Providing Comfort at Home: Safe Haven in Iraq

  • Carol McQueen
Part of the Rethinking Peace and Conflict Studies book series (RCS)


On 16 April 1991, President George Bush announced that the US, along with its two main Gulf War allies Britain and France, would create a safe haven in northern Iraq so that the Kurds who had fled Iraqi repression could return home again in safety. Following the 1991 Gulf War, both the Shi’ites in the South and the Kurds in the North launched rebellions that succeeded for a time but were eventually brutally crushed by the Iraqi regime. Targeted by Iraqi helicopter gunships and fearing possible chemical weapons attacks, a means used by Saddam Hussein in his 1988 punishment of the Kurds for their involvement with the enemy in the Iran-Iraq war, the Kurds fled en mass toward the Turkish and Iranian borders. Concerned that an influx might exacerbate its own Kurdish minority problem and unwilling to be burdened financially with massive numbers of refugees, Turkey closed its border, leaving the Kurds to languish in severe, freezing conditions along the mountains just inside Iraq. The resulting humanitarian crisis sparked greater and greater international involvement to alleviate the suffering in an incremental process that eventually culminated in a safe haven once it became clear that sufficient comfort could not be provided in the harsh landscape along the Iraqi-Turkish border. Although not explicitly authorized by the Security Council, the safe haven came to encompass almost 10,000 square kilometres of Iraqi territory;2 and its protection was successfully guaranteed through the presence of coalition troops that remained within Iraq until mid-July and through an effective air power deterrent that prevented Iraq from using military aircraft within a no-fly zone above the 36th parallel.3


Security Council Humanitarian Intervention Safety Zone State Interest Safe Haven 
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Copyright information

© Carol McQueen 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol McQueen
    • 1
  1. 1.United Nations Peacekeeping MissionDemocratic Republic of Congo

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