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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Iraq: Coalition Against ISIL

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A debate on the above subject was held in Parliament to which Meg made the following contribution.

Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab/Co-op): I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I support military intervention by the United Kingdom in Iraq and will vote in favour of the motion. The situation is extremely troubling.

The refusal of the west to recognise in a meaningful way the moderate elements in the opposition to Assad in Syria, coupled with the organisational ability and fanaticism of IS, gave IS the space to grow. Some outside support, wealth accumulated by smuggling, oil and kidnapping, and, perhaps, as rumours suggest, hand-outs from Gulf States, only increased its attractiveness to jihadists around the world.

Given the ideology of IS, it was inevitable that it would spread into the troubled western area of Iraq. The speed of its advance in June may have come as a shock, but we should not be surprised that it has flourished and grown.

What may have been surprising was its ability to make common cause with various groups and organisations in Iraq that share little of its ideology, particularly the remnants of the Ba’athists and some tribes. However, it quickly became clear that others would be allowed to operate only as long as they followed IS. There are a number of well-founded stories of tribal groups suffering massacres of their young men after trying to argue or change course.

IS has released many self-glorifying videos that show the treatment of captured Iraqi soldiers, with lines of men being marched into the desert and shot, or knifed on the banks of rivers. Videos have been released of Sunni imams being killed because they would not turn over their mosques to IS.

Minority groups such as the Yazidis and Christians have been persecuted, and hundreds of women have been taken away to who knows where. Vian Dakhil, Iraq’s only Yazidi MP and someone I know well, pleaded for the Iraqi Parliament to act as the Yazidi people fled the terror. Vian herself was injured in a helicopter crash as she tried to help her people. Although many have been rescued, they have lost their homes and their security. Untold numbers of people have perished and lie on the mountains or in the desert.

I remain deeply troubled by the way in which the international community has stood on the side-lines. The United Nations doctrine of responsibility to protect has counted for little during the past few months in western and northern Iraq. The only people to help were the Kurds from the Kurdistan region of Iraq and from the north-east of Syria.

I am the co-chair of the all-party group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq, and I have had the opportunity to visit several times. I have seen the region develop into a thriving open society with a growing economy. That successful, semi-autonomous region is under attack from IS, and it is being defended by the dedicated and brave peshmerga.

Mike Gapes: Does my hon. Friend agree that the British Government should have given support to the Kurdistan Regional Government much earlier than they did? Does she agree that the fact that we provided arms directly only after other countries, such as Germany, had done so showed that we were behind the curve and should have acted much sooner?

Meg Munn: I agree with my hon. Friend on that subject.

Kurdistan has opened its heart and arms to the many refugees who have fled to its territory. Many of them have fled from fighting and car bombs in different parts of Iraq and, in the past three years, many have fled from the conflict in Syria. During the past two months, the number of refugees has increased dramatically as Sunni, Shi’a, Yazidis and Christians have fled from IS. The unstinting support and protection given to the refugees is a credit to the Kurdish people.

It makes little sense to consider the serious situation in Iraq without considering Syria. Of course, it is right to respond to the request of the Iraqi Government and provide them with assistance, but to imagine that IS will recognise a border on a map is simply wrong.

When Parliament was recalled on 29 August last year, the estimate of the dead in Syria was approximately 100,000. Of those who were against intervention because it would make things worse, I asked whether there were any signs that things would improve. We know that the stark answer to that question has been no. We failed to intervene, and the number of dead stands at more than 200,000.

I support the UK’s being part of the military coalition in Iraq. I welcome the Prime Minister’s words on Syria, but I urge the Government to keep an open mind on possible further action in Syria. Only by recognising that the situations of the two countries are entangled and finding ways to deal with both will we have a chance of removing IS from the equation altogether. 


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