UK should rescue Christian victims of Islamist savagery
We took in the Ugandan Asians in 1972 – today we must offer safety to Christians and Yazidis
The murderous catastrophe overtaking Christian and other non-Muslims in Syria and Iraq is a direct result of a decade of Western political and military folly in the area. There is no doubt and no possibility for any wiggle room – it’s our fault. This time round we don’t need Alastair Campbell or John Scarlett to make anything up – the evidence of savagery is plain to see. And we have a duty to help the victims.
The British have done something similar before. In August 1972 Idi Amin, then President for Life and with a self-awarded VC, ordered all Ugandans of Asian origin to leave the country within 90 days – taking nothing with them. In an eerie echo of some of the religious madness engulfing today’s Middle East, Amin is said to have had a dream in which Allah told him to do this.
Some of them were lucky enough to hold British passports and simply decamped to the UK. But in addition to those entitled to live here we took in more than 27,000 true refugees who had been made stateless and destitute by Amin. The evacuation was relatively orderly. Amin wanted them out of Uganda – not dead.
The Israelis have done something similar on a number of occasions. More than 120,000 Jews mainly from Baghdad and Basra left Iraq in less than a year between 1949-50. Much the same happened in Morocco a few years later with more than 300,000 Jews leaving for Israel over a period of three years; many of them had been settled there since their expulsion from Spain in 1492.
More recently, in 1991, a dramatic military-led evacuation codenamed Operation Solomon airlifted 14,000 ‘Falashas’, Ethiopian Jews, to Israel in less than 36 hours. The Israeli Air Force used its C130 Hercules transport aircraft but the bulk of the Falashas travelled in El Al 747s. Stripped of seats and galleys, each plane was able to take more than 1,000 passengers for the four-hour flight to Tel Aviv. Babies were placed in the overhead luggage compartments, perfectly comfortably.
At various stages the world’s great monotheistic religions have all behaved appallingly. For now, Islamist ignorance and bullying savagery seem in the ascendant, but it’s worth remembering that Spanish Jews in 1492 had a Muslim saviour: the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II thought Ferdinand and Isabella both cruel and unwise to expel such talented and hard-working people, despatching a task force under the command of Admiral Kemal Reis (the man who in 1509 ejected the Knights of St John from Rhodes) to Spain in order to evacuate them safely to Ottoman lands.
We have arrogantly sought to interfere in other countries with little thought for the consequences. Now we have the opportunity to intervene on a purely humanitarian level we appear reluctant.
An airborne evacuation of Christians from Iraq and Syria would not be without risk but logistically it would be relatively simple. Concentrate, protect, and fly out. The easiest staging point would be the Western Sovereign Base Area on Cyprus with its huge RAF airfield at Akrotiri and military barracks at Episkopi – where after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 tented camps sheltered thousands of refugees. If the Russians were prepared to help, their naval base at Tartus on the Syrian Mediterranean coast might also be useful.
And, of course, we should be prepared to assist the Yazidis, Kurdish-speaking adherents of a monotheistic religion that predates Christianity, not out of political correctness but from a sense of fairness. They are caught up in the same nightmare as the Christians. Many of them might be prepared to start new lives in areas under the control of the Kurdish peshmerga who have escorted many to the safety of their lines during recent days. Latest reports suggest that the peshmerga have retaken two towns from the Islamic State militants over the weekend.
For those who do not wish to remain, there are well-established Yazidi diasporas in Europe. In Germany members of their 40,000-strong community marched through Bielefeld in solidarity on Sunday. Perhaps room for some of them might be found in the UK – we already have a Kurdish population of more than 50,000.
Most of us in the West understand only too well that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ has metamorphosed into an ‘Islamist Winter’ – as predicted by many but not, apparently, the analytical/forecasting organs of the British state.
Immigration is of great concern to most British voters but I suspect we worry more about ‘high maintenance’ immigration than giving asylum to the victims of Islamist savagery.
Let’s offer homes and futures to as many of these poor Christian and Yazidi souls as we can.