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

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

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

  1. Sid

    Stop The War is an SWP front organisation. What do you expect?

  2. deadtrax

    Bullshit. Evidence please.

  3. McRobbie

    Stop the War in Syria….a left wing synonym for Keep Blaming the West for everything.

  4. virgile

    The united Syrian army is the only force on the ground that can defeat ISIS. The activists prefer to see their country totally destroyed by ISIS rather than accept that they lost their war against Bashar al Assad. Stop The War message to the opposition is clear: Join the Syrian army or get lost.

  5. Michael Worcester

    the left reach their conclusions based on their sanctimonious view of life then tell the victims what they should be thinking not just in Syria but also any place they have power eg Rotherham. I do not understand why decent men and women of this country still vote for them

  6. stewart

    From Wiki

    “The impetus to form the Stop the War Coalition came following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States. The Coalition was launched at a public meeting of over 2,000 people at Friends House in London,[2] which was chaired by Lindsey German, then active in the Socialist Workers Party. German argued that the action in Afghanistan, then threatened unless the Taliban government extradited Osama bin Laden, would lead to that country’s “destruction”, and “possibly a wider conflagration in the Indian subcontinent, Iran and the Middle East.” Other speakers at the meeting included Jeremy Corbyn (Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington North), and Bruce Kent (of CND).

    German became Convenor of the Coalition and a meeting on 28 October settled the Coalition’s official aims. This meeting also elected a Steering Committee which consisted of a spectrum of left-wingers including representatives of Labour Left Briefing and the Communist Party of Britain. The Communist Party of Great Britain (Provisional Central Committee) and Alliance for Workers’ Liberty[3] failed to get elected, although both became members of the Coalition and participated in its activities.”
    That’s a duck ok

  7. Puddle

    Not sure I’d call it a “front” but when I was a member of the SWP at the time in question (2002-2003) we had no illusions that the Stop the War Coalition was anything other than predominantly SWP members who then invited groups like the ‘Muslim Association of Britain’ (a move that made so little sense my friend and I left the SWP in protest).

  8. Cole

    Not entirely SWP, but far left. One of its leading lights runs the Stalin Society!

  9. Cole

    Of course there are elements of the left like this (as with the right) but what a ridiculous and inaccurate generalisation.

  10. ec2013

    ISIS controls less territory than Syria, and they lack the resources to bomb entire neighbourhoods at once, which the Syrian government does do.

  11. GhostofJimMorisson

    This doesn’t suppose me one jot. The Stoppers are far more concerned with venting their own anger and outrage in the safety of Britain than listening to people who have suffered unimaginable brutality and persecution. It was the same during the last Iraq war. The Stoppers simply did not want to hear about Saddam slaughtering civilians and persecuting trade unionists. They were far more outraged that Tony Blair had lied to them!

  12. Vesta

    Andrew Murray… another hard line tankie from the Morning Star wing of the old Communist Party Of Great Britain. And to think Labour is going to ‘consult’ on policy with StTW sectarian bigots who, typically, prefer ideology to reality.

  13. Cole

    I thought that Labour made it clear they were going to consult with Syrian activists rather than StW. Still, with Corbyn’s close connection to StW, it’s quite possible – and another reminder of the sinister people JC has spent decades hanging out with.

  14. DemSoc93

    This is a disappointing read. Any decision to bomb or not to bomb must be based on what we actually want to achieve, not on consultation with the StWC and I would even say to be careful with using the individual testimonies of Syrians who want some kind of military intervention. I’m sure that Syrian opinion about foreign intervention is as varied as British opinion on the same issue.

    The best article I’ve read on the whole Syria affair so far was Paul Mason’s for the Guardian about a month ago. He was saying that short-termism in Middle East strategy is what has compounded problems rather than intervention/non-intervention. We absolutely need to do something, but I don’t think that necessarily means bombing, and that “something” has to be something worthwhile. The real question is, and I say this as a Corbyn supporter, is not whether we intervene or not (far too late for that) but what form our intervention takes. I think one aspect that Corbyn has brought to the debate, our links to regimes like Saudi Arabia particularly where arms are concerned, is absolutely crucial in sorting things out. But equally, something needs to be done to stop ISIS in the here and now as we can’t just wait til their weapons dries up.

