Statement on air strikes against ISIS – from Jonathan Ashworth MP

Jon Ashworth has asked the FMO to circulate the following statement (issued 28 September 2014):

“Dear Suleman

Firstly many thanks to the FMO for the constructive meeting we had on Friday night which went on into the early hours of the morning. The FMO rightly expressed the concerns of the community about the UK’s involvement in multilateral air strikes on ISIS or ‘daesh’ targets in Iraq. I appreciate and share these concerns.

Following a direct request for help from the Iraqi government, the Prime Minister asked Parliament to endorse the UK’s involvement in multilateral airstrikes alongside 50 nations including regional Arab nations against ISIS in Iraq. This request was for airstrikes only not ground troops.

I along with people across Leicester utterly condemn ISIS/daesh. In recent weeks we have looked on in disgust as ISIS publicly executed a British aid worker and American journalists.

We have all been equally appalled as ISIS murder Muslims as well. ISIS have targeted Sunni Muslims that have refused to swear allegiance to ISIS. In August ISIS forces sent a suicide bomber to the Musab bin Omair Mosque in Iman Wais village, Diyala Province. After the bomb detonated, ISIS gunmen stormed the mosque and opened fire on Sunni worshippers.

In mid September ISIS kidnapped over 70 Sunni men, including tribal leaders, in Riyad district,near Kirkuk. We know from reports that three of these men have so far been killed.

ISIS have also launched attacks against Shi’a Muslims too. In June after the fall of Mosul, hundreds of thousands of Turkmen Shi’a were forced to flee their homes or face execution, rape and imprisonment. Later ISIS attacked seven Shi’a heritage sites (some of which were over 1,300 years old) and mosques in Tel Afar were totally demolished by ISIL.

In Raqqa, Syria, ISIS force minority Iraqi women from Christian and Yazidi backgrounds into slavery. Meanwhile there are various reports that Christian children in Iraq have been massacred by ISIS.

I completely agree therefore with scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf who has rightly said of ISIS that “these people (ISIS) have nothing to do with Islam, absolutely nothing to do with our religion.”

I believe it is not in the interests of Iraqi people nor the wider region for these horrors to continue.

Last week the Iraqi government asked for military assistance in the form of multilateral airstrikes to help combat ISIS. The Kurdish regional government also asked for this help.

This multilateral action involves the participation of a number of Arab states in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Jordan. Within Iraq, there are of course Iraqi government and KRG forces engaged.

In the House of Commons I expressed my concerns that funding has been allowed to flow from some of these Arab states to ISIS. I will be pressing the UK government further on this matter in Parliament.

I am also concerned that the UK government fully understand that a response wider than simply a military one is needed. As I said in the House of Commons on the ground efforts must be made to bolster Sunni tribal leaders as well as civic society across Iraq and the relationship between the Iraqi Baghdad government and the Kurdish regional government must be nurtured as there is currently little trust between the two.

We also now need a total and full commitment to humanitarian relief. I am a strong and passionate advocate of humanitarian support. Just last month in an East Jerusalem hospital I personally witnessed the aftermath of war when I met Gazan civilians maimed in the bombing. I met children and men who had lost limbs and I personally intervened with the Israeli authorities to help reunite a family who were being kept apart in separate hospitals.

So I know only too well that a full humanitarian response will be desperately necessary. It’s why I am determined to do all I can to ensure the UK government now fully meets its humanitarian responsibilities.

Already there are over 3 million UN registered Syrian refugees and I have spoken out on the need for more humanitarian assistance for Syria. I have supported and spoken at fundraising initiatives in Leicester and I pay tribute to both the generosity of local people but especially the bravery and humanity of those who have organised and travelled with aid convoys to Syria. I continue to hope and pray for the safe return of Alan Henning.

The UK government must now do more to provide humanitarian assistance. For example the total DFID country budget for Iraq is £25.3 million and only £4.3 million has been spent. This is simply not good enough. In Parliament I will be holding the Prime Minister and his government to account about the relief efforts and demanding the UK government make every effort to ensure aid is made available and able to arrive where needed.

Since becoming the MP for Leicester South, I have spoken out on a number of issues concerned with human rights across the world including on Somalia, supporting the Rohingya Muslims of Burma, calling for humanitarian assistance for Syria and in the last few weeks visiting and demanding justice for Palestine.

Whats more in 2003 I was not convinced of the case for invading Iraq and last year I opposed UK military intervention in Syria. So this decision on multilateral airstrikes now on ISIS in Iraq is taken with great reluctance and a heavy heart.

Over the following weeks I will be monitoring the situation closely, speaking out in Parliament and will continue to report back to the wider community.”

Yours sincerely

Jon Ashworth MP
Leicester South

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