Christians in the Middle East are being subjected to an “outrageous genocide” and the UK Government should step in to help, a group of Tory activists has said.
Grassroots Conservatives have written to David Cameron to demand he stops sending overseas aid to any countries in the area that deny Christian freedoms.
The letter says: “It is time to wake up to the fact that the freedoms which Christianity brought to the western world are being extinguished in Iraq and in other parts of the Middle East.
“We cannot stand by and do nothing and as a first step we should immediately cease overseas aid to any of these countries.
“If you do nothing, then people in the UK, especially in service families would ask ‘what has the expenditure of blood and resources by our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq this century been for if not to forestal such a situation?’ To do nothing is to undo all that previous effort.”
The group also wants the Government to offer asylum to Christians expelled from cities such as Mosul as has happened in France.
“While we welcome your comments on Britain being a Christian country...our responsibility to love our neighbour as ourselves needs to be evidenced in our response to this outrageous genocide being targeted at fellow Christians in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East,” the letter goes on.
“We need to use all means possible to come to the rescue of these people as a matter of extreme urgency.”
Meanwhile, an Ulster Unionist councillor in Cragiavon has said there needs to be a strategy to eliminate “the threat of genocidal terrorists”.
Doug Beattie MC, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, said: “Sending in war planes is fine in the short term, and it is vital that the suffering of these persecuted minorities is alleviated as soon as possible. But a political and military solution from regional forces will be the only way to ensure the long term elimination of the threat from the IS. This was the approach taken in Somalia, where regional actors through an African Union mission have been securing the country against Jihadists.”
Alliance East Belfast MP Naomi Long said: “The actions of IS have been deeply shocking. Deliberately targeting minority groups is nothing less that horrifying and if allowed to remain unchecked, will lead to genocide.”
Meanwhile, the British aid effort in Iraq is to be stepped up to ease the plight of thousands of people trapped on a mountain as they flee advancing militants. The move follows an aborted attempt to deliver aid to the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar, which was called off when the RAF aircrew decided that the supplies could have injured the desperate people below. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who chaired a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee to discuss the crisis, said the situation was “challenging” and warned of a “potential humanitarian disaster”. Downing Street also confirmed the RAF will send “a small number” of Tornado jets to the region so they can be used, if required, to improve the UK’s surveillance capability in the region to help the humanitarian effort. The UK will also look at how it can play a role in getting equipment to Kurdish forces as they are better able to counter Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis or Isil), Number 10 added.
The next air drop of humanitarian aid in northern Iraq is likely to be carried out within the next 24 hours after RAF crews were forced to abandon their attempt to deliver supplies overnight.
The UK has already made one successful aid flight, dropping supplies including water and solar lanterns, to Mount Sinjar, where members of the of Yazidi minority are trapped in extreme conditions after fleeing the advance of the IS forces.
Bayan Sami Rahman, the Kurdistan regional government’s high representative to the UK, raised concerns that its forces were “outgunned” by IS and called for them to be armed by the UK and other Western nations.
“We need equipment, we need weaponry, we need sharing of intelligence and we need the air strikes,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today.
Asked about supplying arms, a No 10 spokeswoman said ministers would look at “what options there might be” to enable Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fight IS.
She said: “We do think it’s important that the Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish forces, are able to respond to IS and to tackle this crisis in the country.
“We will look at what options there are that might enable them to do that. But there have not been substantive discussions on that yet and there are certainly no decisions.”
Tory MPs Nick de Bois and David Burrowes have written to the Prime Minister urging the recall of Parliament to discuss the crises in Iraq and Gaza, while fellow Conservative Conor Burns said he wanted to send in special forces to assist Christians in Iraq.