  15. geo

    hatred of the west and america above all. facts dont impinge on these cretins fantasy world.

  16. septicisle

    The Clara Connolly mentioned wouldn’t happen to be the Clara Connolly given space here previously, would it? Seeing as she couldn’t even begin to explain how anything she was proposing could be achieved in Syria, I’m not sure she’s the best spokesperson for Syria Solidarity UK.

    Besides, we all know full well that StW has long been a joke. That doesn’t alter the fact however that there’s relatively little we can do about crimes of Assad; what can be achieved is preventing an intervention that could, difficult as it is to comprehend, make things even worse in Syria. Would it perhaps be an idea to have someone on here set out exactly what can practically be done to try to protect civilians and bring an end to the war, rather than focusing on how everyone currently opposed is completely and utterly wrong? On second thoughts, considering the last major attempt at that was the previous post by Kyle Orton suggesting we empower the jihadis other than al-Nusra and Islamic State to overthrow Assad, then get them to fight Islamic State, maybe not.

  17. MahmudH

    The mainstream opinion of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria is that the rebels are wahabi terrorists and Zionist conspirators aiming to exterminate Christians and Shia and to destroy Syria. You might not be aware of this, because the pro war media in western countries ignore their view point and trumpet the opinions of these exilees who want regime change. However these people do not speak for all of the Syrians in Syria.

  18. Ed Snowed Us

    Very strange since the British military is not going after the monster Assad at all, flying high over his barrel bombing helicopters – his efforts killing 8300 kids/year.
    Insane is anyone supporting ISIS – just leave them be to SERIAL RAPE the “women” (age 7-77) and murder the menfolk.

  19. robertcp

    I understand that Catherin West MP said that the Syrians would be consulted by the Labour Party, which is more significant than Stop the War’s attitude. They were right about Iraq but very little since.

  20. robertcp

    I share your understanding about who Labour will be consulting. Of course, there is no need for Corbyn to consult himself!

  21. wildcolonialboy

    The Kurds aren’t a minority?

  22. Martin Gormley

    The war was justified by the war mongerers on the basis that Iraq had WOMD. There were none apart from the ones fabricated in minds and used to brain wash the masses. The genocide of 100’s of thousands of Iraq’s population based on a propaganda fabrication. Your fucking right I am outraged you fucking cretin.

  23. nimh

    “Stop The War message to the opposition is clear: Join the Syrian army or get lost.”

    That does pretty much sum it up, doesn’t it? Group of British activists tell victims of Assad’s bombs and torture to side with their oppressor or “get lost”.

    It’s perhaps no surprise that the only other part of the political landscape where this view holds sway is in parts of the extreme right. There, too, they see Assad as the righteous slayer of muslim extremists, and praise Putin for doing what they consider the West to be too cowardly to do.

  24. Woo11

    First – it’s a Coalition, at one time Chaired by the late Tony Benn, hardly a communist or SWP, neither is Jeremy Corbyn, who led it until recently. Second most of us didn’t like Saddam Hussain in the slightest, and had never liked him even while both this country and the US were selling his Gvt WMDs and other military weaponry. Third, Colin Powell said in his statement to the United Nations that Al Queda had links to SH’s Government allegedly proved by the testament of a prisoner captured in Afghanistan on the behest of the US, who was secretly extradited to a country specifically for interegation purposes – where the US knew they used torture, (Egypt). This man retracted his statement apprx 3 years after he made it, to a military tribunal at Guantanamo, saying that it was made under the extreme duress of his torture. Fourth as we know all too well there were no WMDs in Iraq, and the “intelligence” as Blair has recently admitted was wrong – the evidence gained from the statement of a man being tortured (Blair failed to mention that part). And yes we are appalled that he lied to us. You may read Andrew Worthington’s full account of Guantanomo prisoners for further information. Last, many of us feel extremely sick at many of the Heads of State around the world, but it is illegal under international law to go to war for “Regime Change”, for good reason, in the case of Iraq for instance, we now have the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS, which sprang out of the war for that so called “Regime Change”.

  25. Woo11

    Was the Gvt of this country right to go to war with Iraq?

  26. Woo11

    So more than 1,000,000 of us on the street in this country and many more millions around the world protesting against the move to war with Iraq are also SWP or Communist or such…. I think not. But maybe you think the war against Iraq was a just war?

