Friday, November 13, 2015

Syrian voices silenced by Stop the War

Stop the War (StW) have a track record of denying a platform to Syrian voices when they hold events about Syria. As I've said before, this is like an organisation holding repeated #BlackLivesMatter events with all-white panels. As far as I know, StW have only come close to having Syrian speakers twice, both in 2013: first they gave platform to a Baathist and then they invited a Lebanese-French nun (Mother Agnes) who they said was Syrian - which backfired when no one would sit on the same platform as her. The Syria Solidarity Movement have written about a whole sequence of instances when they have denied a platform to Syrians at events about Syria.

I've already linked to Paulo Canning's "Have Stop the War Coalition finally jumped the shark?" and
James Bloodworth's "Stop the War refuse to listen to Syrians during debate…on Syria", which describe a recent parliamentary meeting to which StW invited no Syrians and at which chair Diane Abbott effectively shut down their voices.

Paulo's piece was reblogged elsewhere, but he has since added a series of updates, which are important. Here are some extracts, with my emphases and a couple of hyperlinks added:
1. In an appearance on a BBC current affairs show on the Thursday Diane Abbott was confronted with a Syrian. Abbott denied she was a STWC member (she's a patron). Syrian refugee Muzna (@SyriaUK) asked Abbott "are we not worthy until we drown on your shores?"

2. Caroline Lucas MP has made the following claim: "I made the case several times during meeting that Syrians in audience should be heard, & raised with chair afterwards." Omar Sabbour said: “She stopped her speech when interrupted because she wanted to ‘listen to the Syrians’ but she then did nothing when Diane Abbot afterwards refused to let any of the Arabs at the back to talk.” 
Lucas has responded to this claim saying "I repeatedly asked her [Abbott] to let Syrians speak, repeated it after meeting, & followed up with letter to [STWC]." That she asked for Syrians to be heard was confirmed by the SSM member who appeared alongside Abbott on the BBC. I have asked her to publish this letter to her website and will add once that happens. 
Monday's events were criticised by another leading member of the Green Party, Rupert Read, who wrote: "Well done @PeterTatchell. Shame on 'Stop the war' (sic.) for repeatedly refusing to let Syrians speak on..Syria..!" (Tatchell is a member of the Green Party.) Read "strongly agreed" with Tatchell's comment that "Greens need to review their links with Stop The War. Not drop them but be more critical where needed." 
3. On the Friday the Stop The War Coalition responded with a bizarre post entitled 'Andrew Neil smears Stop the War', thus dismissing both the scrutiny from the left and Syrians and denying the facts as 'smears'. The documented dismissal of Syrian voices is called "organised disruption." They flat out lie that despite the video, despite the statement's of both Labour's Catherine West and the Greens Caroline Lucas, Syrians were not prevented from speaking! 
The several reports on the behaviour of the stewards, including their calling the police, is dismissed as a "lie". Whoever called them the police arrived, so there's a simple way to find out if it is infact a "lie" that STWC called them - ask the police. Should we do that STWC? Over to you ...

Of interest is the fact that the first person they rush to defend ("Lie one") is their Chair, Andrew Murray. This is because this post's information on Murray, supplied by Andrew Coates, was raised by Andrew Neil on the BBC in his questioning of Diane Abbott. Again, they flat out lie that Murray's Communist Party and hence Murray does not regard Assad as "legitimate" and supports the regime's war, aka 'bombing'. 
In order to back their claim that they solely face "diehard opponents on the left" in their opposition to UK support for civilian protection (rather than, as I have already covered, Syrian civil society and Syrian socialists) they fall back on the presence of a Tory MP 
Are they rattled? Time will tell but the post ends in a classic of 'projection' - the Soviet and now Kremlin tactic of claiming that others are doing what you're actually doing - "The lies of our opponents testify only to their desperation." 
4. Omar Sabbour has published a lengthy rebuttal to STWC's post. He notes that the meeting was filmed and that unedited footage will show who is right about both the STWC claims on Syrians being allowed to speak and on who called police. It will also show what was said from the platform and Sabbour in his rebuttal goes into detail on why STWC's arguments ("simply another form of Western narcissism and orientalism") are so wrong - do go read
5. On November 12 Syria Solidarity UK published a rebuttal to STWC's post. They say that the fact that STWC "oppose any action against Assad ... puts Stop the War against Syrians who are being bombed by Assad." "This is why," they say, "Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians." 
The group rebut the claims of three 'lies' by STWC, echoing Omar Sabbour. 
Finally they criticise a piece by Matt Carr, published by STWC, which claimed that unfair and lying criticism of STWC was coming not just from the right but also from the left. They point out that Carr claims that Assad was not responsible for chemical attacks and that there is little evidence that Assad is popular, let alone Carr's. Finally they say: 
Syrian civilians need protection from Assad’s mass murder. Stop the War have nothing to offer Syrians, and so they stop their ears.

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