Stop the War Coalition 'tells Syrians to leave march'

Stop the War Coalition 'tells Syrians to leave march'
As the group has been attracting criticism for their views on Syria, Stop the War Coalition has been accused of preventing pro-revolution Syrians from protesting bombing of their country.
3 min read
13 Dec, 2015
Syrian anti-Assad demonstrators demanded to have their voice heard at the Saturday protest [Getty]
Stop the War Coalition is facing a further barrage of criticism following accusations that they attempted to bar Syrian protesters from an anti-war march on Saturday.

The UK anti-war group has been accused of being apologists for the Syrian regime, reportedly inviting pro-Assad speakers to its events and no-platforming Syrians who support the revolution.

The group has come under more scutiny recently as the leader of the opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has been a leading member in the group since it was founded.

During the demonstration on Saturday, protesters from the Syrian solidarity movement attempted to join to express their opposition to the British bombing campaign, while also standing against Assad and his allies.

Immediately after joining the demo, John Rees, chaiman of Stop the War Coalition, reportedly told a Syrian refugee and a member of the Syria Solidarity movement, Peter Tatchell, that they had to leave the protest.

"Demo organisers (assumed to be John Rees) telling the cops the demo wouldn't start while the Syrians were at the front, so the cops tried to pressure us to leave," wrote Syria Solidarity activist Mark Boothroyd on facebook.

"Had to tell them politely that we were exercising our democratic right to participate in a public anti-war demo."

John Rees described them as "Tatchell supporters", in reference to the British human rights activist who supports the Syrian revolution, which also frustrated many.

Kurds who supported British airstrikes on IS targets also protested outside the Stop the War dinner. Stop the War Coalition is thought to have a generally supportive attitude towards the Kurds in Syria.

On Friday Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed a Stop the War Coalition dinner, despite criticism of the group from some of his MPs.

Mr Corbyn called the group "one of the most important democratic campaigns of modern times" and said: "Branding it as somehow illegitimate is an attempt to close down democratic debate."

In an interview with channel4 news, Tatchell described the group's work opposing the war on Iraq as "extraordinary and brilliant", but said that they had "completely lost the plot on Syria."

The organisation also came under fire last month for holding a panel discussion in the British parliament where they shut down Syrians attempting to speak.

In an open letter to the Guardian this week, activists said the Stop the War Coalition has failed when it came to Syria and misrepresented the conflict as being between Assad and jihadists or "agents of imperialism".

"Stop the War has failed to organise or support protests against the Assad dictatorship and the regime's massacre of peaceful democracy protesters in 2011 - and since," the letter read.

"Nor has it shown solidarity with the non-violent Syrian civil society movements for democracy and human rights and with the millions of innocent civilians killed, wounded and displaced by Assad's barrel bombs and torture chambers."