidarity with Iranian Kurds and established Azadi hospital in Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party's controlled areas. Over 200 French doctors served in this hospital throughout years. I had the opportunity to brief some of these doctors before their travel to Kurdistan and they assisted us to take photos of destroyed Kurdish villages that we could use in our campaigns against Saddam's regime. These doctors were also true ambassadors in France and beyond in witnessing the atrocities and injustices inflicted on the Kurdish people.
I was at the Camp of Bourg Lastic with Shawki Ozkan one of the founders of the Kurdish Institute in Paris, an unknown soldier in working for Kurds of different parts of Kurdistan, and one of the pillars in combating the Iraqi lobby and defending the Kurdish rights in France. Mitterrand came to visit us at the camp. We were volunteers to assist the integration of these refugees in France and assisted in giving more publicity to the cause. For several months we were able to bring the tragic stories of these refugees to the attention of French and international public opinion. Dr. Tissot was also helping administratively these refugees. Mitterrand's efforts were instrumental in breaking the wall of silence against the tragedy of the Kurds. While the Silence of the World was killing the Kurds, Saddam's regime was the darling of the international community. From East to West and from North to South they were supporting the dictator of Baghdad and turning blind eyes to the many heinous crimes of the dictator of Baghdad in violation of international conventions and treaties.
During the 40th anniversary of UN Human Rights Day at the French National Assembly I met Mitterrand again along with her husband President Francois Mitterrand with the Secretary General of United Nations Perez De Cuellar allowing me to talk briefly about the tragedy of the Kurds in Iraq, in particular Halabja and Anfal Campaigns. I briefed at the same ceremony the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates the Soviet nuclear scientist Andrei Sakharov and the Polish Leader of Solidarnosh Lech Walesa. They were visiting France for the first time after their award. I knew of Sakharov, who in 1974 when the Kurds of Iraq were bombed with napalm by Iraqi army and scorch earth policies were practiced by the Iraqi regime against them with the support of USSR and their Mig and Sokhoy planes, Sakharov was the only voice coming out of Soviet Union protesting Soviet backing the Iraqi aggression on the Kurds. When I told him this and thanked him for his position, he was delighted that I knew that despite my young age. I asked him if he could say something to the media about the tragedy of the Kurds in Halabja, he protested and made a strong statement condemning the genocide of the Kurds in Halabja and in Kurdistan by the regime of Saddam Hussein.
We met again in Lyon with his wife Elena Bonner of Armenian origin who was in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan during General Abdul Karim Qassim's time participating in a vaccination campaign on behalf of USSR. She told me that she has met with General Mustafa Barzani. I invited them to attend the Kurdish conference in Paris. Sakharov was happy about the conference and indicated to me that his health situation was critical after coming out of a longtime sentence in Soviet prisons. He told me that if he was not being able to attend then Elena will attend and he will send a message with her. He died shortly after the conference. Elena remained in contact and we met years later in US with her children. Her son was living in Virginia.
In spring 1991 immediately after the start of crashing the Iraqi uprising of Shi'as in the South and the Kurds in Kurdistan, I traveled from Paris along with Ahmet Turk, Sherafetin Elci, Mehmet Eli Eren and Ibrahim Aksoy, all Kurdish members of Turkish Parliament to New York. Mitterrand provided me with the name of Deputy Secretary General of United Nations to meet with and explain the situation to him. She said the UN Secretary General is traveling but you can meet with his deputy. We went all of us to see him and explained the ongoing tragedy in Iraq and the one of the Kurds and asked for humanitarian intervention and no fly zones, but the UN was just a listener without any concrete action in those days and he promised to forward our concerns and demands to the Secretary General.
