Why Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians

The Stop the War Coalition event in Parliament on 2 November was only the latest in a series where they have tried to exclude Syrians from discussion of their own country


The Syria Solidarity Movement UK was formed to give solidarity to the people of Syria in their struggle for a democratic and free Syria. Our membership is made up of Syrians and friends of Syrians. Our positions are led by the needs and demands of Syrians suffering brutally at the hands of a criminal regime.

Stop the War Coalition was formed in 2001 to oppose US and UK military action against the Taliban. Its cause is opposition to UK military and foreign policy. Its focus is Western-centric and UK-centric, only actively opposing military action by the UK and its allies, while providing at most lip service to criticising military action by states opposed to the UK. The justification it gives for this is that as a UK organisation it has no influence over these other states.

It follows that Syria Solidarity UK and Stop the War have very different concerns regarding Syria: Syria Solidarity is concerned with ending the suffering of Syrians under the Assad dictatorship; Stop the War with opposing any UK military involvement regardless of consequences for Syrians.

We oppose the British government’s proposal to mimic the American ISIS-only counter-terrorism war; not only do we believe it is immoral to fly missions in Syria against ISIS while leaving the even greater killer, Assad, free to bomb civilians en masse, we also believe that any war against ISIS that doesn’t put the needs of the Syrian people first will be a failure that can only prolong their suffering.

We do call for action to protect civilians in Syria, including limited military action to enforce a no-bombing zone.

Stop the War similarly oppose British government proposals to bomb ISIS, but not because they would leave Assad alone; for Stop the War also oppose any action against Assad. This puts Stop the War against Syrians who are being bombed by Assad: it puts them not just against Syrian revolutionaries but also against Syrian doctors, against Syrian White Helmets rescue volunteers, and against Syrian civil society activists, all of whom call for international action to stop Assad’s bombs.

This is why Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians.


The Stop the War Coalition event in Parliament on 2 November was only the latest in a series where they have tried to exclude Syrians from discussion of their own country. Now the embarrassing exposure of their attitude on the BBC’s Daily Politics show has led them to issue a statement claiming they are being lied about.

This statement lists three claimed lies about their 2 November meeting: that Stop the War’s Andrew Murray had called for support for the Assad government to fight ISIS, that Syrians were prevented from speaking at the meeting, and that Police were called to the meeting to control protesters.


Denying the first, Stop the War say Andrew Murray’s position is that ISIS can only be defeated by strong and credible governments in Syria and Iraq. If Andrew Murray does not mean Assad when he talks of a Syrian government, what does he mean? Elsewhere he makes clear that he is against the fall of Assad, saying that a no-fly zone should be opposed because “regime change is the real agenda.”

Andrew Murray also calls on foreign powers to abandon “all the preconditions laid down for negotiations,” language that echoes the Assad regime and its backers in Moscow. Why? Because there is just one precondition that is contested: the demand that Assad step down. This was not originally a Western demand, but first and foremost a Syrian demand.

So Andrew Murray’s “strong and credible government” is one where there is no change of regime, and no demand for Assad to step down: in other words, a continuation of the Assad regime.

There is no lie here.


Denying the second, Stop the War say Syrians were not prevented from speaking at the meeting, and claim that Syria Solidarity activist Muzna “was given ample time at the meeting to make her case” at Stop the War’s meeting. Not so.

Stop the War did allow Muzna Al-Naib to speak in the meeting, but only when other members of the audience called for her to be heard. She was the only Syrian allowed to speak, she was interrupted, and for the rest of the meeting all other Syrians were deliberately ignored by the Chair, Diane Abbott, even when other speakers Catherine West MP and Caroline Lucas MP said they wanted to hear from Syrians. Caroline Lucas has since said she wrote to Stop the War about the way the meeting was conducted.

And so the second is no lie either.


Stop the War deny that Police were called to the meeting to control protesters. This is the most blatant and astonishing falsehood. Police in the Houses of Parliament were called to the meeting. Syrian and Arab audience members were repeatedly told “you are going to get arrested.” One Syria Solidarity activist was prevented from re-entering the meeting by Police who arrived in numbers and were visible to all at the doors of the meeting by its end. One of the Arab attendees denied the opportunity to speak by the Chair was also talked to by Police after the meeting.

So finally, no lie here.


If Stop the War’s slogan “Don’t bomb Syria” is to have any meaning, let them demand the end of the regime whose bombs have killed so many.

If Stop the War oppose imperialism let them demonstrate their sincerity outside the Russian Embassy. Let them demonstrate with placards calling for Russia to stop bombing Syrian hospitals.

Lastly, if Stop the War are against war, let them stop denying war crimes; for this is their latest response, publishing a claim that Assad wasn’t responsible for the Ghouta chemical weapons massacre, “because it was so obviously not in Assad’s political and military interests.”

