Stop the War refuse to listen to Syrians during debate…on Syria

Only Westerners are allowed to talk about Syria

The Stop the War Coalition (StWC) have been accused of preventing victims of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from speaking at an anti-war event.

During a panel event on Monday evening to discuss the case against British military intervention in Syria, StWC included no Syrians on the speaker’s panel and reportedly refused to allow Syrians to speak from the floor.

The meeting was chaired by Labour MP Diane Abbott and featured chair of the Stop the War coalition Andrew Murray, former leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas, Labour MP Catherine West, Tory MP Crispin Blunt MP and SNP MP Tommy Shephard.

According to human rights activist Peter Tatchell, who attended the event, no Syrians were included on the panel and the Syrian activists who turned up to the event were threatened with arrest.

Speaking to LFF, Tatchell said:

“Some Syrian victims of Assad’s brutalities turned up but were not allowed to speak. They eventually shouted out in frustration, turning the meeting into momentary chaos, as they were jeered by some of the audience and as StWC stewards tried to eject them – allegedly threatening that they’d be arrested. The police turned up soon afterwards.”

Tatchell went on: “Near the end of the meeting, I personally appealed to Diane Abbott to let the Syrians have their say, but she refused and closed the meeting.”

Tatchell’s comments mirrored those of Amr Salahi, an activist from the Syria Solidarity Movement who was also present at the meeting.

“Andrew Murray said absolutely nothing about the people being killed in Syria on a daily basis in Assad’s airstrikes,” Salahi said.

“Murray said that ISIS had to be defeated militarily, and the way to do that was not for the West to get involved but for the Iraqi army and the Syrian army (i.e. Assad’s army) to be helped to defeat ISIS.”

He added: “The [war] was not discussed in reference to the Syrian people in any way. The only focus was on British or American involvement. Not a single Syrian was on the panel. There were Syrians in the audience and at the first opportunity they raised their hands to speak.”

However after raising their disagreements with the StWC panel over the organisation’s views of conflict in Syria, Salahi said the Syrians were prevented from speaking again.

“The first [Syrian activist] to challenge the panel told the speakers they were only looking at ISIS, while Assad was killing dozens of people on a daily basis. [The Syrian] then compared Assad to Hitler, and I told the speakers they were like the Neville Chamberlains of today. [Panellist] Crispin Blunt MP, a supporter of the Iraq war, answered that people in Syria were now looking to Assad to protect them from Islamist extremists. He was unaware that [the Syrian activist in question] had lived in regime controlled Damascus for more than three years since the start of the revolution,” Salahi said.

He added: “After this intervention, no other Syrians were permitted to speak. [The panel] kept opposing the possibility of Western intervention as if that was the only factor. Clara Connolly, an immigration lawyer and activist with Syria Solidarity UK, later told the StWC they were silent about Assad’s crimes but they didn’t care. I told the speakers they just wanted Assad to keep killing people. Clara kept trying to make the point to the speakers that they had nothing to say about what was happening on the ground. All she got in return was silence. Then some of the organisers went up to her and warned her that if she didn’t be quiet, she would be forced to leave.”

Peter Tatchell told LFF a similar story: “When it came to questions from the floor, other members of the audience were asked to speak but not the Syrians. Near the end of the meeting, I personally appealed to Diane Abbott to let the Syrians have their say but she refused and closed the meeting.”

Tatchell added that he was “shocked, surprised and saddened by Diane Abbott’s unwillingness to invite Assad’s victims to express their opinions”. He added that not listening to victims of Assad’s war crimes was “arrogant, insensitive and appalling. It has a whiff of ‘we know best’ and Syrian opinions ‘don’t count’”.

This is not the first time Syrians have been prevented from speaking at a StWC event on Syria. In September, in reply to a letter from Syria Solidarity UK asking StWC to include a Syrian in a separate panel event on Syria, StWC’s Lindsey German replied that it was “not appropriate” to hear from Syrians if they did not clearly oppose military intervention.

“Stop the War, which prides itself on being an anti-imperialist organisation, has an imperialist mind-set par excellence,” Salahi said. “Syrians are not allowed to have an opinion about their own country. Only Westerners are allowed to talk about Syria.”

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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90 Responses to “Stop the War refuse to listen to Syrians during debate…on Syria”

  1. Jack

    That fact on its own is neither irrelevant nor hilarious, no. Having reviewed my above responses, I never said it was hilarious or irrelevant. Please stop making such ridiculous, self-serving none statements.

  2. Martin Gormley

    Jesus, it is so difficult to have an intelligent discussion with some one who talks through their arse with their head up it at the same time .