We decided to go outside the UN building and start a hunger strike in protest for four days. The situation on the ground was deteriorating. The Iraqi Republican Guards were allowed by the US-led Allied Forces to crash the uprising town after town. Also, the Iraqi helicopters were allowed to be used against the people who had liberated earlier 14 out of 18 Governorates of Iraq including my city Kirkuk, which was liberated by peshmerga forces. Iraqi troops were able to crush the Intifada in the South and started attacking the Kurds. I called several Kurdish friends Dr. Najmaddin Karim, the President of Kurdish National Congress and the KDP Representative Muheddin as well as some PUK members and other Kurds in Washington, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Boston, etc., informing them about our presence and the hunger strike in front of UN building in New York. Hundreds of Kurds came from various states and participated in a big demonstration in front of the UN. Meanwhile several American friends helped us to send out on a daily basis press releases about our hunger strike and I contacted several congressmen and senators such as congressman Hamilton who released a press release in solidarity and Senator D'Amato who came in person to visit us in front of UN building and brought with him CNN and several other televisions. Our action got a huge publicity in both American and international media. After four days we ended our hunger strike and left for Washington, where I arranged several meetings with the State Department, US congress and media. Middle East Watch Director Andrew Whitley was very supportive in those difficult days to us, as well as Congressman John Porter, and his spouse Kathryn Porter, Senator Claiborne Pell, Peter Galbrith, Chris Hill, Senator Kennedy, Senator Kerry, Senator McCain, Nancy Soderberg, and David Philips. We managed to break the iceberg. US decided to send State Secretary James Baker to visit the Kurdish refugees in Turkey on border areas. Afterward, I left back to Paris traveling with me was a famous US photographer Susan Meiselas whom I took later with me to Kurdistan and helped her make her famous book Kurdistan in the Shadow of History. When I arrived to Paris the situation in Kurdistan was already very tragic. One of the biggest human exoduses in the history of the region and post Second World War has happened. Millions were fleeing Saddam Hussein's troops brutalities under the fear for chemical weapons bombardment and napalm towards Iranian and Turkish borders and hundreds were dying from cold and hunger.
Mitterrand accepted to go to Kurdistan this time again. We traveled in a private plane to Tabriz in Iran taking with us 30 international journalists, two cargos of goods for Kurdish refugees and we sent 13 trucks of food with Dr. Ali Babakhan, (a very devoted Feyli Kurdish patriot who was deported with his family in early 1970’s by the Ba'ath regime to Iran before living in France. He passed away later in Paris), to meet him with the trucks in Khoi between Tabriz and Urmiya. We began the distribution of food and other materials in Khoi. We crossed the border from Khaneh (Piranshahr) towards Haji Omran. It was like the Dom Day, hundreds of thousands of people were massing on the frontier. The refugees opened a corridor for us. The area was heavily planted by land mines from Iraq-Iran war and the war with the Kurds. Peshmergas were making a human chain to enable us go through. Massoud Barzani with several members of the KDP leadership and peshmergas as well as Newshirwan Mustafa and Kosrat Rasoul Ali with their Peshmergas and representatives from Kurdistan Front were among the crowd who received Mitterrand. A joint press conference took place on the ground. This was a very high level visit of the First Lady of a UN Security Council's permanent member country visiting Kurdistan/ Iraq's official territory by a visitor from a friendly country to Saddam Hussein until then. Mitterrand's highly publicized visit was in opposition to the non-publicized position of Quai d'Orsay and it was with the blessing of Francois Mitterrand that this visit took place. President Mitterrand was calling Danielle regularly and expressing his support and that he was following her steps. This visit sent out many signals regionally and internationally. In this trip Dr. Tissot and Rafael Doueb, the Secretary General of the France-Libertés were present. Danielle sometimes embarrassed the French diplomacy by her actions, but she was a number of equilibrium which she mastered perfectly. At another opportunity I will write about the details of this trip.