This latest comes in an article by Matt Carr. He writes that he has “never really doubted the brutality of the Syrian regime” before going on to do just that by claiming Assad’s violence has been deliberately exaggerated. Matt Carr is known as a champion of refugees; he should listen to them, and learn that most Syrian refugees are fleeing Assad’s violence.

His argument as to why he doesn’t believe Assad responsible for the Ghouta massacre crosses the line from naive to wilfully ignorant. Assad repeatedly tested the West’s willingness to act with smaller chemical attacks prior to Ghouta, and confirmed there was little or none. Assad’s forces were the only party with the industrial capacity to produce the amount of Sarin chemical used, the only party to have the kinds of rockets used in the attack, and the only party with a clear motive to kill the civilians in those neighbourhoods.

Matt Carr goes on about polls of Assad’s popularity: this in a dictatorship which has tortured thousands to death.  Who under regime control would dare answer no? Incredibly, one such survey was an internet poll with no more than 98 respondents in Syria.

He asks “what would happen to the Syrians that have supported the regime” if the Free Syrian Army win. The question Matt Carr fails to grasp is what is happening to millions of the dictator’s victims right now? The Free Syrian Army are the people who have defended their homes, freedom and justice against Assad for the last five years and against ISIS for the last three, and who are now being bombed by Assad’s ally Putin. The Free Syrian Army are not the ones levelling neighbourhoods and driving millions from their homes.

Syrian civilians need protection from Assad’s mass murder. Stop the War have nothing to offer Syrians, and so they stop their ears.

The Syria Solidarity Movement UK is a network of activists, academics, trade unionists, lawyers, socialists, doctors, nurses, students committed to solidarity with the Syrian Revolution

35 Responses to “Why Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians”

  1. Graham Thompson

    I am not a pacifist, and it may be the case that military intervention by outside forces could actually help Syria, but the US and the UK are the worst possible options to make this happen. Even Russia has a significantly better record in the ME than we do. In fact pretty much everyone has a better record in the ME than we do.

  2. robertcp

    People need to accept that Assad has not been defeated and he will need to be part of any agreement to end the war. This means that he and his supporters should be allowed to contest elections. Of course, it will be important to ensure that these elections are free and fair, which will probably mean troops from other nations.

  3. Sid

    Stop The War is an SWP organisation.

  4. Sid

    Assad is the least worst soluton for Syria.

  5. septicisle

    So let’s boil this down to the nub of the point: Stop the War coalition opposes UK military action in Syria. You as a group want UK military action in Syria. Surprise surprise, there’s conflict when you turn up! Might it perhaps be more worthy of your time to campaign for there to be Syrian representation at the actual peace talks going on, rather than wasting time with people who aren’t going to listen? Or would that undermine the whole point, which seems to be to bitch and whine about how those loathsome anti-war lefties are once again ignoring actual real Syrians, presumably like Clara Connolly, so popular here?

    Incidentally, having looked at your page calling for a no fly zone it’s interesting to once again note how easy it claims it would all be. Why, apparently it wouldn’t even need patrols if a mere ultimatum was issued and a few dozen cruise missiles were fired at regime air bases! Presumably it hasn’t been updated since the Russian intervention, although to go by past correspondence on here you seem to think such a no fly zone could still be put in place regardless.

    Stop the War could of course protest outside the Russian embassy against imperialism. They could also protest outside the Saudi Arabian, Qatari and other Sunni Gulf state embassies, the Iranian embassy, the American embassy, all of whom have been involved in funding and training one side or the other and have turned the war into just as much a proxy conflict as a civil one. I agree completely that the Syrian people have been forgotten in all of this, that no one has cared about them since the beginning, but the idea you can point out the hypocrisies of only side just won’t fly. No fly zones and safe zones wouldn’t have worked prior to Russia getting involved because no one, including the Free Syrian Army, is trusted on the ground to protect those safe zones. Even the Kurds and the newly formed Syrian Defence Force coalition have been accused of ethnic cleansing. Stop the War isn’t pretending this is a simple war with a simple solution; sadly, the Syria Solidarity Movement does seem to be suggesting just that.


    Stop the War do not want to stop the war. They want it to continue until the side they support wins. They probably do not know which side they support and in a few years if the war continues they will still not have a clue who they support. The body count is irrelevant to them.


    It was intervention that caused the war. And this nonsense called the Arab Spring had already started and the Sunni Islamic Brotherhood saw an opportunity to impose themselves on Syria. They had tried it before and lost very quickly. However with Western help this has become protracted. The ancient lesson that muslims in muslim countries have no need for democracy evades the West. Muslims that live in the West only accept democracy because they have to while they are in the minority. That minority is growing.

