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syria protest

Protesters in London (Image: Jim Aindow)

On Saturday, the British public showed strong opposition to airstrikes in Syria, reports Yasmin Dahnoun

Thousands stood outside parliament yesterday in solidarity against the bombing of Syria. Last week, David Cameron put forward a case to parliament that Britain must get involved in bombing Isis in Syria alongside France, in reaction to the Paris attacks. Bombing Syria, however, will only result in more war, terror and state violence. It will also lead to an attack on our civil liberties in Britain.

Organised across the country by Stop the War Coalition, the rally expressed the strong opposition people feel against air strikes, which have brought death and destruction to the people of Syria. The civil war in Syria and the foreign military interventions that have accompanied it have caused the deaths of over 200,000 people so far. Eleven countries have been participating in airstrikes already, including the US, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Not only have governments failed to crush Isis, they have created a catastrophe in the Middle East and backlashes of terrorism in the West. Whilst over 4,000 coalition airstrikes have correlated with the growth of Isis fighters, Cameron told parliament on Thursday that bombing Islamic State in Syria will make this country ‘safer’. Although he hasn’t officially called a vote in parliament, it is expected that he will do so next week, if he feels confident enough that he can win it.

That is why the protests yesterday were so crucial. They could make a difference. They may make MPs consider the views of the public, which is consistently anti-war. 'Not in my name', 'Don't add fuel to the fire', 'Who are you kidding Cameron?' read some of the placards as the crowd stood strong in the Whitehall blockade chanting, 'Don't bomb Syria'.

A letter initiated by Stop the War Coalition, and signed by 30 politicians, academics, actors and journalists – including Owen Jones and Frankie Boyle – was handed to David Cameron on the day of the protest. It read:

“The UK has been bombing countries for a decade and a half, at the cost of millions of lives. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results meets Albert Einstein’s definition of madness."

Brian Eno spoke at the rally, commenting on the West’s double standards of military involvement against terror in Syria, whilst ignoring Saudi Arabia's bombing of innocent civilians in Yemen and their support towards Isis. He said,

“We've created a system which gives the biggest rewards to the greediest, and worst to the most generous. Why don’t we start doing the clever thing and follow the money?"

Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is split over whether to vote for bombing, but Corbyn himself is unequivocally opposed to military intervention; he made this clear in an email he sent to all Labour MPs last week. And according to a number of opinion polls, Corbyn is backed by the majority of the British public. This includes the 6,000 protesters who stood outside Downing Street yesterday and those attending demos across the country, the 34,000 who've signed the ‘Not in My Name’ e-petition, as well as the 40,000 people who have pressured their MPs not to bomb Syria through Stop the War’s online petition tool.

If MPs vote for war in parliament next week, this will be hugely damaging to Syria's plea for peace. But solid resistance from the British public will push the demand to end this cycle of violence that has killed so many, and sparked terrorism throughout the brutal history of the War on Terror. 

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