The representatives of oppressive regimes on the guest list to the royal wedding is an embarrassment to this country writes Dominic Browne.
The Syrian ambassador’s invitation to the royal wedding has been withdrawn, following brutal crack-downs of anti-government protests in the country. The Foreign Office said his presence would be “unacceptable” and that Buckingham Palace “shared that view”.
The country’s ambassador, Dr Sami Khiyami, was summoned to the Foreign Office on Tuesday after Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters. BBC News 24 have reported 500 people have been killed so far.
This is the latest in a line of highly worrying invitations to the wedding. Britain has already withdrawn invites for Libya and Malawi, and the crown prince of Bahrain withdrew his previous acceptance following similar crack-downs on pro-democracy protests there.
The BBC have quoted the Foreign Office as saying:
“An invitation does not mean endorsement or approval of the behaviour of any government, simply that we have normal diplomatic relations with that country.”
“In the light of this week’s attacks against civilians by the Syrian security forces, which we have condemned, the foreign secretary has decided that the presence of the Syrian ambassador at the royal wedding would be unacceptable and that he should not attend.”
As Left Foot Forward have previously reported there are still people on the list that the Foreign Office should not wish to enjoy “normal relations” with, such as the king of Swaziland. King Mswati III is the last absolute monarch in Africa, in a country where:
“Political parties are banned, trade unions are massively restricted and the country scores lower than Zimbabwe for its political rights.”
The anti-monarchy campaign group Republic heavily criticised the inclusion of royals from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia (whose troops were called in to help Bahrain suppress pro-democracy protests), Oman, Brunei, Qatar, Swaziland, Lesotho, Bhutan and Kuwait.
Republic chief Graham Smith said: “This guest list reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of tyrants and their cronies”.
With royal family occasions there is always a code of protocol and diplomacy to follow but surely human rights trumps that? At a time when dictators all over the world are under massive scrutiny in the wake of the Arab Spring, why would we want to give such people a PR boost by treating them to our hospitality and sitting them next to our political and cultural leaders in front of the world’s cameras?
Patricia Yates from Visit Britain told the BBC:
“This is a show case for Britain,.. this is Britain’s moment.”
What aspect of Britain should take precedence in this “showcase” – our commitment to human rights, or our tragic history of supporting dictators in the name of diplomacy and realpolitik?Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.