British Kurd aid worker, Gulf envoy and Egyptologist receive UK honours

New Year Honours list spotlights Middle East diaspora and links between Britain and the region

Taban Shoresh fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq for Britain but returned to help refugees after ISIS went on the offensive in 2014. Photo: Greater London Authority
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A British Kurd who works with refugees in Iraq, a former UK trade envoy to the Middle East and an Egyptologist are among those awarded New Year Honours by King Charles III.

Activist Taban Shoresh was imprisoned as a child in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, resettled in Britain then returned to the Kurdistan region to help refugees. She said she was “very happy and honoured” to be recognised with an OBE.

Her charity, The Lotus Flower, has grown from two staff in a burnt-out refugee camp cabin to an organisation that has helped more than 60,000 people, said the British government as it published the honours list on Friday.

The UK’s Foreign Office saluted Ms Shoresh's “exceptional and sustained contribution” after she gave up a financial career in London to help refugees when ISIS went on the offensive in Iraq in 2014.

“I came here as a refugee at the age of six seeking safety. Fast-forward many years and I'm delighted that I get the opportunity to give back and help those in need,” Ms Shoresh said.

“I believe with more compassion, empathy and action we can all be change-makers in this world.”

Many of the 1,227 honours awarded recognise the UK’s links with the Middle East and North Africa, or people from the region’s diaspora who have contributed to British society.

Simon Penney is appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George after a five-year stint as Britain’s trade commissioner for the Middle East and Pakistan.

Mr Penney, who was also Britain’s consul general for Dubai and the Northern Emirates, is among 125 people recognised for “exceptional service to the UK overseas or internationally”.

University of Manchester professor Joyce Tyldesley receives an OBE for services to Egyptology and heritage after publishing award-winning books on Tutankhamun and Cleopatra as well as works for children.

Haifa Al Kaylani, who founded the Arab International Women’s Forum in London in 2001, receives an OBE for services to women, young people and cultural relations between the UK and countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

There is an MBE for Nigel Fossey, the principal of The Sultan’s School in Oman which teaches bilingually in Arabic and English, for services to British education overseas.

Enass Abo Hamed, a businesswoman from Palestine who founded a UK hydrogen company called H2GO, becomes an MBE for services to engineering and enterprise.

The same honour is awarded to Muhayman Jamil for services to people with disabilities after the Baghdad medical graduate set up a group called Wheels and Wheelchairs that offers accessible sport in London.

Majida Sayam receives an MBE for charitable services to ethnic minority women after she set up a London sewing group called Jannaty Women’s Social Society, where volunteers speak Arabic, Somali and Bengali.

The overseas list also includes several British diplomatic staff who have served in the Middle East, including a security manager and former head of chancery at the UK embassy in Tehran.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the list rewards “exceptional achievements” and people who have “shown the highest commitment to selflessness and compassion”.

“To all honourees, you are the pride of this country and an inspiration to us all,” he said.

Celebrity gongs

Famous faces honoured include Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke, who is made an MBE for founding a brain injury charity, and former cabinet minister Sajid Javid who receives a knighthood.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is rewarded for his role in King Charles’s coronation by being made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, an honour in the personal gift of the monarch rather than the government.

Footballer Millie Bright is made an OBE after captaining England to the Women’s World Cup final last summer, while team-mates Lauren Hemp and Mary Earps receive MBEs.

Michael Eavis, the founder of the Glastonbury Festival, joked he would bring some spare tickets for Prince William as he looks forward to being knighted for services to music and charity.

“He’s made a few mentions of wanting to come to the festival,” Sir Michael said. “So I’ll probably take a couple of tickets in my pocket!”

Updated: December 30, 2023, 6:21 AM