After the mass exodus and the suppression of the uprising of 1991 in the South and in Kurdistan and the tragic images of millions of Kurdish refugees and the sense of betrayal and abandonment of Iraqis who were encouraged to rise up against the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and his fascist regime in the aftermath of the occupation of Kuwait, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 688 a resolution without a precedent in the history of the UN and international law calling for a "humanitarian intervention" and as a result No Fly Zones above 36 parallel in the North and 32 parallel in the South along with a Safe Heaven were created by the international community. As a result many lives were saved and many refugees were assisted to go back to their homes. The UN SCR 688 created a precedent in international law, which allowed later interventions in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
The Kurdistan Region and it's institutions are an outgrown baby of that situation in which Mitterrand in particular and then, President Mitterrand, Bernard Kouchner, Professor Mario Batati, British Prime Minister, Jacques Delores, President Ozal, James Baker, the US Ambassador to the UN Madeline Albright played a decisive role in the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 688 and making this intervention happen. The pressure and influence of International public opinion, the ongoing suffering of the Kurdish people and their struggle on the ground and the previous silence on the genocide of the Kurds, Halabja and images of the victims of chemical bombardments and the role of international media and international solidarity campaigns played also an additional crucial role in the international support that the Kurdish people got at that time. Danielle and Francois played an important role in the nomination of Van Der Stoel as a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq. I was involved in recommending him to them. Immediately In the aftermath of these circumstances in spring 1991, Mitterrand asked me with Ms. Francoise Brie to assist the refugees on the ground. We bought goods and various materials in Turkey to create shelters, pre-fabricated schools, wood to build school benches, clothes for the children, etc. We transported 136 trucks of materials to Kurdistan and distributed them in various areas. The truck drivers were all Kurds from Turkey. They volunteered all and drove these materials to Kurdistan of Iraq for free. A Kurdish personality by the name Mehmet Ali Aslan assisted us tremendously in this regard.
I accompanied Mitterrand twice to Kurdistan and three times to Washington to influence the American Administration to support the Kurds and also to the UN in Geneva and New York for the same purpose. She assisted us in widening the circle of Kurdish friends around the world and in her meetings with official visitors and their spouses during their visit to France. The Kurdish cause was present in many of her official dinners and receptions. She testified before the Congress on the tragedy of Kurdish people. She spoke to President Bush the father and Barbara his wife as well as President Clinton and his wife Hillary about the Kurds. We briefed many senators, congressmen and personalities in Washington DC, among them Senators Kennedy, McCain, Kerry, Congressmen: Porter, Lantos, Bill Richardson, Secretary Albright, etc.
After the Gulf War, I organized a trip for Mitterrand to visit the UN in New York to meet with Secretary General Butrus Butrus Ghali, the President of UN Security Council and four out of five permanent Security Council members, except the Chinese. She did not want to meet them because of her position on Tibetan issue. Also, I organized for her a press conference with 81 American and international journalists to speak about the tragedy of the Kurds. We had also prepared in advance a fact finding report on the situation of the Kurds in Iraq to be released during the press conference. We included in the press conference both International Federation of Human Rights Leagues and Middle East Watch. We were calling at the event for an international trial of the Iraqi leadership for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Our visit and meetings had a big echo in the corridors of UN and internationally.
In 1993, I took Mitterrand to London. I organized her trip and our meetings with British Foreign Minister Douglas Herd and his deputy Douglas Hog, then with the Speaker of the House of Common. In addition to a speech and a dinner at the House of Lords with a good group of Lords, Baronesses and members of the House of Common. Then, we spoke at Chatham House for a distinguished group and then met with Cardinal Hume a respected religious leader close to the Pope to discuss the Kurdish question and send certain messages in this regard to His Holiness the Pope John Paul II. For these meetings I prepared a report with a group of French, British and American lawyers from FIDH and International Human Rights Law Group on the situation of Iraqi Kurds. The human rights situation, the ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk and beyond, the light of Barzanis, the IDPs, the Feyli Kurds, the victims of Anfal, Halabja and chemical weapons in Bahdinan and elsewhere and the humanitarian situation etc. The Kurdish community hosted a dinner in honor of Mitterrand attended by most of the Kurdish Personalities with their spouses and families in London such as Ibrahim Ahmad and Muhsin Dizayee, Dr. Mahmud Othman, Jamal Alamdar, etc.
In 1994 after the breakout of an armed conflict between KDP and PUK starting in Qaladiza, I brought a delegation from International Socialist after an effort to convince them to mediate between the KDP and PUK. This was the first time that the International Socialist visits Kurdistan. Also, I brought a letter from Mitterrand to the Kurdish leadership in this regard asking them to stop their fighting and solve their differences in a peaceful manner. Mitterrand was very worried and upset as all friends of the Kurds were because of this fratricide fighting between the Kurds. As a result of this effort a meeting took place between Barzani and Talabani at Kosrat Rasoul Ali's residence which led to an agreement and the start of a peace negotiation in Rambouillet in France.