  27. Steven Hunt

    The vast majority of Syrians, in Syria now, support the Russians and the Syrian army wiping the Al Queda and ISIL terrorist out.

    The Syrians that tries to disrupt the meeting are considered traitors to other SyriNs fighting to wipe the terrorists out of the country.

    The US, Brits and Saudis funnel mercenary terrorists into Syria to overthrow the legit government.

    Thankfully these imperialist terror freaks have been exposed.

    You freaks will definitely lose.

    Go eat a McDonalds burger and cry.

  28. Avi

    They support Assad’s dictatorship, this is why they want to stop the war. So that he would continue to rule.
    And drop barrel bombs on people who are not happy.

  29. Syrian ordinary citizen

    Please, stop throwing lies upon lies, the vast vast majority of Syrian people want Assad’s brutal regime gone as much as they want isis gone. Do you want me to tell you how Assad killed 4 of my friends for just protesting against him or aiding opposition held areas. Doesn’t it bother you that a child killer and mass murderer is enjoying his life now, while some people defend him, we want justice, Assad MUST answer to he did, Assad and isis are two faces of the same rotten coin. Stopping the war also means stopping Assad from killing us.

  30. Read

    Treat with caution, Peter Tatchell is Empire’s best friend…

  31. Dick Gregory

    “The solution is simple. It is not complicated. Assad, his inner circle, the security apparatus and all the intelligence agencies, all have to go.”

  32. DemSoc93

    Assad absolutely has to go and the Syrian people need to have democratic control over their own lives but that’s easier said than done.

  33. Jack

    What a completely senseless comment. The 1,000,000 people protesting against the Iraq war were not all STW members; that protest was not identical to the organisation. How STW being a front organisation for the SWP relates to whether or not the Iraq War was a “just war” (if you buy into such concepts) is beyond anyone’s guess. It is a completely illogical jump to make. Don’t ask such ridiculous, straw man baiting questions on a forum where adults talk to each other. I’m sure your time would be better spent pretending to read Fanon.

  34. Jack

    Again, irrelevant to whether or not one organisation is a front for another. Hypothetically, the ALF could be a PETA front, but that would tell us nothing about the morality of factory farming. This is pretty basic logic and you’re failing miserably.

    Sorry if me pointing out your stupidity oppresses you in any way.

  35. Jack

    Clearly you care nothing for the generation of Iraqis who thought the only crime committed by the West was leaving Iraq too soon. I’m not surprised by this; if you stopped to think about what non-Western people want for a second you might have to abandon the self-indulgent pacifism that gives you membership to a little sect of right-on whingers. Virtue signalling par excellence.

  36. Jack

    Steven Hunt, live from Syria, where he has conducted some pretty extensive social research apparently.

    Next in the news, having a different opinion about foreign policy (where someone always inevitably gets hurt no matter what course of action you take) to Steven makes you a freak. Especially if your opinion is a bit more nuanced than black and white, us vs them tribalism.

    Later on today’s programme, Russia bombing a country to expand influence is fine, but if the West does it, it’s imperialism. We’ll hear more on this from our Virtue Signalling correspondent Steven Hunt.

    I suppose you type your anti-Imperialism diatribes about McDonald’s on the MacBook your parents bought you?

  37. Steven Hunt

    Actually, I have friends that are refugees, and they fully support the legitimate government of Syria.

    Of course, when mercenary terrorists funded by the US and its Saudi allies come into Syrian cities to wage war, then there is inevitable confusion and paranoia, mistakes are made. This is a war for Syrian survival.

    I also have contacts in Syria, and even if they did not support Assad, they 100 percent support the Syrian and Russian military as these legal forces destroy the US-backed terrorists that want to destroy the Syrian state, and then it would become a vassal proxy for the US and Saudis.

    No, your delusion that the majority of citizens inside Syria support the Al Queda linked mercenaries that have caused this terror and destruction is absolutely false.

    Go eat your burger and lick the feet of your imperial master.

    You are a liar and traitor to the Syrian people.

  38. Steven Hunt

    Absolutely correct.

    The most important issue is what do the majority of the Syrian people want?

