John Major, Lord Archer and the real story of how British people backed the Kurds in 1991

Lorraine's book

KT Exclusive Interview with Lorraine Holloway-White:

Lorraine Holloway-White is the author of  Jeffrey Archer: The Kurds, ‘The Simple Truth’, telling the story of her role in setting up British Aid For The Kurds (BAFK) which raised millions in support of Kurd refugees at the end of the First Gulf War in 1991. Her book also recounts how the then Conservative politician and best-selling novelist Jeffrey Archer was given most of the credit, paving the way for him to become ‘Lord Archer’.

KT: Following the huge success of your ‘Parcels for the Gulf’ campaign (which supported British troops during the First Gulf War), what impelled you to organise support for the Kurds?

LHW: Seeing the harrowing pictures on our television screens moved me to want to do something to help them.  No one in life should be treated in that way by anyone. There is never an excuse for cruelty, suffering or indignities to be inflicted on another human being.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled a Saddam onslaught in 1991

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled a Saddam onslaught in 1991

Politics didn’t come into it. I’d had a network through the country for the parcels campaign, and thought it would be easy to transfer the use over to helping Kurdish people – our fellow human beings. It turned out not to be so simple, but it was still achieved.

You say that you are less concerned about recognition for yourself than for than the individuals and businesses that supported BAFK. Please can you give us examples of the scale of this achievement and generosity?

The people of Britain came out en masse to help and yet no one is aware of that fact. Ordinary people, often with very little themselves, offered items to send or arranged collections in their own areas of items needed, as per lists drawn up by the organisers. Transport companies supplied 40 foot lorries and Iran Air Boeing 747’s, both free of charge, to transport the goods. Large and small businesses donated food, heat-generating packs, medicines and so much more. We sent out the first medical team and even a pre fabricated hospital building with 40 beds, lockers and a portable operating table. There is much more, but the British people came out in force to help and give what they could in whatever ways they were able.

Jeffrey Archer claimed to raise £57 million – how much did he raise for the Kurds?

Obviously I don’t have access to the exact figures, but after the investigation was launched to ask where the monies were that he had claimed to have raised – and that his peerage was based on – it was found to be a figure closer to only around £3 million. That amount came from the Simple Truth concert and appeal. I would argue, that considering the concert wasn’t his idea and had been well underway in the planning before he came on the scene, even that amount being due to him is questionable.

Lord Archer - politician, novelist (and prison resident 2001-3)

Lord Archer – politician, novelist (and prison resident 2001-3)

The other £54 million he claimed as being due to him, was actually from aid projects sponsored by the British and other governments – pledged well before his appeal or the concert. For some reason, Prime Minister John Major attributed those monies to Archer also, hence the figure he gave of £57 million. This was later proved to be incorrect.

How much did BAFK raise?

During the KPMG investigation in 2001, what BAFK had sent out to Tehran was re-evaluated. I had initially though we might have managed £20-30 million. Everyone in the media seeing what we’d done when interviewing me (even though they were never allowed to report anything) said this figure was vastly underestimated. Based on government figures per tonne, it was seen our relief aid was worth more in the region of £200 million.

What was your role in the ‘Simple Truth’ concert?

I had initially contacted Peter Gabriel’s office back in the February (1991) with a view to a concert for the troops. At the start of April this was changed to be in aid of the Kurds and I asked for The British Red Cross to be brought into it to handle the monies. They were and after my initial conversations with them, Archer launched his ‘appeal’ and we were suddenly cut out totally as though it was nothing to do with us. A newspaper contacted me asking what he had to do with what they called ‘my concert’ and told me they’d had press releases stating he claimed to have masterminded it.

You were invited to Buckingham Palace because of your ‘Parcels for the Gulf’ campaign. How different for you was it when you started raising support for Kurds?

Completely different. From being reported about and acknowledged for what the People of Britain had done, suddenly, we were hidden away and our work lied about. No one was allowed to report a thing. It has even been said by many people in the know, that my name was on the Honours list for the Gulf Parcels and removed for reasons unknown, as soon as I launched British Aid For The Kurds.

Are you saying there was a deliberate effort to suppress publicity about BAFK, so as to give all the limelight to Jeffrey Archer?

