Just desserts: Syria activists hijack Labour Party fundraiser at swanky London restaurant with guerrilla protest

Just desserts: Syria activists hijack Labour Party fundraiser at swanky London restaurant with guerrilla protest
Three Syria activists have targeted a UK Labour Party event hosted by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, asking her to reconsider her attitudes towards Syria.
4 min read
22 Mar, 2018
The menu dished out to Emily Thornberry [Syria Solidarity UK]
At a swanky London restaurant, Labour MP and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry stood up and gave a speech to guests who had paid £90 for a seat at this exclusive fundraising dinner.

By her side was political columnist Owen Jones, a familiar face on British television.

The Spring Labour Party Islington South fundraiser at Frederick's "modern European" restaurant in North London was complete with the usual array of finery, silver service, epicurean food and fine wines.

A surprise menu presented by activists dressed as servers promised a three course meal that was enough to make some of the diners gasp - perhaps reminded of the daily bombing and hunger in Syria.

Entitled "Don't Serve Syria on a Plate", first up on the menu was "An Expensive Dictatorship: with torture and execution accompanied with lies and propaganda".

Followed by "Forced Displacement: with over half of Syria's population driven from their homes".

Lastly, Labour donors could mull over "Two Years of Intervention: Failing to protect civilians and leaving Assad free to go on killing".

The three servers wearing red shirts presented the menus to the diners in silence and left the building solemnly, the video shows. With this act of performance protest donors were able to learn a little more about Emily Thornberry's attitudes towards the Syria war.

Thornberry could well be a future UK foreign minister and has been heavily criticised by Syria activists for her attitudes to the war, which has left half a million dead - the vast majority civilians and victims of Assad's bombs.

She has been accused of displaying naivety on the issue of Syria. She once suggested that the UK help fund reconstruction in Syria, even with dictator Bashar al-Assad still in power.

Like much of the Labour leadership, Thornberry has made a frequent point of equating the Syrian opposition to its most fringe and extreme elements and has been a firm opponent against the UK's intervention in the war.

Syria Solidarity UK said it is about time Thornberry speaks to Syrians about what Labour and the UK can do to help Syria.

"We want the Labour Party to stop its silence on Assad's crimes. That is why we provided a surprise menu for Emily Thornberry," said Syria Solidarity UK activist, Clara Connolly.

"Syria on a plate. We want the Labour Party to commit to a policy of stopping Assad's crimes," Syria activist Batool Abdulkareem told the camera.

Last week, the group held a similar form on alternative protest at City Airport, against Russia's role in the Syria war.

Since Thornberry became shadow foreign secretary - and Jeremy Corbyn Labour leader - the party has shifted dramatically to the right on the issue of Syria.

Many of the suggestions made by Thornberry would likely be music to the ears of Assad in Damascus.

Among them is one proposal made in parliament that the UK should not be put off funding post-war reconstruction by "a few political prisoners" in Assad's dungeons.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights have documented at least 85,000 people detained and missing in Syria, more than 90 percent in regime jails. 

Hundreds of thousands of detainees are believed to be held in Assad's medieval prisons. These dungeons have become black holes for the detained - with few political prisoners ever likely to see their families again. 

Up to 13,000 have been secretly hanged by the regime with thousands more likely dying from torture, starvation and disease.

Thornberry also brought up a proposal in parliament for the UK to strike a deal with the Syrian regime and Russia that would see Iranian and US-backed coalition forces would leave Syria with Assad staying in power. She later claimed was not her own proposal but did not say whose suggestion it was. 

Labour under Corbyn has routinely opposed UK intervention in Syria, even after last year's devastating sarin attack on an opposition village that left perhaps a hundred civilians dead. 

She opposed a US retaliatory attack on an empty regime airbase that was meant to send a message to Assad to stop nerve gas attacks.

Syria Solidarity UK said they have their own three course suggestions for Thornberry. It includes a Labour policy that puts protecting Syrian civilians first, "commits to stopping Assad's crimes", and for MPs to "unite to end the slaughter in Syria".

With the menu on her table, the activists hope Thornberry will digest the proposals intended to save Syrian lives after her own three-course meal in luxury.