John Rees is in danger of dragging Stop the War Coalition’s reputation further into disrepute. It is a troubling time for the anti-war organisation, and rather than dousing the flames, Rees is adding further fuel to the fire.
Initially, I had no intention of doing another piece criticising Stop the War Coalition
. It is not my aim to smear them or to further embroil Jeremy Corbyn into what is rapidly becoming an incredibly bad public relations chapter for the organisation. For what it is worth, I am a fan of Corbyn, and voted for him in the Labour leadership election, despite having concerns about his views on certain foreign policy issues.
Until a few weeks ago, Rees and I were connected on Facebook and regularly debated, discussed, and disagreed on posts made online. We did not see eye to eye and it was for that reason, rather than continuing the endless back-and-forth, that ties were severed. I thought this would be in the interest of both parties as his posts wouldn’t infuriate me, and my comments wouldn’t be seen as trolling him.
However, following the Don’t Bomb Syria march that was held in London on the 12th December, Rees has made public some truly outrageous claims and remarks, and I cannot allow his statements to go unchallenged. The disingenuous comments made by certain StWC members are bringing the organisation into further disrepute and alienating the very people (Syrians and the wider Muslim community) who should be the most active in the anti-war movement.
In the above image, you can see in the caption that Rees
has labelled Syrian protesters only as “Peter Tatchell’s supporters”, thus immediately placing them in a secondary position, and relegating them to a supporting role, rather than a leading voice and movement on the topic of the bombing of their own country. This is a continuation of the discrimination that Syrian protesters have been facing because they have not been allowed to speak at StWC events
. The Syrian Solidarity Movement was established by Syrians, Peter Tatchell has lent his voice and his support to their movement, it is not the other way around.
As well as this, you can see in the picture that a Syrian’s left arm is causing a little discomfort and annoyance to an elderly woman in a high-visibility jacket. In the caption to the photo you can see that Rees has described this raised arm as “elbowing our supporters in the face”. Quite clearly an outrageous lie.
There is no denying that at times on the march yesterday tensions did get frayed, and that at one point there was a little pushing and bravado, but it was by and large a very peaceful demonstration, as any of the attendees or observers will tell you.
From the photo caption again comes another ludicrous remark where Rees states that the Syrians on the march were “trying to break into the Stop the War demo”. As if 1) Syrians are not allowed on an anti-war march, 2) the demo belonged to Stop the War and Stop the War alone, and 3) the demo was not a public event on the streets of London and was in fact invite only. I am fairly certain that this is the first time I have ever heard the accusation of “breaking into a demo” being levelled at anyone.
Following the photo caption catastrophe, Rees continued to press the self-destruct button, this time sharing a StWC video and claiming that Syrians were heckling the speaker.
I highly encourage you to watch the video of the speech (available on StWC’s Facebook page) because as you hear, quite clearly, there is no heckling. At around 5:20 for perhaps two seconds you can hear the voice of one Syrian activist who asks about Assad, but apart from that, Nadim Nassar’s speech was uninterrupted, as I am sure you will agree.
Why then did Syrian activists speak out at all? If a speech is being given on the bombing of Syria and the 350,000+ dead as Nassar states, with the 11 million displaced, how can you not then mention Assad? It would be like speaking out against the Iraq war without mentioning Tony Blair, George W Bush, or the lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
As has happened before with StWC members and statements, Assad is noticeable by his absence.
Just moments before Nassar’s speech, another speaker was on stage addressing the crowd. Speaking on behalf of the Muslim Council of Britain, he was the only person who I heard on the day that mentioned the name of Assad. Upon doing so he received cheers from the gathered Syrian supporters and chants of “Down down Assad” were heard. At one point the speaker, whose name I did not take down, even joined in with these chants from his platform on the stage. Unfortunately, at present I am unable to find video footage of this event, but if anyone has it I would appreciate them uploading it. It is interesting that StWC have chosen not to upload the footage themselves and instead have chosen only to upload the video of the Syrian “heckling”.
Despite Assad being the cause of the ongoing conflict in Syria, and thus the humanitarian crisis that has stemmed from it, and despite his forces having been responsible for the overwhelming majority of the 300,00+ dead, his name rarely gets a mention at StWC events. In London, Corbyn, Donald Trump, Hillary Benn, David Cameron, and George Osborne all received more attention than the Syrian tyrant. Further reinforcing the point that Syria, and Syrians themselves, are only a sideshow in the anti-war movement at present.
Such a position seems deeply ingrained in the StWC psyche. After the brief incident of pushing had died down at the beginning of the march, one StWC member who was walking a few yards ahead of me turned to a Syrian activist and shouted: “why aren’t you standing in solidarity with us?!” before continuing “we are doing this for you!”.
Notice how, on the issue of bombing Syria, the Syrians have to stand in solidarity with the Brits and not vice versa. The almost colonialist attitude was reinforced by the statement “we are doing this for you”. As if to say, the UK anti-war group knows better than Syrians about what is best for their country and countrymen. A truly disgusting message to put across.
As Rees’ comments online started to receive widespread backlash and criticism from Syrians and Syrian solidarity activists alike, an earlier post of Rees’ surfaced where once again he crudely attempts to smear Syrian activists and pass of misinformation as fact.
In the above image, which was uploaded to Facebook on the 12th December, Rees has attempted to portray Kurdish pro-interventionist protesters as Syrian activists. Below you see the reality.
In the first image are the Kurdish pro-intervention protesters. The image Rees used was of them. (notice the red stripe at the top of the flag they are carrying).
And in the second image are the Syrian solidarity activists accompanied by Tatchell (far right) who was curiously absent from the image Rees uploaded himself. From the messages on the placards they are holding, it is clear that they are promoting a very different message to that of the Kurds.
Two very different groups of activists happened to be at the same location, at the same time. Their messages were radically different and Tatchell, who Rees seems so obsessed by, joined the Syrian protesters and not the Kurdish ones.
Rees’ use of the phrase “protesting alongside” is particularly misleading, and it is one I brought to Rees’ attention online. I am still awaiting a reply on this, but by using Rees’ own tactics I was able to show how easy it is to manipulate a narrative.
The example I gave to Rees is presented below.
The caption read: “Rees protesting alongside pro-Assad supporters”. (Notice the flag of the Syrian dictator being waved as Rees talks on stage).
An anti-war organisation needs to be inclusive and particularly accommodating to those that are most affected by UK military action. Syrian and Iraqi voices should be at the forefront of the movement, not relegated to the sidelines and then attacked when they try to become more involved.
The racist attitude of StWC and its leading members has not gone unnoticed and if things continue as they are, StWC will continue to fracture and ultimately fall into a larger political suicide. The organisation does not seem to be learning from the events of the last few months, and instead seems to have become more confused, irrational, and controversial.
With the likes of Tatchell speaking out against the organisation, Caroline Lucas leaving, and with the mainstream media’s continued interest, it may not be long before the organisation loses all credibility. This would be a tremendous shame for an organisation that so many had faith in following 9/11 because of its opposition to the War on Terror.
Following the increased media interest in StWC they have been frantically trying to delete any records of controversial statements, videos, and posts. In the last week alone, three articles have been pulled from their website. Here is an article
explaining what was removed and why.
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