I am asking if there was, as everything would point to that being the case. After all, it seems pretty strange our appeal launched a month before his, much bigger and more successful, would not be reported about anywhere. John Major’s government was well aware of our appeal from day one, as we were in daily contact with Lynda Chalker’s Office – Overseas Development.

At first people tried to report it but news bulletins were cut off immediately and later lied about as though they hadn’t happened, which caused questions to be asked by many of us. It was after this strange behaviour was seen, that Archer’s appeal was suddenly launched very publicly and actively supported by John Major.

Are you saying there was a “conspiracy” between the prime minister John Major and his fellow-cricket-loving, political friend Jeffrey Archer to “use” the good publicity to help Archer get a peerage?

Former British Prime Minister John Major

Former British Prime Minister John Major

I haven’t actually stated that anywhere, but questions need to be asked if that might be the case. It is reported widely and extensively that he requested a peerage from his friend, John Major. He then launched a very timely appeal, despite a very successful one already having been started by someone else. One the Prime Minister was very much aware of. The government constantly undermined, lied about and ridiculed our work, whilst actively promoting his friend’s appeal – even giving him credit for money our government (and others) had given well before he was even aware of the plight of the Kurds. He was then awarded with his requested peerage on the back of that appeal.

Why did the KPMG enquiry (held a decade later, after Archer was jailed for unrelated perjury and perverting the course of justice offences) not recognise BAFK’s efforts?

Yet again, we have no answer to that, but would like one. It seems very strange we were the only ones, written out of the reports. It has been suggested to me many times, that a D-Notice (as it was called then) had been applied to our activities, meaning the national media were not allowed to report anything about us or our work. That was even mentioned in a Parliamentary Debate. Considering it is still being hidden all these years later, one could only question if that might be the case. If that is true, why would it be deemed necessary?

Does it surprise you to learn that the British Government secretly armed Saddam Hussein for several years before the Gulf War – with weaponry that he could use against the Kurds?

I wasn’t aware of that fact, no and it sickens me to hear it if that is correct. However, I wouldn’t say anything the government does would surprise me these days if it was in theirs or their friends’ interests.

In your book you say there were attempts by some MPs to rehabilitate Archer during the recent parliamentary debate about the Kurds and Halabja. Please elaborate.

Yes, that was on February 28th this year in Parliament during a Debate in the House. Although nothing to do with relief aid, two MPs mentioned Archer for some strange reason, as though making out he was some hero to the Kurds. Not surprisingly they were Conservative MPs. One was a staunch supporter of Archer, Nadim Zahawi, who kept mentioning Archer’s name for some reason. Another, Robert Halfon, even claimed Archer was responsible for the no fly zones. How he could have been, seems rather peculiar. Archer stated he only first became aware of the Kurdish plight on April 15th. As the first of these no fly zones was put into place in April 1991, it would have been discussed at length well before that, so how could he have been responsible? Why is the same party that supported his false claims years ago, now attributing the no fly zones to him as well? What is it they maybe need to justify? This is just one more question that needs answering in a long list of questions.

How do you feel today about BAFK? What have you learned from all this?

British Aid For The Kurds consignment

A ‘British Aid For The Kurds’ consignment

I feel honoured and proud to have been part of such a wonderful operation that showed human kindness and generosity at its best. Despite being ignored and receiving no publicity, these people did everything in their power to help fellow humans in need. People they’d never meet and never have thanks from.

That is something the world needs to see more of: compassion and kindness to our fellow human beings; to give and not count the cost. Despite all the bad things we read and hear about each day, there is still much goodness in the world if we care to look for it.

Having known little about them before this work, it has also now left me with an admiration for and an interest in the Kurdish people and what happens to them. Maybe it’s silly, but I feel a real warmth and connection with them now. I will forever be grateful for the lessons they taught me in their bravery, strength and fortitude.

Most of all, I have learnt how much our government is prepared to lie when it suits them (and it would appear, subsequent governments) and how badly they will treat the people who elect them. Unless one of them has the courage to launch an investigation about how John Major’s government behaved and will help clean up politics in Britain, I won’t be voting for anyone ever again.

