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Friday 5 June 2015

Don’t mention the war

With the Syrian revolution in its fifth year, the Stop The War Coalition is failing in its duty of solidarity to the Syrian people.

Having risen up en masse against the brutal Assad regime, the Syrian people have been subjected to mass murder, torture, rape, and starvation. The toll now includes over a quarter of a million killed; another quarter million in regime prisons; over four million Syrian refugees; half the population driven from their homes.

This oppression has fragmented and radicalised the opposition, transforming a popular revolution for freedom and democracy into a military struggle between the regime and Islamic and Free Syrian Army rebel groups. Da’esh (ISIS) has grown in the devastation, cynically aided by the regime in order to destroy the revolution.

And yet the revolution has not been defeated, thanks to the resilience of the Syrian people. Many towns and villages in liberated areas are attempting to rebuild civil administration, despite daily barrel bombs and chlorine gas attacks by the regime.

While there has been massive outpouring of solidarity from Muslim community organisations, the Western Left has, with a few honourable exceptions, failed to show similar solidarity.

Anti-war activists have a duty of solidarity to the Syrian people. It is not enough to oppose US/UK intervention, while remaining silent about the governments of Iran and Russia intervening on the side of Assad. Refusing to support activists on the ground who continue to organise and fight for the the original goals of the revolution is a terrible betrayal. The abandonment of Syrians is a primary reason for the growth of extremist factions like the Al-Qaeda linked Jabhat Al-Nusra.

Syria is complex, but complexity is not a worthy excuse for inaction or silence. Understanding Syria starts with talking to Syrians and Syrian civil society. Saturday’s Stop the War event is yet another anti-war conference without a Syrian activist or speaker talking about the situation in Syria. This shameful stance must be corrected, or Stop The War will be forever known as the organisation which turned its back on Syria.

The Stop The War Coalition has a loud voice in the UK. Why don’t we hear it raised on behalf of the Syrian people in their time of need?


Read about the Syria Freedom Charter, modelled on South Africa’s Freedom Charter and developed from interviews with over 50,000 Syrians.

Read about practical solidarity efforts with Syria by Bridge of Peace.

Support Hand in Hand for Syria.

PDF leaflet of this post.

Photos: Counter-demonstration at Stop the War’s 2013 conference, via Syrian Community in the UK.