Jeremy Corbyn urged by left-wing supporters to condemn Russia over Syria

Posted On: 
8th October 2016

Left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have called on the Labour leader to to "condemn clearly and specifically" the bombing of civilians by Russia and the Assad regime in Syria.

A tank of the Assad regime is seen in the ruins of Aleppo last month
PA Images

In an open letter published by the Syria Solidarity UK campaign group, they accuse Mr Corbyn and the wider anti-war campaign of "silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities".

More than 70 people have put their names to the letter, including many members of the Labour party, Momentum and union activists.

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Russia has been accused of war crimes for its involvement in the bombing of rebel-held areas of Aleppo in northern Syria. Thousands have been killed by the aerial attacks, most of them civilians.

Mr Corbyn was an opponent of the Government's decision to begin military action against Isil targets in Syria, and voted against it in the Commons last December.

He was also criticised for failing to refer to Russia or its involvement in the Aleppo atrocities in his speech to the Labour conference two weeks ago.

In their open letter to the Labour leader, published last night, the activists say: "We agree wholeheartedly with your opposition to militarism and nuclear weapons, and your call for an end to British arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia. Yet we are concerned by your silence – thus far – on the ongoing slaughter of civilians by Russian and Assad-regime forces in Syria.

"We share your scepticism about knee-jerk military responses to the situation in Syria, such as the bombing campaign against ISIS proposed by David Cameron last autumn. We are not asking you to back western interventions of this kind, but simply to say clearly and unequivocally that the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria are barbaric war crimes, and that you will seek to end them, and to hold their perpetrators to account."

They add: "The fact that Assad is supported not by the USA or Britain, but by Russia and Iran, does not make his crimes any less horrific, or the political future he represents for the people of Syria any less dismal. Nor does it mean that western political leaders are powerless in acting to oppose these crimes.

"We appreciate your concern not to lend support to right-wing calls for fruitless bombing campaigns. But in the face of the horrors being perpetrated across Syria, with impunity, and above all by Russian and Assad regime forces, we believe socialists and anti-war activists cannot simply look on in silence.

"We ask that you condemn, clearly and specifically, the actions of Assad and Russia in Syria, which have caused the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths and which present the biggest obstacle to any workable solution to the Syrian crisis."

The letter goes on: "'Food not bombs' should be the rallying cry, not 'Hands off Syria', which only gives the Assad regime and Russia carte blanche to continue with their slaughter.

"Failure to act on this issue now threatens to undermine practically and politically much of the work done over many years by the anti-war movement. The legacy of yourself and the anti-war movement over Syria must not be one of silence and inaction in the face of such momentous atrocities."

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "Jeremy has always been clear on Syria and how we achieve peace. More bombing in Syria will not solve the problem. There has to be a negotiated political solution led by Syrians and backed by the main regional and international forces."