  8. Dave Stewart

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Of course the suffering of the Syrian people is horrific and anyone with any sense of humanity would want the war to end as quickly and bloodlessly as possible but the idea that Britain (and the US) getting involved is somehow going to fix everything is naive at best. Look at our history of intervention around the world. More often than not we cause just as much suffering from unintended consequences as that which we have managed to stop through intervention. It is the legacy of our previous interventions which has helped create the situation we see today.

    If there were a time when UK intervention would have been most useful it would have been right at the beginning of the conflict before the various Islamist factions got involved and before it became a proxy war for Saudi and Iran, not to mention all of the various other nations with vested interests in one side or the other. I think the time has long since past and the situation is now so complex and intertwined with various regional and global power plays that military intervention now would be a disaster of massive proportions.

    Stop the war have a very clear aim and have always done so. They oppose UK military interventions. Of course you are not going to get much of a hearing if you are actively seeking UK military intervention. Don’t go to a dog show and expect to convince everyone there that cats are better.

  9. Dick Gregory

    “You as a group want UK military action in Syria.”
    Straw man. Nobody said they wanted UK military action in Syria, the SSM wants the military action to stop. You seem happy like Stop the War, for the bombing to continue, along with the sieges, torture and rape that has defined Assad’s child-murdering reign. To say that because the Free Syrian Army aren’t trusted by the Americans doesn’t mean they aren’t trusted by Syrians to defend them against this genocide, that’s why civilians have been fleeing from Hama and Homs where the Russians have been bombing the Free Army. To call them a proxy army is grotesque. The proxy army are the thousands of Shiites the Iranians have brought in to try and take South Aleppo; like other mercenary invaders they will make little progress against determined Syrians, but will help to spread the conflict between Sunni and Shia. The only way this war is going to stop is when a régime that tortures children and is intent on burning the country it cannot control is gone, if that seems simple so be it.

  10. Old Major

    The Assad family have ruled Syria since they seized power in1970 and isn’t it strange that they have won all those ‘free’ elections ever since ?

  11. Old Major

    Stop the War should allow Syrians to speak, but of course if they did, they would hear that they do not like being bombed from the air day and night for the last four and a half years. This bombing was of course carried out by their own government’s airforce, you cannot ask for freedom and democracy in Assad’s country and expect any less.

  12. Old Major

    Assad would have disappeared from Syria long ago if there had been no intervention to save him, long before the rise of ISIS. It is the Iranian, Hezbollah and now Russian intervention that has saved the Assad regime.

  13. Old Major

    Maybe the UN should have stepped in when Assad started to seal off towns and cities all over Syria, then detain and murder thousands of civilians using the army, Shabiha’s and secret police. This war, is the product of Assad’s war against the people of Syria who dared to ask for freedom.

  14. Asteri

    It’s worth mentioning at this moment that the latest round of international ‘peace talks’ on Syria didn’t include any Syrians! What’s more important, international talks where Syrians have no say in their own country or what a tiny, marginal, anti-war group that hasn’t staged any mass protests since 2004 do at an event? Put it down to the bitter Eustonite left’s niche obsessions that LFF thinks is news.

  15. septicisle

    You didn’t even read the piece, or any of the links did you? They say as plain as day: “We do call for action to protect civilians in Syria, including limited military action to enforce a no-bombing zone.” Their link on a no-fly zone expressly asks for the US, UK and France to intervene. They want UK military action, which is what implementing a no-fly zone would entail. My point is not even close to a straw man.

    As for the rest we’re clearly not going to agree; if you really think ordinary Syrians themselves trust the FSA to protect them you ought to read some of the accounts of what happened in Aleppo, which was the start of a whole series of disasters. The war from the very outset has been viciously sectarian, long before the Iranians became involved also.

  16. robertcp

    Not really. There have not been any free and fair elections since 1970.

  17. Tettodoro

    Not any longer – SWP ditched it some time ago, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Counterfire.

  18. Tettodoro

    How do you figure that out? Over a hundred thousand civilians slaughtered, hundreds of thousands in towns and cities under siege and threatened with slow starvation, half the population driven from their homes. How can it get much worse than that? Time for Asad to go and allow Syrians to start rebuilding their communities and negotiating a new political order.

  19. Tettodoro

    “Ancient lesson”? Colonialist rubbish more like. People in muslim societies and communities are not very different from anyone else in their desire for freedom and control over their own lives. What do you think the actions of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who took to the streets in 2011, often risking their lives and safety, was all about? The Muslim brotherhood played almost no role in 2011 and not a lot subsequently.

  20. Tettodoro

    You have a point as far as the west’s records goes. But Russia’s is little better – and of course has been the main backer of Asad. So I’m afraid Syrians have to look for help where they might have some chance of finding it.

