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Wednesday 23 September 2015

#ListenToSyrians on a No-Fly Zone

Tomorrow the Birmingham branch of the Stop The War Coalition are holding a meeting titled ‘Don’t Attack Syria’.

The Birmingham branch “are committed to providing a platform for comrades who support the democratic and progressive opposition to the Assad regime,” and so invited Abdulaziz Almashi, a Syrian and a founder member of Syria Solidarity Movement UK, to speak. However, early this morning Syria Solidarity were told that the invitation was being withdrawn as the Birmingham branch had been informed that Syria Solidarity supported an “imperialist imposed” no-fly zone.

Below is an excerpt from our response:
Syria Solidarity’s view is led primarily by our solidarity with Syrians rather than by a domestic UK political view. In our internal discussions on the possibility of direct UK military intervention, we arrived at the following principles:
  • Where Syrian doctors, Syrian civil defence, civil society activists call for international action to protect civilians by enforcing a no-fly zone to stop Assad’s air attacks, we support them.
  • Where Syrian revolution forces call for international support in fighting ISIS, we support them.
  • We are against any actions which fail to defend civilians, or which act against the Syrian revolution.
  • We are against actions which aim to realise the objectives of the intervening power at the expense of the aspirations of the Syrian people.
It is important to recognise where the call for a no-fly zone is coming from: not the White House, which has blocked even a partial no-fly zone proposed by Turkey; not the Pentagon which has argued against a no-fly zone by vastly exaggerating the difficulties involved; not the UK government which is primarily concerned with mirroring US policy. Where there has been recent talk of a no-fly zone from the UK government it has been secondary to the anti-ISIS campaign, and is certainly driven more by the xenophobic politics around refugees than by a purely moral view of the crisis.

Syrians have no illusions about Western motives, and any they might have held have been destroyed by over four years of callous disregard by Western governments who have paid lip service to civilian protection while doing nothing to act. But Syrians have an immediate crisis to deal with: the bombs falling on Syria now. Material means are required to stop the bombs, not unenforced UN resolutions, not empty words of Western politicians, and not empty words of Western peace campaigners.

The challenge for the peace movement is to find a way of standing in solidarity with Syrians being bombed today, and avoiding echoing US and UK government excuses for inaction. The way to do that is to listen to Syrians, and for that reason I urge you to urgently reconsider and welcome the offer by Abdulaziz Almashi to speak.

On whether there were alternative means of enforcing a no-fly zone “other than the air forces of the imperialist states either the US, UK or France,” we replied with the following:
… the alternative to enforcement by US, UK, France would be enforcement by supplying Syrian revolution forces with effective anti aircraft weapons. This I believe is the position favoured by Abdulaziz Almashi.

As an organisation we would support a no-fly zone enforced by any party that effectively protected civilians. We would not give blanket support to other actions by such parties in connection with this, as the principles outlined earlier should make clear.

We have been told it is too late for the Birmingham branch to meet and reconsider before tomorrow’s event. We believe it is absolutely necessary that the anti-war movement and peace campaigners listen to Syrians, even if they disagree with them. We hope that they do find time to reconsider and re-invite Abdulaziz Almashi to the meeting.

Read more on these issues at The No-Fly Zone Debate.