Protesting an Assad apologist
Well-known activists, scholars and writers are speaking out against providing a forum for Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix, a Catholic nun in Syria. Among Syrians participating in the struggle against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, Mother Agnés is bitterly criticized as an apologist for the regime, going so far as to claim the horrendous gassing of mainly women and children in Ghouta last August was a fraud.
Mother Agnés is currently on a speaking tour in Britain, though the Stop the War Coalition announced she was withdrawing from her invitation to speak at a conference they have organized for November 30. She will come to the U.S. to speak in the following weeks--activists in solidarity with the Syrian revolution against the regime are planning for protests.
NEWS RECENTLY broke that Stop the War Coalition (StWC) invited Mother Superior Agnès Mariam de la Croix to speak at its November 30 International Anti-War Conference. Fellow guests included MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, and journalists Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill.
Responding to a firestorm of protest, Jones and Scahill vowed to boycott the event if the Syrian-based nun spoke alongside them. Eventually she decided to "withdraw" from the conference, and StWC issued a statement without explanation. Nor did it divulge why anyone would object to a Syrian cleric's participation in an ostensibly pro-peace event.
Here are some reasons why we consider Mother Agnès-Mariam's inclusion in an antiwar event to be a "red line" for opponents of conflict. Despite contrary claims, she is a partisan to--rather than a neutral observer of--the war in Syria.
Mother Agnès claimed that the Syrian opposition faked films of Bashar al-Assad's August 21, 2013, sarin gas attack on Ghouta in the suburbs of Damascus. In her 50-page dossier on the horrible events of that fateful morning, she wrote that the dead, gassed children documented in those videos "seem mostly sleeping" and "under anaesthesia."
According to Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, a Jesuit priest exiled by the Assad regime for speaking out against its suppression of peaceful protests and currently a prisoner of al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, ISIS, Mother Agnes "has been consistent in assuming and spreading the lies of the regime, and promoting it through the power of her religious persona. She knows how to cover up the brutality of the regime."
Moreover, Syrian Christians for Peace have denounced Mother Agnès for claiming there had never been a single peaceful demonstration in Syria. They also accused her of failing to disburse any of the money she raised in the name of their beleaguered community. They have asked "that she be excommunicated and prevented from speaking in the name of the Order of Carmelites."
Having a massacre denier and apologist for war criminals like Mother Agnès speak alongside respected journalists such as Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones is not only an insult to them and their principles. It is also, more insidiously, a means of exploiting their credibility and moral authority to bolster hers, both of which are nonexistent. No journalist should be sharing a platform with Agnès when she stands accused of being complicit in the death of French journalist Gilles Jacquier by his widow and a colleague who accompanied him into Homs during the trip arranged by Mother Agnès in January 2012.
Given that her UK speaking tour is still scheduled to last from the November 21-30, we feel compelled to express our profound and principled objections to those who give a platform to a woman condemned by Syrian pro-peace Christians for greasing the skids of the regime's war machine.
Prof. Gilbert Achcar, SOAS
Assaad al-Achi, Local Coordination Committees in Syria
Rime Allaf, Syrian writer
Abdulaziz Almachi, Media Committee of the Syrian Community in the UK
Omar al-Assil, Syrian Non-Violence Movement
Hussam Ayloush, Chairman, Syrian American Council
Noor Barotchi, Bradford Syria Solidarity
James Bloodworth, journalist
Mark Boothroyd, International Socialist Network
Kat Burdon-Manley, International Socialist Network
Clara Connolly, human rights lawyer
Paul Conroy, photojournalist
Donnacha DeLong, National Union of Journalists
Hannah Elsisi, Egyptian revolutionary socialist
Raed Fares, Head of Kafranabel Media Centre
Naomi Foyle, writer and coordinator of British Writers in Support of Palestine
Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist
Christine Gilmore, Leeds Friends of Syria
Golan Haji, poet and translator
Marcus Halaby, staff writer, Workers Power
Sam Charles Hamad, activist
Nebal Istanbouly, Office Manager of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK
Tehmina Kazi, human rights activist
Ghalia Kabbani, Syrian journalist and writer
Michael Karadjis, teacher, University of Western Sydney, writer and blogger
Khaled Khalifa, Syrian writer
Alia Al Khattab, Syrian activist and volunteer at Hand in Hand for Syria
Danielle Laurent, human rights activist
Mark A. Lause, Professor, Department of History, University of Cincinnati
Malik Little, blogger
Alan Maass, editor, SocialistWorker.org
Amer Scott Masri, Scotland4Syria
Margaret McAdam, Unite Casa Branch NW567 (pc)
Middle East North Africa Solidarity Network-U.S.
Yassir Munif, sociologist and activist
Tom Mycock, shop steward, Unite EM/LE23 branch (pc)
Mariam Namazie, spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah - Movement for Women's Liberation
Tim Nelson, Unison Shop Steward (pc)
Andrew Pollack, Middle East North Africa Solidarity Network-U.S.
Louis Proyect, Counterpunch contributor
Martin Ralph, VP Liverpool TUC (pc)
Matthew Richardson, League for the Revolutionary Party
Ruth Riegler, co-founder of Radio Free Syria, Syrian International Media Alliance
Mary Rizzo, activist, translator and blogger
Christopher Roche and Dima Albadra, Bath Solidarity
Eric Ruder, antiwar activist and contributor to SocialistWorker.org
Walid Saffour, Representative of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC) in the UK
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space
David St. Vincent, contributing writer and editor, National Geographic Books
Reem Salahi, civil rights lawyer
Salim Salamah, Palestinian blogger
Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer
Ziauddin Sardar, writer, journalist, editor of the Critical Muslim
Richard Seymour, author
Bina Shah, author and contributor to the International New York Times
Stephen R. Shalom, New Politics
Leila Shrooms, founding member of Tahrir-ICN
Luke Staunton, International Socialist Network
K.D. Tait, National Secretary, Workers Power
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
Paris Thompson, International Socialist Network
Hassan Walid, Anas el-Khani and Abdulwahab Sayyed Omar, British Solidarity for Syria
Sherry Wolf, Middle East North Africa Solidarity Network-U.S.
Robin Yassin-Kassab, author and co-editor of Critical Muslim
Qusai Zakariya, activist from Moadamiyeh, Syria
Nisreen al-Zaraee and Wisam al-Hamoui, Freedom Days
Tasneem al-Zeer, activist
Razan Zeitouneh, human rights lawyer