Friday 29 September 2017

Jeremy Corbyn – Break your silence on Syria

A group of twelve UK-based Syrian advocacy and community organisations submitted a letter today to Jeremy Corbyn MP regretting his lack of mention of the Syrian conflict in his Labour Party Conference speech on 27 September and inviting him to meet and discuss how Labour can best support Syrians who are still campaigning for basic human rights.

The text of the letter:

Dear Jeremy Corbyn,

We are a group of UK-based Syrian organisations writing to express increased concern regarding your rhetoric—and non-rhetoric—on Syria.

In your celebrated speech on 27 September at the Labour Party Conference, you emphasised, ‘We must put our values at the heart of our foreign policy. Democracy and human rights are not an optional extra to be deployed selectively.’ You went on to condemn Saudi action in Yemen (and the UK’s role in providing arms), the authoritarian regimes of Egypt and Bahrain, the violence and abuses in the Congo and against the Rohingya in Myanmar, and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

No mention, however, about Syria. Are Syrian lives not worthy of your mention?

Syria has witnessed an escalation of violence over the past ten days by Assad and Russian forces which targeted at least six hospitals, five civil defence centres, power stations, and camps for displaced persons. This strategy is reminiscent of the ‘starve or surrender’ military campaigns employed by Assad and Russia against East Aleppo, Homs, Daraya, and other cities which culminated with the forcible displacement of their residents.

Additionally, military operations by the International Coalition against ISIS, of which the UK is a leading member, has held increased disregard for civilian life since Trump assumed the US presidency. In fact, the Syrian Network for Human Rights documented that International Coalition forces killed more civilians in the month of August than any other party in Syria. As a leading member of the Coalition, the UK has a responsibility to ensure that Coalition actions are accountable to human rights standards.

In light of these pertinent developments in Syria, it is a shame that you could not spare even one sentence in your speech to remind your followers of the tragic situation inflicting civilians within the country.

Although the Labour Party Conference has concluded, Labour’s work on international issues will inevitably remain ongoing. Therefore, we implore you to make civilian protection in Syria a focus of your foreign policy agenda. We call on you to condemn the violence employed by Assad and Russia as well as the disregard to the laws of international humanitarian law on behalf of the International Coalition. We call on you to recognise and to praise the democratic grassroots initiatives within Syrian civil society, and to recognise the heroic work of the White Helmets in saving lives.

Perhaps one of the greatest let-downs for the Syrian people is that those such as yourself with purportedly progressive and internationalist agendas have chosen not to amplify their calls for freedom and dignity. Please do more to restore their confidence.

We invite you to meet with us to discuss how the Labour Party could best support the Syrians who are still campaigning for basic human rights.

Dr. Haytham Alhamwi, Rethink Rebuild Society
Dr. Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice for Syria
Reem Assil, Syrian Platform for Peace
Mazen Ejbaei, Help 4Syria UK
Dr. Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria
Dr. Batool Abdulkareem, Syria Solidarity UK
Abdullah Alobwany, Oxford for Syria
Dr. Bachar Hakim, Syrian Society of Nottinghamshire
Dr. Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Dr. Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House
Nicholas Sebley, Labour Party member
Dr. Abdullah Hanoun, Syrian Community of the South East