    You will notice that the Western propaganda, liar media assiduously avoid any compelling focus on this central question.

    The vast majority of the population want the US/NATO/Saudi backed mercenary terrorists defeated, and driven out of the country.

    The minirity of Syriams that have formed alliance of violence against the Syrian state are now reaching out to Russia.

    Soon they will devote their efforts to drive the US terror rebels out of Syria.

    Sorry, traitors, you have been exposed-and you will never be trusted in Syria again.

    When you sleep with dogs you get infested with fleas.

  39. Jack

    Are these friends of yours the vast majority of the Syrian people?

    Go bow down to your Russian imperial overlords (yes, sorry to break it to you, but Russia also had a little bit of an empire going on).

  40. Darren Cahil

    The Saudi’s (arguably the most oppressive regime in the Middle East), agree with you. This is the same regime (an ally), has stepped up executions and not long ago sent in the military/tanks to quell the the uprising in Bahrain.

  41. Darren Cahil

    Ok, you’d think the Assad regime was the only oppressive regime in the Middle East. That said, the Syrian people do need to have ‘democratic control over their own lives.’ The point is that this needs to happen within Syria, by Syrians. Past ‘humanitarian interventions’ have a poor record in bringing about democracy, the result tends to be humanitarian displacement.

  42. Darren Cahil

    It’s a popular front, that’s the reason why they prevented ‘Hands Off the People of Iran’ (HOPI), affiliating to StWC.

  43. Darren Cahil

    Straw man.

  44. Martin Gormley

    maybe you should think about the generation of Iraqis that didn’t happen because their parents were killed by the war coalitions illegal bombs. Would the West have had any interest in Iraq if it had have no oil and no strategic importance related to oil or American interests in the Middle East. Pretty sure of the answer to that one.

  45. Jack

    What a hilariously irrelevant comment. I didn’t say that I thought the outcomes of the war were all positive, I didn’t say I thought it turned out positive overall for everyone, and I didn’t say things couldn’t have been done better. I was merely pointing out that reducing something as complex as international relations to “this camp good, this camp bad”, is something only the childish and ignorant do. You throw out all the people helped by the toppling of Saddam because it gives you something to scream about. It gives you a little cause to be wounded by. Some people need that.

    Some Syrians really want help. Others don’t. Lots of Iraqis are chuffed we got rid of Saddam. Others aren’t. Welcome to the real world; it is markedly different to your virtue signalling echo chamber, where hating everything “western” is all you need to do to be a virtuous, insightful character.

    There were loads of reasons for us to get involved in Iraq, and loads of reasons not to. No course of action is without perils, and pretending that you are righteous enough to divine the way is pathetic.

  46. Stephen Bell

    Syrian woman was allowed to speak, although her comrades were so insistent on shouting in meeting than they continued over her. James Bloodworth and other supporters of Cameron’s belligerence on Syria are suffering from a defeat at the hands of Corbyn, Abbott, STW and the anti-war movement. Hence sour grapes of article.

  47. DemSoc93

    I did mention Saudi Arabia, another oppressive Middle Eastern regime that we’re quite happy to pal about with, above.

    I also made the point, or rather Paul Mason did, that any future intervention has to be substantially different from past “humanitarian” interventions.

  48. stewart

    Thanks for your interest in my spiritual well being Matthew ,but what’s that got to do with the price of fish?

  49. Alex Ross

    Personally speaking, I don’t mind a Big Mac once in while (especially if I am really hungover). I happen to know a fair number of Syrian refugees who very much don’t share your view of Assad (btw when you talk about “legit” government you might want to read more broadly about how “legitimacy” is largely defined in political theory – (IMPORTANT CLUE – it normally involves consent via transparent means and observance of basic human rights). Also, credible research backs the idea that most refugees are fleeing because of Assad. See this link for example – (no doubt you will think it to be a MSM propaganda tool constructed by by big-mac eating imperialists but, hey, sub-Chomskyist idiots like you are not really open to reason).

  50. Martin Gormley

    100’s of thousand’s of Iraqis dead due to the war coalition is not irrelevant and certainly not hilarious. Britain and America had both recent totally disastrous over sea’s campaign that achieved nothing positive but produced a huge amount that was negative. Surely if there was any use in war it must be to learn from decisions that were a total disaster

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.