  3. Jack

    And there we have it; the inability to argue inevitably descends to this:

    “If I just post a flippant, dismissive remark it will look like I’m taking the high road. Yeah, that’s much easier than admitting I’ve been Straw Man-ing my head off.”

    It’s difficult to have an intelligent conversation with someone who spews irrelevant, self-serving rubbish at you. Don’t worry though; just post it on Twitter and all your mates will tell you how dead clever you are and that.

  4. Ed Snowed Us

    Even many of those on Assad’s side of the “line” are there because he is STARVING the cities in non-Assad areas, and many men there will do anything to avoid being “conscripted at gunpoint”, dragged out of classrooms even.

    Go take your McDonalds hamburger to Damascus’ Yarmouk – you could sell it for $50.

  5. Esmee Phillips

    Well, we’d better bring back National Service and raise a million-strong army so we can turn all these Middle Eastern countries into Guardian liberal paradises.

    A basic income tax rate of 30% should pay for the Crusade. Any volunteers?

  6. Woo11

    Matthew??? LOL

  7. Woo11

    Well stop attacking one of the main organisations to give the anti war mvt a voice…it is you who are senseless and illogical, and I will continue to ask whatever questions I like! You sound as if you are a war supporter yourself, using stupid meaningless arguments to divert people from the real issues. We shouldn’t fight amongst ourselves, that is senceless at this time

  8. Jack

    This is your response to me saying that 1,000,000 marching against the Iraq War is not the StW campaign? The person you were replying to never said that everyone who marched against the Iraq War were communists; just that the StW pressure group, the core group as it exists today, is a SWP front. Your rebuttle therefore made no sense. Pointing out that you’re being ridiculous is not unreasonable of me.

    “You sound as if you are a war supporter yourself, using stupid meaningless arguments to divert people from the real issues.” – I’m not diverting anyone’s attention anywhere, I’m just saying you should stop making Straw Man arguments. I am yet to make a point about war at all; I have only addressed your comment.

    Please try to digest what you’re reading before you start responding. It takes mental effort but it’s worth it.

  9. Woo11

    ok here’s another answer you bullying little warmonger – shut up!

  10. Ian Nairn

    Actually most of the deaths were caused by Insurgents and not the Coalition. The insurgents were mainly foreigners who cause lots of chaos and were chased out by the Americans and were basically eliminated from Iraq and the country was at a peaceful stage, until President Obama decided to change the situation.

  11. Woo11

    Jack I shall know not to bother with you further in these posts, you know what they say about sarcasm being the last refuge of the imaginately bankrupt, the fool… cant be bothered with a fool

  12. Jack

    Where have I been sarcastic? The fact you tried to sound superior while saying that is just wonderful.

  13. Lamia

    one of the main organisations to give the anti war mvt a voice…

    They are not ‘anti-war’, they objectively support the Assad regime and Russia continuing the war. The former has inflicted the vast majority of casualties in this war. The latter is rapidly notching up civilian deaths and enabling ISIS to fill territory formerly held by other rebels. In practice, they are both butchers and incompetent at (‘uninterested in’, even) fighting ISIS. But with STWC it’s the same old script whatever the situation: ‘always blame the West’.

  14. Lamia

    You’ve done your best on this thread, but I’m afraid your opponent can’t follow basic logic.

  15. Lamia

    The united Syrian army is the only force on the ground that can defeat ISIS.

    ‘Can defeat’? They have spent the past four years avoiding fighting ISIS. The only force on the ground that has actually gained victories over and taken significant territory from ISIS are the Kurds – with NATO air support.

  16. MahmudH

    The Kurds have fought against ISIS, the FSA and al Nusra. They aren’t pro-rebels. They’re defacto allies of the Syrian Government, which makes the Turks hate them even more.

  17. Lamia

    what can be achieved is preventing an intervention that could, difficult as it is to comprehend, make things even worse in Syria

    That’s already just happened, with Russia’s bombing spree that has helped ISIS on the ground, killed hundreds of civilians already and blown up six hospitals in fewer weeks.

  18. Martin Gormley

    As per my previous observation……..

  19. Martin Gormley

    Most of the deaths were caused by totally incompetent Western war mongering blood lusted governments not even capable of governing their own country properly.

  20. Steven Hunt


    The Kurds are the pivotal factor at this moment.

    Assad will transition out only with a viable, independent Syrian state with all institutions functional.
    The people demonizing Assad at this moment are jackals, aligned with the forces that have facilitated ISIL and the mercenary rebels.

    International law is foundational if there is a path to peace.