What would you like to see happen as an outcome of telling your story?

I would like the name British Aid For The Kurds to be known as the major appeal for the Kurdish people, as it so deserves and not Jeffrey Archer. To see the British people as a whole recognised for what they did, rather than one man who it appeared did the least and to hear people talking about BAFK as the main players, spreading the word to others about this despicable cover-up. I would also like an official investigation launched into why John Major and his government never publicly acknowledged our work, but pushed Archer forward instead. It should also be questioned why Archer has been allowed to retain a title that was awarded for something since shown to have been grossly exaggerated by, not only him, but the Prime Minister who put him forward for it.

What can KT readers do about this?

I would love readers to LIKE our page on Facebook as a show of support and leave comments on what they think about the government hiding the story from everyone. It would also be marvelous if readers helped spread the story to as many people as possible.

BAFK Facebook page:

Jeffrey Archer: The Kurds, ‘The Simple Truth’ –  available from Amazon UK and

Copyright © 2013

8 Responses to John Major, Lord Archer and the real story of how British people backed the Kurds in 1991
  1. Mike Mitchell
    July 16, 2013 | 13:00

    One wonders what hold Archer has over the Tory party, even now. A shared love of cricket just doesn’t explain it, even for me.

  2. Suleiyman
    July 16, 2013 | 19:43

    For the British to come help the Kurds with political support and aids is like someone who runs a knife in your arm and then puts a bandage in it. I wonder what country was mainly responsible for drawing borders and causing Kurdistan to be lost?

  3. havel
    July 16, 2013 | 20:25

    Suleiyman, ok but surely you also understand the difference between government and people? The people can respond with good intent, no matter the bad plans of their government. When we talk about ‘the Kurds’, for example, we can distinguish between corrupt Kurd leaders and the Kurd population.

  4. Suleiyman
    July 17, 2013 | 03:43

    I agree and I appreciate any help anyone provides for anyone needy anywhere in the world. There is a great deal of frustration in the minds of our people in general that most of the time when foreign aid comes it either has political agendas or its related to evangelical efforts. However, efforts of people such as this author cannot be undermined and must be respected. I hope that we Kurds always remember that not too long ago we were the place of pity of others and so we must never forget out past and never abuse the powers we have now.

    • havel
      July 17, 2013 | 09:30

      I agree with you. Part of the story here is that the British government secretly armed Saddam for years … until he went into Kuwait and threatened their interests. Then, when Saddam (yet again) threatened the Kurds and people fled to the mountains, ordinary Britons – notably Lorraine (and people from other countries too), worked very hard to help these refugees for decent, humanitarian reasons. Raising approximately £200 million is a huge achievement. The British government also got involved – for its own reasons – but they had to lie about even this and they dishonestly promoted and honoured one of their top politicians (who later got caught out for something else and was sent to jail) as a ‘saviour’ of Kurds. There is another story (involving other politicians) about what happened to some millions of the funds – did they ever reach the people they were meant to help? The world over, many politicians are crooks in my opinion.

  5. siobhàn victorian
    December 15, 2013 | 12:27

    You forgot to mention who started all of this to begin with…Dr. Armen Victorian…my husband

    • Lorraine Holloway-White
      March 28, 2015 | 20:50

      Oh how wonderful siobhan to hear from Armen’s wife!
      No, I did not forget your husband. He is named all over the book and was the most wonderful man who did so much.
      I tried so hard to make contact with him when doing the book and could find him nowhere. I was really hoping he would have a part to do with the book, but couldn’t get hold of him. I might have started it all, but without his help, it would never have achieved all it did. We later ran it together, as I tell everyone. You’ll never know how hard I tried to reach him.
      I would love for him to contact me again now. Please give him my very best wishes. He was also named in the investigation when I went to London. He has been mentioned by me everywhere I can assure you and I gave him the due credit for the aircraft and everything from Nottingham

    • Lorraine Holloway-White
      March 28, 2015 | 20:58

      PS Siobhan, Might I just add Dr Victorian didn’t start the appeal as you state, he was one of many who contacted the Foreign Office and put on to me. It was only then that he joined BAFK, which had been well under way and then started to head it with me as dates prove 🙂

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