Syrian activists thank late Paddy Ashdown for his support

Syrian activists thank late Paddy Ashdown for his support
Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown is being remembered by Syrians following his death on Saturday.
4 min read
23 December, 2018
Paddy Ashdown called for aid drops on Syria [Getty]

Syrian activists are remembering former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown who died on Saturday aged 77, a British politician who opposed Bashar al-Assad's regime since the outbreak of revolution in Syria in 2011.

Ashdown was an advocate of international law and calling war criminals to account, from the Bosnia war in the 1990s to the regime's brutal suppression of the Syria revolution recently.

In 2016, he called for the UK and its allies to drop food and aid on opposition areas in Syria, which had been put under crippling starvation sieges by the Assad regime.

On Saturday, after the surprise announcement of Ashdown's death, Syrian activists turned to Twitter to commemorate the former Lib Dem leader.

"Paddy Ashdown was a friend of the Syrian Revolution. He supported us in bringing the Assad regime to justice, he supported us in humanitarian aid and vouched for aid drops in Syria - and openly berated those who didn't care for Syrian lives. RIP Lord Ashdown," said Razan Saffour on Twitter.

Othe Syria activist groups also remembered Ashdown as a supporter of their cause.

Ashdown wrote an op-ed in January 2016 with Jo Cox - an MP who was shot dead by a British fascist the same year - calling for the Royal Air Force to drop food on the encircled Damascus suburb of Madaya, which had seen children die from starvation due to a regime siege.

"If we could do it for the starving in besieged Srebrenica and again for the besieged [Yazidis] in northern Iraq, there should be no reason it cannot be done for those suffering and dying, in besieged Madaya," they wrote.

Paddy Ashdown also said: "If we can drop bombs in Syria, we can drop food in Syria."

Following the chemical gas attack on the opposition suburb of Douma in 2013, he also called for intervention against Bashar al-Assad's regime.

When parliament voted against a military response to the chemical massacre, Ashdown warned that by allowing Assad to get away with gas his own people, it would give the regime the green light to continue its atrocities.

"Call me an old war horse if you wish, but I think our country is greatly diminished this morning," he said after the vote in 2013.

"MPs cheered last night, just recognise the people who will be cheering this morning are President Putin, President Assad... [after 50 years] I've never felt more depressed and ashamed this morning now that I have to wake up and see children burning on the television sets, as they were last night, and say the answer from my country is 'it's nothing to do with me'".

A former military man, he argued that the UK should not engage in isolationism and had a moral duty to act following the suspected sarin chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta in 2013, which killed hundreds, for the sake of international law and to protect civilians.

"Last night we took a vote that we were not going to stand up to protect international law that stops the use of chemical weapons. They will now be more broadly used unless this is changed," he added in an interview.

Assad launched two further major chemical attacks since then, and used chlorine dozens of other times on civilians in Syria.

In April 2018, he reminded the country of continued war regime war crimes.

"After the last major chemical attack by Assad in Aug 2013 I described Parliament's decision not to use force as the most shameful of my life, adding that chemical weapons 'will become more commonplace and we will feel the effects of that'. Terrible to say, so it has become..." he tweeted.

Paddy Ashdown was a former soldier in the British special forces before entering politics for the centrist Liberal Democrats, leading them from 1988 until 1999.

The party said he made an "immeasurable contribution to furthering the cause of liberalism" and will be "desperately missed", the Lib Dems said in a statement.

He also served as the de facto leader of Bosnia for nearly four years, after calling for tough measures to help the country recover from its 1992-1995 war.