News recently broke that the 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 anti-war 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 21 August 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-Qa’ida’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. The 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 non-existent. 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 21st to 30th November we, the undersigned, 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
- Omar al-Assil, Syrian Non-Violence Movement
- Hussam Ayloush, Chairman, Syrian American Council
- Noor Barotchi, Bradford Syria Solidarity
- 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 co-ordinator 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
- Khaled Khalifa, Syrian writer
- Malik Little, blogger
- Amer Scott Masri, Scotland4Syria
- Margaret McAdam, Unite Casa Branch NW567 (pc)
- Yassir Munif, sociologist and activist
- Tom Mycock, Unite shop steward (pc)
- Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
- Tim Nelson, Unison Shop Steward (pc)
- Louis Proyect, Counterpunch contributor
- Martin Ralph, VP Liverpool TUC (pc)
- 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
- 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
- Richard Seymour, author
- Bina Shah, author and contributor to the International New York Times
- Leila Shrooms, founding member of Tahrir-ICN
- Luke Staunton, International Socialist Network
- KD 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
- 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
- Ziauddin Sardar, writer, journalist and editor of the Critical Muslim
14 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Stop the War Coalition”
Reblogged this on جدار عازل and commented:
#MotherAgnes #Assad apologist stopped from speaking in #London on the 30th of November after a great campaign by both Syrian and British outstanding activists. #StopMotherAgnes
Entirely agree with the letter with full support
This woman is nuts! she is a supporter of GASsad and his murderous regime. she is on a mission to spread lies about the FSA in Syria. how on earth can anyone in her position say that all those people , men ,women and children that died from being gassed… were just asleep? why would anyone bury a child that is sleeping? how daft can this woman be?
Surely the pro “western Humanitarian interventionists” at Pulse and those who signed this letter have no right to lecture StW on who they can and cannot invite. If Mother Agnes is a pro Assad apologist then she can be debated and questioned to her face to determine the truth or otherwise of the Pulse claims. To do otherwise exposes the hypocrisy of those signing this letter
You didn’t read the letter.
These are excerpts from the diary of heroic Syrian freedom fighter and media activist (and Radio Free Syria manager) Qusai Zakarya in Moadamiyeh, published in today’s UK Times newspaper.
Amongst many other things, Qusai is the man who spoke with Assad propagandist and nazi nun, ‘Mother Agnes Maryam’ to negotiate the ‘evacuation’ of thousands of civilians from the besieged town, mostly women and children. She subsequently betrayed him and those traumatised people, immediately delivering them to the regime’s infamous Air Force Intelligence Directorate for ‘interrogation’; 400, including women and children, are still imprisoned. Qusai is still in Moadamiyeh under daily bombardment and a brutal siege. His freedom fighting and telling the truth about the Assad regime means that he is in constant danger and is personally targeted by regime forces. He is one of the bravest people that any of us have had the privilege of knowing. (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article3927129.ece):
Gassed, shelled and starved: my life on the Syrian front line:
Through thousands of text messages to Tom Coghlan, a rebel fighter describes living on the edge of death
Before the revolution, Qusai Zakarya was a hotel worker with a love of Western rock music. Then the uprising against the Syrian regime began and he became a fighter with the Free Syrian Army based in the Damascus suburb of Muadimiyah. For more than a year the area has been besieged by the Syrian army. He has a phone that is charged from a small generator run on olive oil and nail varnish.
This is his account.
THE SIEGE AND HUNGER
It is almost a year since the siege began. Too much has happened to remember it all or to try to understand how we survived this long. The Assad regime surrounded and shut down all the basic life supplies of our town: food, power, gas, medicine, communications. Damn, if Assad was able to stop the air from entering the town I don’t think he would’ve hesitated for a second.
Nothing ever entered the town since the siege started. Four months ago we ran out of food. Now we are eating olives and trees leaves. The leaves either get cooked with spices – salt and pepper – or made in a salad. Grape leaves are the best.
I’ve lost about 15 kilograms in the siege – from 85 to less than 70 kilograms.
I lose weight but my will is getting stronger. The food situation will get worse and everybody knows that. But what can we do? I keep hearing that some people are eating dogs and cats but I never saw that. I used to raise three beautiful cats in my house before they got bombed, along with my home. I’d rather starve to death than eat a cat.
Anyhow, as I was walking today, I saw a lady cooking something on some firewood, and it smelled delicious. I ran to her and asked her if I was dreaming and if she would please tell me what she was cooking. She smiled at me, opened the pot and gave me a spoonful without saying a word. I gulped it down, but was so disappointed when it turned out to be just water with a sprinkle of salt and
I shuffled away, heedless of the heavy shelling all around me, just thinking about how good the pot smelled and still in disbelief that it turned out to be just water. I’ve spent two hours walking across the town looking for food.
THE SARIN GAS ATTACK
The shelling never stops. On a quiet day it is 60-70 shells. On August 21, the day of the sarin attack, we got over 2,000 missiles and bombs and a lot of MIG aircraft raids. The biggest attempt (to take the town) was after the sarin attack. We had 81 martyrs that day and 550 exposed (to gas) including me.
I was up doing the Fajr (dawn) prayer while four of my friends were asleep. (I) heard strange alarms coming from Damascus, like alarms you hear in war movies before an air raid – very scary.
Within seconds the missiles started to fall, one of them about 100 metres away. After two minutes I couldn’t breath. Felt my chest going on fire. I tried to awake my friends but I could not talk. So I punched my chest a lot, to be able to scream. I screamed – an awkward one.
It is a long story. But I died for 30 minutes.
If it wasn’t for my friend who cried over me and shook me, they wouldn’t notice I was still alive. I had two shots of atropine [sarin antidote]. Now I feel some strange effects. Since sarin day I can’t sleep for more than 4 hours maximum. Even if I am so tired. I forget a lot of things but still (I’m) holding on.
My eyes got very sensitive, to the light or to smoke, but they got sharper, like an eagle. Sometimes I see very far things in detail that others can’t see.
One more thing, when something happens that makes me rush, a bomb or battle or anything, my heart pumps a lot more – not like before – a lot more. (Other people) have breathing problems and memory problems.
Hope, despair and survival:
We manage to have power. We charge car batteries on the generator and charge our cell phones on it, so we don’t mess our phones up. The power is not stable from the generator.
There were 40,000 people before the revolution here. Now there are 8,000. Around 600 died – shellfire, snipers and sarin. My girlfriend Dalia is in Europe. I miss her angel face. I miss all of her. Sometimes I smell her perfume through the shelling and the blood.
The winter is a total fear for us. We believe that fighting the cold will be worse than fighting the hunger.
My chest is on fire! I feel like an unleashed dragon. I just want to spit the fire I have inside and burn the world. I tried to empty my rage, punishing the echo of Assad’s bombardment on the town. I kicked all the piles of rubble on our street, roared like a stabbed beast. But still, my rage just grew with every breath in.
Sarin, starvation, bombardment, invasion attempts, evacuations and now the cold comes along to add fuel to the suffering of the remaining 8,000 civilians. I have the chance to send our voices and stories about our suffering. I am not going to waste it.