Sunday 22 May 2016

To the participants and organisers of the ‘Crossing Borders’ Conference

Refugees conference invites Assad supporter as keynote speaker

The Cooperative Institute for Transnational Studies in collaboration with the University of Aegean (Laboratory EKNEXA-Department of Sociology) have announced a conference on the refugee crisis, ‘Crossing Borders,’ in Lesvos, Greece, on 7-10th July.

We are very concerned to note that the list of speakers includes Tim Anderson, a supporter of the Assad regime, for the reasons given in the open letter below.

UPDATE 2 June 2016: Following circulation of this open letter, the organisers of the Crossing Borders conference reversed their decision and disinvited Tim Anderson, without issuing a statement. Now it appears they have reversed yet again and reinvited him, still without issuing a statement.

Asked for comment via Twitter, conference organiser Maria Nikolakaki linked with no further comment to a petition by a pro Assad group in the US.

To the participants and organisers of the ‘Crossing Borders’ Conference

Your conference has been brought to our attention as one of your keynote speakers is outspoken Assad regime supporter, Tim Anderson. As the vast majority of Syrian refugees are fleeing the brutal oppression of the Assad regime, it is extremely disquieting to see an open supporter of the regime invited to speak at the conference.

Anderson has been open about his beliefs, having written numerous articles defending the Assad regime, published an ebook titled ‘The Dirty War on Syria’ and has taken part in a ‘solidarity’ delegation to visit Syria in December 2013 where he met with Bashar al-Assad. That Anderson chose to visit Syria after the regime had committed the August 22nd chemical weapons massacre against civilians in the suburbs of Damascus, shows his real level of concern for the lives of Syrian civilians. Academics who provide political cover for dictatorships should not be invited to participate in conferences concerning refugees fleeing those dictatorships.

We also note the conference does not appear to have any Syrian activists invited to speak, despite the violent suppression of the Syrian revolution being one of the central drivers of the refugee crisis. The conference statement actually makes no mention of the Assad regime at all, despite its central responsibility for the Syrian exodus. The fact the conference is sponsored by the Stop The War Coalition and, two organisations which have been unwilling to condemn or criticise the actions of the regime, causes us further concern.

We call on the conference organisers to disinvite Tim Anderson and issue a strong statement condemning the repression of the Assad regime against the Syrian people. If they are unwilling to do this, we call on other participants like Paul Mason and Nina Power, activists who are committed to the struggle for social change and against oppression, not to participate in the conference alongside known regime apologists. We welcome discussion and debate about the causes and solutions to the refugee crisis, but pro-regime apologists should not be a part of this discussion.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Boothroyd, Syria Solidarity UK
Yasmine Nahlawi, Rethink Rebuild, Syrian Community of Manchester
Dr Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society
Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria
Dr Abdullah Hanoun, Syrian Community South West
Oz Katerji, Journalist
James Bloodworth, Journalist and Author
Emanuel Stoakes, Journalist
Richard Seymour, Author
Thomas Pierret, Lecturer, University of Edinburgh
Hussein Kesvani, Journalist
Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat
Shakeeb Al-Jabri, Syrian activist
Tom Dale, Journalist
Idrees Ahmad, Lecturer, University of Stirling
Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian activist
Nick Cohen, Journalist
Tom Rollins, Journalist
James Sadri, The Syria Campaign
Shiraz Maher, King’s College London
Sharif Nashashibi, Journalist
Thomas van Linge, Researcher
Şenay Özden, Hamisch Syrian Cultural House in Istanbul
Robin Yassin-Kassab, Writer
Joseph Daher, Syrian-Swiss activist and academic
Antony Loewenstein, Journalist and author
Thomas Rieger
Jamie Dettmer, Journalist
Paul Raymond, Journalist
Kyle Orton, Journalist
Patrick Hilsman, Journalist
Molly Crabapple, Artist and author
Heydon Prowse, Broadcaster
Sam Charles Hamad, Journalist
Luke Cooper, Lecturer in Politics
Danny Postel, ​Center for Middle East Studies, University of Denver
Lydia Wilson, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford
Haid Haid, Syrian researcher
Dr Jamie Allinson, Lecturer, University of Edinburgh
Michael Karadjis, University of Western Sydney
Maroin Al Dandachi, French-Syrian Student
Dr Rola Hallam, Doctor and humanitarian
Bissan Fakih, The Syria Campaign
Kenan Rahmani, Activist
Kelly Grotke, Cornell University
Clay Claiborne, Director
James Snell, Blogger
Henry Langston, Journalist
Fionn Travers-Smith, Campaigner
Charles Davis, Journalist
Clara Connolly, Women4Syria
Jafar Hassan, Green Party
Louis N Proyect
Andy Wilson
Yasser Munif, Syrian activist, Emerson College
Dr Ludek Stavinoha, University of East Anglia
Dr Francis Sedgemore, Journalist and science writer
Pete Klosterman, Humanitarian
Annie Power
Andreas Graube, Activist
Rosalind Stewart
Fred Mecklenburg
Paul Canning, Blogger and activist
Jonathan Brown, Liberal Democrats for Syrian Freedom, Peace & Reconstruction
Natalie Sedacca, Civil liberties lawyer
David Spiers, Jnr
Henry Lowi
Zachary Medeiros, Student, Socialist Party USA
Rafif Jouejati, FREE-Syria Foundation
Stanley Heller, The Struggle Video News
Bassam Barabandi, former Syrian diplomat, co-founder of People Demand Change
Dr Gregory Kent, Roehampton University London
Eric and Philippa Kempson, The Hope Centre, Lesvos
Zoe Gardner, Asylum Aid
Mariam Barghouti, Palestinian writer

PDF version.

If you would like to add your support to this letter, please contact:

Picture: Tim Anderson meeting Assad in Damascus, December 2013.