MSPs Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar attend Glasgow vigil for victims of Iraq explosion

Nathanael Williams

Glasgow politicians from both Labour and the SNP join with the Scottish-Iraqi community to pay homage to the victims of the Karrada bombing in Bagdad, Iraq

SCOTTISH politicans attended a vigil in Glasgow on Thursday held by the Scottish-Iraqi society following the deaths of 292 people in an explosion in Iraq last week. 

Last Saturday, a lorry packed with explosives was detonated in the Karrada district of Baghdad while families were shopping for the holiday marking the end of Ramadan. Rescuers said whole families had been wiped out and many victims were burned beyond recognition. The Iraqi government declared three days of national mourning after the death rose to 292 people, with more than 200 injured. So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for carrying out the suicide attack.

On Thursday night, the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, Labour’s Anas Sarwar and Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety stood on the steps of the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow in a united front in support of the people of Iraq and the Iraqi community in Scotland. 

“We feel that Tony Blair and George Bush should be in jail. Saddam was cruel but they finished his destruction.” Ammar Ali

Sarwar spoke at the vigil, referencing the UK-US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003: “We knew the war was wrong then and it still is wrong now. All we have left is the suffering.”

McAveety added: “Together for these children sitting here, we must – we have to redouble our efforts to leave behind a better world.”

Yousaf, MSP for Glasgow Pollock and the Scottish Government minister for transport and the islands, expressed condolences with the community in Scotland and nation of Iraq: “For every innocent life taken please know that Scotland will be with you.”

But he also was blistering in his assessment of the role of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the Labour government at the time of the US-UK invasion: “Those who conducted that war should hang their heads in shame.”

The attack was the deadliest since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and happened just before the Chilcot Report into the UK involvement in the war was released.

Read more: 8 key findings from the Chilcot Report and why they matter

In the report, author Sir John Chilcot made an explicit link between the “flawed intelligence” on which the invasion was based and the escalation in violence that remains until today. Feelings about the Iraq war and the Chilcot Report at the vigil were intense with many feeling a mixture of acceptance and lingering anger at its findings. 

Faten Hameed, the founder of The Scottish-Iraqi Society, said: “What was it for? Only war was sought after. All peaceful options were not given a chance. Did they think of the millions of Iraqis? Did they think about the soldiers they sent to die?

“I want to know why. We’ve heard the report. But I need to know why my friend died.”

Faten, a council business development officer, was born in Iraq before Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and the devastation of the Iraq Wars in 1991 and 2003. 

“In our country lives are so cheap. The story is so one sided.” Maryam, 17

She came to Scotland to study for her masters in veterinary medicine and while here met her husband, who was doing his PHD. He was a Shia muslim and she is Sunni muslim, and they couldn’t return to Hussein’s regime because of fears their lives would be in danger.

They had three children – Ali, 33, and 23-year-old twins Mirrim and Sara – but her husband died of cancer when the girls were only one year old.

Ammar Ali a doctor based in Glasgow, commented: “I am pleased because the invaders, the original murders are all condemned. We feel that Tony Blair and George Bush should be in jail. Saddam was cruel but they finished his destruction.” 

Up to 150 people were at the vigil, with attendees ranging from those who consider themselves Glasgow Iraqi-Scots and other Glaswegians who wanted to show their support.

Maryam, aged 17, and Nurges, 15, pictured above, agreed that the gathering was important because “its a chance to gather and show that we are human”.

“It’s a relief because there is so much Islamaphobia in the media with image of terrorism used to define us completely,” said Nurges. “We need to save our communities and show that what happens in countries far away is still relevant.”

Maryam went on to say: “In our country lives are so cheap. The story is so one sided.” 

Pictures: CommonSpace

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