Cambridge student 'threatened by pro-Assad research group'

Cambridge student 'threatened by pro-Assad research group'
A Syria solidarity activist has received 'threatening emails' from conference organisers over his past campaigning.
3 min read
19 October, 2018
Syrian activists have protested against previous EuroSCE events [George Morris]
A British university student said he was threatened by organisers of a self-styled "pro-Assad" conference over his involvement in previous anti-regime protests.

George Morris, a member of the Syria solidarity campaign, is a policy and advocacy advisor to Rethink Rebuild Society.

He said he received intimidating emails - which have been viewed by The New Arab - from the European Centre for the Study of Extremism (EuroCSE), after he tried to register for the group's Syria conference at the House of Lords on Tuesday.

"Are you the same person who conducted a malicious and abusive online activity against EuroCSE and its Syria conference back in March-April 2017?" read an email from "Sara", representing EuroCSE, in response to his enquiry about attending the House of Lords event on 30 October.

"In the affirmative, please let us know what has changed in your mind after your unfounded, undemocratic vicious attacks?"

After Morris denied being part of any "undemocratic", "malicious" or "abusive" activities against the group, he received another email from "Sara", saying she had conducted background research on him, threatening to reveal the information to his place of study, Cambridge University, or even to take him to court:

"May I inform you that we have a full study of your (and a couple of your assosiates [sic]) abusive behaviour, apparently unlawful and possibly criminal activity against Eurocse? It may well be that you were unaware of your wrongdoing nearly two years ago but I am not sure how much it would stand in a police investigation, court of law or even a formal complaint to the University.

"In a sense you are very lucky that most of those who handled the abuse against Eurocse, which was chiefly led by yourself, have been very tolerant thus far."

The threat relates to Morris' previous involvement in a campaign, led by Syrian activists, against EuroCSE's Syria conference last year at the National Liberal Club in London.

Although the group claimed to have balanced opinions, two speakers - Lord Kinnock and Lord Desai - pulled out of the conference, after being provided with more information about the event, which featured two ministers from Assad's regime.

The National Liberal Club later apologised for hosting the group - which Syrian activists say exists "primarily to spread propaganda for the Assad dictatorship". The venue donated proceeds they had received from the event to Syrian refugee charities.

Morris denied all the allegations made by EuroCSE.

"I have been involved in no unlawful or criminal activity, and any 'study' claiming otherwise would be defamatory. This is a blatant attempt to stifle criticism of their organisation through threats, lies and slander," he told The New Arab.

EuroCSE was founded by Makram Khoury-Machool, who was an adviser to Syria's previous ambassador to the UK, according to The Telegraph.

The group's patrons include other figures linked to the Syrian regime, including Peter Ford, a former UK ambassador who has voiced pro-regime narratives in British media. 

He is the director of the British Syrian Society, which was founded by Fawaz Akhras, the father-in-law of Bashar al-Assad.

The EuroCSE's website still lists Lords Kinnock and Desai as board members

The New Arab has approached EuroCSE for a comment regarding the allegations but has received no response from the group.