    The folks that have demonized and caricatured Assad for years have no strategy toward a path to stability. None at all.

    The fact that the US and its allies have fomented this violence for years is salient, and makes clear the delusional and manical agenda.

    There is much invective here that functions to obscure the core issues.

  21. GhostofJimMorisson

    Go crawl back under your bridge, troll, and let the grown-ups speak. There’s a good boy 🙂

  22. Jack

    Quite sad isn’t it? I imagine he blames his stupidity on neo-colonialism.

  23. Jack

    Another answer to what? The under-educated shouldn’t try to sound clever. It’s just embarrassing for them (can’t wait for the inevitable “why are you doing it then?” – stupidity is predictable).

  24. Jack

    Still trying to think of a way to explain your pious little “100’s of thousand’s of Iraqis dead due to the war coalition is not irrelevant and certainly not hilarious”? Because it still makes no sense, and it’s still a very transparent attempt to make yourself out to be an enlightened little soul (virtue signalling at its best).

  25. Jack

    The problem isn’t the left in general. The left remains the only real way forward. The problem is that the left is now controlled by a whinging little group of toffs who care more about turning up to the right sort of meetings and screeching the right sort of things at the wrong sort of people than they do about actually representing the working class.

    The left will rise again, I hope.

  26. Jack

    Even this ignores the fact that his “stop attacking one of the main organisations to give the anti war mvt a voice…” was in response to me saying that not everyone who marched against the Iraq War represented the StW campaign, which was itself a response to him saying that the StWC can’t be a communist front because 1 million people marched for “it”. The fact he struggled to understand such a basic, glaring point leads me to believe that you’re wasting your time.

  27. Martin Gormley

    Yet again as per my previous observation Re: …………head up arse talking through it…….now GFY.

  28. Martin Gormley

    You sanctimonious piece of brain dead right wing shite can GFY.

  29. Michael Worcester

    If Assad lost the Alawites would be wiped out by the Sunnis. Russia is right to help prevent this. STW clearly promoting the same and looks to support Assad. I agree we should stop following the Saudi line by only targeting IS and keep all the Sunni groups (including the rebels we are supporting with arms now) at equal distance as the Iranians.

    Dianne was, as usual, out of her depth.

  30. Cole

    Blimey, do you work for Putin?

  31. Cole

    Ah those jackals. And aren’t there some running dogs too? You sound like a demented old fashioned commie.

  32. Saul Till

    Wow! It’s as deliciously simple as that – ‘disagree with my monochrome view of the world and you’re a right-winger’. I can almost hear the shutters clunking down in your head when someone here mentions an uncomfortable fact.

    You really are the reason sites like LFF need to exist.

  33. Saul Till

    I’d agree with that.

  34. Martin Gormley

    Eh. Being told to crawl back under a bridge is “disagreeing with my monochrome view of the world” ???? What the fuck are you wittering on about?

  35. J.I. Smith

    Yes, they may be against war, but STWC and affiliated organisations also have documented sympathies for Islamist policy and speakers. See this document published by Maryam Namazie’s organisation, for example. The postscript by her is especially good at summing up a responsible perspective that attacks both racism and prejudice in the West as well as far-right Islamism.

  36. jj

    ‘Stop the War’ like to listen to their own voices, they think they know it all, and ignore the actual voices of war in favour of students who choose to protest during their weekends. A good article that shows how this organisation likes to ignore the real voices of war.

  37. Shin

    The only way the war in Syria will end is if the Gulf states stop funding the Islamist rebels and the US stop trying to convince the world there are still moderate rebels involved in the fighting. The only people who should have a say on the future of Syria are the Syrian people who live in that country or who return after the conflict is over which with the help of Russia and Iran is now a possibility

  38. abadam

    So why were the Syrians not allowed to speak?If that happened,what is the group think of STWC?Is it toxic?Is there any ongoing ‘self-awareness’/critique to mitigate ‘mission creep’into unhealthy,group think preoccupations?

  39. Penny Fulton

    I don’t know about the legitimacy or otherwise of the alleged victims of Syrian gov. policy. But for sure, it is irrelevant to the issue of western insurrection of an elected Syrian gov.It is illegal to go to war with a sovereign state without declation of war and naming the country. The vote in UK parliament was illegal , The UN resolution quoted gave no mandate to bomb a sovereign state in pursuit of ISIS , neither did id it permit the declared proposition to depose Assad and replace his gov. with a western imposed choice .
    The’ stop the war ‘ org. as are all org.s these days have long been run by MI5 /6 and exist to ensure that no protest movement is effective.

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