By Kit Roberts
SYRIAN journalist and activist Waad Al-Kateab has welcomed the potential for change in Labour’s foreign policy and called for the opposition to take a stronger stance against Russian involvement in Syria.
Speaking at an online conference with Open Labour, the Oscar-nominee spoke of the hurt she and her compatriots have felt in the face of what she claims were lies regarding the nature of the Syrian Conflict.
She said: “For years we were very unfortunately disappointed by so much of the world, but I will be specific today about people within the Labour Party who were denying not just what we lived through, but also all the crimes that were happening in Syria.
“We felt that we were let down by the whole world, but the worst thing was making us really feel like pain was when we opened social media and we see people from the West, some journalists, some politicians, some people within the Labour Party.
“They were doubting these crimes and spreading lies about us, about what was happening in Syria, spreading also the narrative of the people who are killing us.
“We are asking the opposition to put more pressure on the UK government to do more for Syria, to stand against Russia, to stop all these crimes that are happening now.
“It’s very important for all of us to not be scared to name the perpetrator and in order to stop these crimes we have to think about how we can hold this perpetrator for accountability.
“For this we need the truth.”
Al-Kateab is no stranger to the conflicting narratives and propaganda campaigns surrounding the war in Syria.
She received international acclaim for her film For Sama, a documentary she filmed during the siege of Aleppo which records her and her family’s experiences.
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Both Damascus and the Kremlin have long been accused of spreading misinformation in order to counter reports of war crimes, including chemical weapons attacks, and attacks on hospitals and schools.
Multiple reports, including an investigation by the New York Times, have since proved Russian aircraft have bombed hospitals.
While an independent report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed Assad forces have carried out chemical attacks.
Al-Kateab described dismay at the way the conflict is discussed: “One of my friends who was here in the UK, came to Aleppo in 2013.
“That was after the chemical attack had happened, and I remember how he was watching the debate, and he was very shocked about all of this conversation and people who were like, that didn’t say that this was right or wrong.”
Despite this, Al-Kateab still dares to be hopeful in light of a new approach to foreign policy in the Labour Party.
She said: “I’m seeing so much change that is happening, and that gives us so much hope.
“All the Syrians who are now in the UK or the Syrians who are today in Syria, they have so much hope for anything you can do for us.”
“We have seen the action and the effect of action and the legacy of Iraq, Afghanistan, but we also have seen the inaction in Syria, and all of this that I just mentioned, this is part of the result of the inaction.
“This is not a call for intervention, this is just to understand that action has cost, but also inaction has another cost.
“For this, please do treat every conflict separately. Syria is not Iraq, Syria is not Afghanistan, and Syria is not Libya even. Syria is just Syria.”