Former UK Prime Minister Addresses the Kurdish National Assembly

As a result, your top fire rescue/civil defence officials have just returned from the UK where they have seen for themselves the training, organisation and equipment we can offer. There are many areas where similar co-operation can flourish.

Let me return to politics. I have been enormously impressed by the brave and laudable progress Kurdistan has made on women's rights. Kurdistan is one of the few places in the wider region where men are not allowed to cite so-called "honour" as a reason to kill their wife or daughter. I applaud this Assembly for passing that law which has led the way for the rest of the region.

I was delighted to see that the report on improving implementation was written jointly by Kurdish experts and by Bristol University, and that the UK has deployed a prominent expert on human rights and women's issues to work with key Ministries on reducing violence against women. I understand this Assembly has legislation before it that is aimed at providing appropriate punishment for domestic violence. I do hope you approve this new law: it is yet another opportunity for this Assembly to take the lead in forward-thinking within the region.

I mentioned Bristol University - just one of the many UK universities reaching out to Iraqi Kurdistan.

I have been struck by the appetite in Kurdistan to engage with the outside world. This is wonderful to see. The most visible demonstration of that is in the field of education. The Prime Minister's Human Capacity Development Programme – which finances Master's and doctoral scholars to study abroad – is far sighted. So are the plans to make your universities independent and for doctoral programmes to include mandatory study abroad. Naturally, I am delighted that so many of your scholars have chosen to study at UK universities, and proud that the United Kingdom is helping educate the next generation of Kurdish leaders. I hope and expect these scholars to return home bursting with new ideas.

I would like to conclude with remembering those who suffered under Saddam's regime. I can think of few words or thoughts that could possibly offer any comfort to the survivors, and the families of those who did not survive. It was a truly terrible time in your history, and one which will never be forgotten.

But, today, as I see all that has been achieved by the people of Iraqi Kurdistan – despite the heart-breaking sacrifices of the past – I am left with one very clear view: you should be enormously proud of what you have already achieved, and look forward – with great optimism ¬to all the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for your future.

Thank you.

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