MP COLUMN: A tribute to the British people
Former British Prime Minister Sir John Major was honoured this week when the Kurdistan Regional Government officially renamed a street in their capital, Erbil in his honour.
It was to fully recognise the work he did 30 years ago when he ignored the usual rule book of international relations and raced to set up a safe haven to protect the Kurds from genocide and starvation.
They had risen up against the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and two million had fled from his vengeance to the barren and freezing mountains.
British public opinion was horrified at what they saw unfolding every day on their televisions. Some 500 to 1,000 men, women, and children were dying each day in the most appalling conditions.
MPs of all parties demanded urgent action. The British Prime Minister delivered that and persuaded others to protect the Kurds for over a decade before Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
Sir John Major richly deserves this heartfelt honour. But it is also a tribute to the British people who mobilised to gather provisions for the Kurds and to MPs who persistently and passionately proposed action.
Needless to say, I didn’t agree with Sir John on other issues but he acted quickly and decisively in the face of an unravelling humanitarian disaster. He did the right thing and bravo.
His actions and that of the British people and parliament also did something else.
They won the eternal gratitude of a good people. The Kurds made the most of their safe haven and the Kurdistan Region is now a safe haven for Syrians who fled the civil war in their country as well as Christians and others who fled when the murderous Islamic State cult captured Mosul in 2014.
Hundreds of thousands of people are still being cared for today.
Thanks to the safe haven of 1991, we have a very good friend in the people and leaders of the Kurdistan Region. I haven’t been there yet but, as the Co-Chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region, I have met many Kurds who respect us and want to work with us for the common good.
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP