By Karwan Jamal Tahir, Kurdistan Regional Government High Representative to the UK
Many British people know who the Peshmerga are and that our female fighters frighten the murderers and rapists of Daesh. I have often heard this in my first year as the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative in this country.
Our Peshmerga are great ambassadors but most importantly they are holding the line against Daesh not just for our people but also for the free world as a whole. The very name of the Peshmerga is based on bravery as it is Kurdish for “those who face death.” Nearly 1,500 Peshmerga have been killed and more than 8,000 have been injured.
But less well known is that many of our Peshmerga are needlessly dying from injuries of the sort that British soldiers have routinely survived for decades. Injuries can soon prove lethal if not tackled in the first golden hour but that’s harder on the frontline. By the time a Peshmerga reaches a city hospital, it is often too late to save them and we need frontline medical facilities that British and other Western soldiers take for granted.
But we’re struggling economically to cope with the war. Not only are we defending a 650 mile border against Daesh but we are also looking after nearly two million people who have fled from Daesh and sought shelter in Kurdistan. There will be more people fleeing as Mosul nears its liberation after two years of Daesh rule. And the oil revenues we depended on have been shot to pieces.
I recently briefed MPs from the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region, which has been a valued friend for a decade. MPs visited the frontline with me in Kirkuk last year and saw for themselves what the Peshmerga are up against.
The MPs have agreed to urge the British government to lend us a helping hand to reduce Peshmerga deaths and help the seriously injured. Colonel Bob Stewart, who fully understands frontline life as the former British Commander in Bosnia, is is asking the government to provide field surgical teams for the Peshmerga. Labour’s Ian Austin has asked the Defence Secretary to assess the merits of providing a British field hospital.
They could save Peshmerga but over 7,000 have already been injured and many have lost limbs. We don’t have the specialist facilities to adequately help amputees. Bob Stewart, who is also a senior member of the Defence Select Committee, is urging British ministers to provide some seriously injured Peshmerga with specialist treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Its professional staff were crucial to helping British soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I know the UK is doing much to help us already. Your airstrikes have been and remain invaluable, as do your intelligence and reconnaissance, training, demining and heavy machine guns with armour-piercing ammunition. But the medical assistance urged by MPs on both sides of the Commons is also vital. An appeal for all these measures is contained in a cross-party Commons motion tabled by Labour MP Mary Glindon.
We are doing our best to reform our economy so we can look after our people in an age in which oil and gas revenues can no longer cover our needs. But we face an immediate emergency in caring for our Peshmerga.
America has recently given us substantial supplies of equipment and funds to pay our Peshmerga too – our economic crisis means they have not been paid for months. They fight without pay because the war against Daesh is about our very existence against a monstrous foe that also targets the West and Britain, as many British people recognise.