Syrian Community Criticises University Over Magdalene Master’s Appearance at ‘Pro-Assad Conference’

The conference features members of the Syrian dictatorship

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A statement signed by several members of the Syrian community and refugee groups in Cambridge has been released, criticising the appearance of ex-Archbishop of Canterbury and Magdalene Master Dr Rowan Williams at a ‘Pro-Assad Conference’.

The conference, organised by Cambridge based organisation the European Centre for the Study of Extremism (EuroCSE), will feature several speakers with strong links to the Syrian Regime, including Ali Haidar, a minister for the Assad dictatorship and general secretary of the Syrian National Party Party, as well as the Syrian minister for tourism and the Iranian Ambassador to the UK.

The statement released by the Syrian Community

The statement voices concern that the founder of EuroCSE, Makram Khoury-Machool, was attempting to use the groups connections to several members of the University to legitimise itself. Makram Khoury-Machool, a former lecturer and supervisor at Churchill College, is described in the statement as “a close friend of Assad’s former ambassador to the UK, Sami Khiyami”.

Rowan Williams is a patron of the organisation, along with Neil Kinnock. The statement describes the conference as a ‘propaganda exercise’, and “calls on all who don’t share the objectives of the conference to distance themselves from it”.

In particular, the letter takes aim at Ali Haidar, General Secretary for what has been described as a fascist party, which currently has a militia numbering 8000-6000 fighting on the side of the regime in the war. Additionally it attacks conference speaker Bishr Riyad Yaziji, the Syrian minister for Tourism, for his “disgusting advertising campaign which promoted Syria as a land of pleasure and plenty when around one million people were suffering under starvation sieges.”

Ali Haider, head of the SSNP

The letter has 10 signatories, ranging from Dr Haytham Alhamwi from Rethink Rebuild Society, to Mazen Ejbaei from Help 4Syria UK. It is available on Rethink Rebuild’s facebook page here.

Signatory Haytham Alhamwi provided statement to the Tab:

“Syrians in the UK respect Lord Williams and they are sure that he is not himself pro-Assad. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a panel discussion about refugees in Cambridge earlier this year and felt that he shares with us the importance of solving the root cause of the conflict in Syria.”

“I have shared my concerns with Lord Williams and he assured me that he does not intend to give the regime a free pass in the upcoming conference. But my concern is that his involvement in the conference gives it an appearance of legitimacy when it is clearly being used to promote members of the Assad regime.”

The University chose not to comment regarding Rowan Williams’ appearance.