of Future Strategic Relationship with Iraq, 14th january, House of Commons

Lobby for the Minorities of Iraq
  We are pleased that in yesterday’s debate in the House of Commons the plight of Iraqi Minorities was brought up by Andrew Pelling MP. Our representations to MPs that Britain has a great responsibility to Iraqi Monorities was reflected in the speech. The government ministers in the debate painted a rosy picture of Iraq, especially of Basra, ignoring the fact that most of the Minority population have fled the city.
  Next tuesday, 20th january Christians, Mandaeans and Faylee Kurds will take part in a meeting with Parliamentarians in room Q of Portculis House opposite Big Ben . Invitations are available on request

Debate of Future Strategic Relationship with Iraq, 14th january, House of Commons
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): .
Our current departure from Iraq is not the first time we have left the region with many issues unresolved and with difficult choices facing the Government as to how such issues can be pursued in the interests of all. We all know that there is continuing unhappiness about the promises made by our Government, and indeed by the League of Nations, to Assyrians and Kurds, as a result of the settlements after the first world war.
Perhaps we can take some confidence from the fact that our country’s involvement in both the first Iraqi conflict in the 1990s, and the more recent Iraqi conflict, has left Kurdish areas with a strong sense of autonomy. It was perhaps the sensible and wise decision of John Major and our allies to impose a no-fly zone over Kurdish areas that has allowed that area relative prosperity and autonomy. I have, over the years, enjoyed meeting members of the Kurdish Parliament who have visited the UK. It will be interesting to hear what expectations the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell) has for the continuing relative autonomy of that area when we and the Americans have left.
I know that the Minister is concerned about the issue of Christian minorities in Iraq, and that he met a number of representatives from Christian communities just before Lord Alton held a meeting in the House of Lords on the subject. I attended Lord Alton’s meeting. It is interesting, historically, that Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is still spoken in northern Iraq. Disturbingly, 150,000 Christian refugees find themselves outside Iraq after the many murders and pogroms that took place last autumn. In the context of the strategic progression of our relationship with Iraq, I would be interested to hear what possible solutions the Minister sees to that continuing problem.
It is not fashionable to express concern about the persecution of Christian minorities, but this is a real, serious concern, and I know that the Government take it seriously. It strikes me that there are three options to pursue, all of which may be difficult for the Government to face. The first is to take the approach that was taken towards the Ugandan Asians—that is, to take the view that we should be far more liberal in allowing Christian refugees to leave the middle east and come to the United Kingdom. Another approach is to be realistic and take the view that the Kurdistan regional government has a role in protecting any Christians who might choose to return. In reality, probably half the Christian population of Iraq has now left the country. There are also those Christian communities that left northern Iraq in the 1980s. The situation depends on our ability to influence the Iraqi Government, either by ourselves or through the Americans, to give proper reassurance that land that was taken from those groups in the 1980s will be returned.
There are a number of other minorities. One group in particular, in Iraq, also needs consideration—the Mandaeans, 80 per cent. of whom have already left Iraq. Clearly, consideration needs to be given to them. Another minority that has suffered greatly in Iraq for a number of decades is the Faili Kurds, who come from south and central Iraq. They were forced by Saddam Hussein to march in front of the front line during the conflict with Iran, even though they were enemies of the state. They were slaughtered by Iranian fire—it is a very sad story.
Important issues have been raised in this debate, and I know that the Minister will find it hard to answer the many questions that have been posed. It would be interesting to know what the Government think will happen when our American allies also leave. What is the risk of civil war? What can we do in the short and medium term to influence the American Government to influence the Government in Baghdad to deal with the concerns raised in the debate by the shadow Secretary of State for Defence? The shadow Secretary of State expressed his concern that the upcoming local elections could be abused and freedom could be restricted by direction from central Government.
We have an interest in continuing stability in northern Iraq and in Kurdistan. I know that it is not appropriate ever to give consideration to the creation of Kurdistan, even though that was an undertaking given by UK Governments at the beginning of the 20th century. It would be interesting to hear the Government’s approach to continuing Turkish incursions into northern Iraq after the withdrawal of our troops and those of our allies from Iraq.