  21. Tettodoro

    I think you miss the point. Its not a matter of “convincing Stop the War” but of expecting that if they are going to pontificate on Syria they might at least listen to the views of Syrians and acknowledge their concerns. How can you mount a campaign with the slogan “Don’t Bomb Syria” that focuses only on a secondary, possible bombing that might take place and ignore the massive real-time bombing tby the regime that is going on all across Syria? Go on to the StW website and count up the number of reports of bombings by the Syrian airforce that you can find, or clear statements of protest against the regime’s actions: if you can get above 0 for the first; or 0.5 for the second I’ll put you on my Xmas card list.

  22. Tettodoro

    I don’t know what you are referring to when you talk about “what happened in Aleppo”. War is a messy business – so there were undoubtedly some abuses by opposition armed groups, but nothing like the sectarian massacres perpetrated by the regime in places like Houla, Hasawiya, al-Bayda, or Baniyas; or this in Aleppo: http://time.com/3796316/behind-the-picture-aleppos-river-of-death/

  23. septicisle

    Actually I meant the whole strategy in Aleppo, which was to attempt to take the city despite many of the residents protesting because they knew of the consequences. I recommend if you can find it unlocked the War Nerd’s article Bombed Stupid, which sadly is about the best summation of the failure of Western strategy, and like it or not, from a survival point of view, the strategy of Assad. War is indeed a messy business, and I’ll say again that groups like Syria Solidarity UK want to pretend it isn’t.

  24. septicisle

    No, I’m not missing the point. It’s an utter waste of time trying to convince or expect anything of StW, as their views are entirely predetermined. If you want to campaign for military action, fine, do it, don’t expect a group diametrically opposed to war to listen to anyone other than themselves. StW are a distraction, a sideshow, when groups like Syria Solidarity could be lobbying our government and others to include actual Syrian representation at the current talks.


    The MB were not allowed to do so because they have been an enemy of religious freedom for decades. Assad knows them as his father did and moved quickly on them. And do you think the West helped instigate a Coup for freedom and democracy?

  26. Tettodoro

    We don’t really have any good in depth accounts of key events like the battle for Aleppo, so its difficult to provide a definitive response. But I’d make a couple of points: by July 2012 the conflict had been fairly thoroughly militarised, mostly by the actions of the regime; events like the Houla massacre in June had driven a large part of the former non-violent opposition to take up arms. The regime’s military operations had killed over 13 000 civilians across the country. Occuring in that context. I don’t think you can take one city and abstract it from the whole Syrian scene. Aleppo had a large middle class population but it also had significant proportion drawn from the popular classes, which tended to be anti-regime; and a large kurdish population. The Aleppo university students had risen up in May, and been repressed by the security forces. Moreover the main forces initiating the offensive were drawn from the Aleppo hinterland, and so were economiically and socially linked to the city, and, it could be argued, also had a right to a voice in what happened there.

  27. Tettodoro

    PS: can’t find an accessible version of the article you are referring to, although the opening para looks rather unpromising. So we can’t pursue that line unless you care to summarise it.

  28. Tettodoro

    The current talks are(or were) talks about talks – setting out a framework for negotiations that will take place between Syrian parties later this year. . I agree that Syrians should have been represented there. However the SSM, unlike StW, is capable, of doing more than one thing at a time, and the meeting that we are talking about was one directed at MPs (and attended by a few) so there is no contradiction between intervening in that and lobbying the government. You can see my take on the history of diplomatic efforts to address the Syrian conflict here – https://magpie68.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/did-the-west-ignore-a-russian-offer-for-assad-to-step-down-as-president-in-2012/ and if you come back in a week or so I should have posted on the current phase.

  29. Alan Williams

    This left wing site seems very imperialist… you appear to want to push regime change in Syria and put in a puppet western government like we did in Afghanistan. … I have even seen posts trying to say Assad an alawite branch of Shia islam somehow for completely incomprehensible reasons created ISIS who are sunni, and have taken over half of his country? Seriously???? The west created ISIS to fight Iran and Syria.. Turkey is buying thier oil and israel are buying the kurds oil. The only reason we want to put boots on the ground now is because Russia is blowing the hell out of our proxies, and will take all that lovely territory we gained unless we shove some troops down first.

  30. JackieHolt

    It’s less “Stop the War” and more “Facilitate the Dictator”. Assad is killing Syrians in far greater numbers than any other faction in the war, aided any abetted by Putin.

  31. JackieHolt

    Syria needs a constitution which protects all its many minority groups and a government which reflects its diverse population. With the Russians now apparently willing to negotiate seriously with those opposed to Assad, there is a chance of a political solution which most of the country can sign up to.

  32. simonpjlduckett

    Spot on mate

  33. simonpjlduckett

    Yep 🙂

  34. clubofinfo

    To the people against Assad’s “regime”: I heard there is a new “State” in the area you can move to where you can spend the rest of your lives complaining about being bombed by Assad.

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