In 1995, I came back to Kurdistan with letters from President Francois Mitterrand, Danielle Mitterrand, the President of the Council of Europe Miguel Angel Martinez, and several important US representatives. Also, I was able to convince US State Secretary Albright to support the effort. In addition, I, with Kathryn Porter and Dr. Mahmud Othman had intensive meetings in Washington DC with the State Department, National Security Council, White House and Congress to convince them to support our efforts. Mitterrand and Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Delores, the Commissioner who was heading the European Union and President Clinton, the Socialist International and the British side through Lord Avebury were all supportive and involved in this effort. I traveled with Mitterrand to Washington for this purpose. Nancy Soderberg and Ambassador Shifter at the White House, Kathryn & John Porter as well as Congressman Bill Richardson a close friend of President Clinton also helped us in this effort. In addition several US Senators such as McCain, Kerry, Kennedy and Congressmen, Ben Gilman, Henry Hide, the Speaker Gingrich, Sam Nun, Lantos, etc.
Adnan Mufti and Adil Murad two independent Kurdish personalities also helped me in this effort. We succeeded in this mission which led to reach the Washington Agreement between KDP & PUK in 1997, which has lasted since. Mitterrand played an important role in bringing inner peace to Kurdistan. Also, she sent, on several occasions, letters to the Kurdish leaders protesting against human rights violations committed by their forces during the fratricide time or in general in Kurdistan. She was always saying to the Iraqi Kurdish leaders to solve their problems peacefully, preserve and develop their elected institutions and achievements through building a participatory type of democracy.
In 2002 and then in 2009 she returned back to Iraqi Kurdistan after the reconciliation of KDP & PUK and attended a meeting at the Parliament and made a speech ending with the words "Long Live Kurdistan". She was very happy that France has opened a consulate in Erbil the capital of Kurdistan. This was like a dream for her. She visited (Fred) Dr. Tissot the Consul at the French Consulate. Danielle and her work was a crucial factor in paving the road for bringing down the international lobby of Saddam Hussein's regime and its dictatorial and despotic rule.
I salute her, her courage and dedication. I pay a tribute and respect to this great friend of my people and humanity in this commemoration ceremony. She is part of our history and a shining example of how friendship should be. What counts in friendship is loyalty. I hope that my people will remain always loyal to their true friends and defenders of their cause. She will always live with me and in my mind. As she used to say that Francois will never die, Danielle will always remain part of our history and a bright example and the greatest symbol of international friendship and solidarity with the Kurdish people. I was thrilled to see during her funeral ceremony and during her burial in Cluny three busses full of Kurdish refugees and Kurdish personalities and Kurdish Diaspora of different parts of Kurdistan were present. Moreover, Adnan Mufti representing the Kurdistan Regional Government, Dilshad Barzani brother of President Massoud Barzani, Ambassador Pirot Ahmad Ibrahim, Iraqi Ambassador to France Farid Yasin along with Safia Al Souhail a member of Iraqi Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, were present at the ceremony which was a big sign of loyalty of our people and the place that this Great personality has in our hearts and minds. Today’s commemoration is another big sign of our sorrow, fidelity and sense of how much the loss of this great friend has left in us. The Kurdish people are indebted to this extra ordinary First Lady. Among all First Ladies that the History has known, the Kurdish people are blessed to have had her as a friend. Her ideals and path should be followed and supported. She truly acted upon what Sartre used to say: "If you see a human suffering do not let it be, act to eliminate the root causes of it".
Bakhtiar Amin is an Iraqi Kurdistan politician who was the Minister of Human Rights in the Iraqi Interim Government from June 2004 to May 2005. Amin was born in Kirkuk and went to university in Sweden and the Sorbonne in France, where he received a master’s degree in international affairs and a doctorate in political geography.
Danielle Mitterrand was the wife of French President François Mitterrand, and president of the France-Libertés Fondation Danielle Mitterrand. She was a long time supporter of Cuba and its Marxist-Leninist government. She also supported the Sandinistas when her late husband gave them military aid in their war against US-backed forces in Nicaragua.