Protest to take place in Cambridge tomorrow as ‘Pro Assad’ conference set to go ahead

Two patrons of organisation have resigned over the conferences’ controversial speakers

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A protest is set to take place in Cambridge tomorrow as a controversial conference organised by Cambridge based European Centre for Study of Extremism (EuroCSE), is set to go ahead.

The conference, titled ‘Syria- Six years on: from Destruction to Reconstruction’ received widespread condemnation from the UK based Syrian community last week, due to featuring several speakers with close links to Syrian Regime, including two Syrian government ministers. Originally set to take place in Westminster, the conference has since been moved to a secret location in Cambridge, as according to a Tab source ‘no venue in the city would host them’.

According to the conferences press release, speakers include Ali Haidar, general secretary for the extreme right Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which currently fields around six thousand troops on the regime side of the conflict. Other speakers include the Syrian Tourism Minister Bishr Riyad Yaziji, and Iranian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, who’s own government has been described as complicit in the civil War.

It has since emerged that two of the conferences speakers are on the UK governments sanctions list, as well as subject to an EU travel ban. One of the speakers has had his Visa rejected.

Hamid Baeidinejad, the Iranian Ambassador to the UK

Two of EuroCSE’s patrons, peers Neil Kinnock and Lord Desai, have since resigned from the organisation. The former Labour leader Lord Kinnock has said that he decided to “withdraw all association” from EuroCSE having learned it was “pro-Assad”.

Magdalene Master and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is still set to appear as the conferences key note speaker. He has admitted to “discomfort” following the outcry over his appearance, but reaffirmed the need to emphasise that peace settlement must include human rights guarantees.

The protests’ Facebook event page

The protest is set to take place at noon tomorrow at a location to be confirmed. On the event page, organiser George Morris, describes the conference as “an attempt to legitimise war criminals using an association with the university, and their connection to Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene, who is shamefully billed as the event’s ‘keynote speaker’.” George provided the following comment to the Tab.


“Today, the Assad regime used chemical weapons to massacre Syrian civilians, and then launched attacks on the clinics that were treating the wounded. Tomorrow, Cambridge will host a secretive conference at which members of the regime responsible for these attacks will be treated as honoured guests, and as legitimate voices in public discourse.”

“We want to make it absolutely clear that Cambridge says no to war criminals, no to the whitewashing of their crimes, and no to the legitimisation of murderers.”

“Rowan Williams thinks he can go and make reasoned comments to this carefully selected audience of regime sympathisers and war crimes apologists. He seems not to have realised that he is being used to legitimise unimaginable atrocities. Shame on him for supporting this event, which is in effect little more than a fascist rally.”

“I urge all people in Cambridge who want to express solidarity with Syrians and to stand against this attempt to legitimise war criminals to join us in our protest tomorrow.”

Dr Makram Khoury- Machool, founder of EuroCSE and former lecturer at Cambridge, has defended the conferences speaker list. “We believe it is valuable to hear from people who have been to Syria and actually talked to people in the country about the situation on the ground.”

The event page for the protest can be found here