Syria: Lies and slurs for those who dare to challenge Ribal and Rifat Assad

– Chris Doyle
Sunday, 04 September 2011

Global Arab Network – Well you know, when you have a go at Ribal or Rifat Assad that they will resort to anything, such is their record. (Rifat has apparently plenty of loyal well paid thugs in his entourage).

So a few days after having campaigned against the holding of an Eid reception hosted by an MP promoting Ribal’s Iman organization (if you can call it that as there no semblance of a board, accounts or where it is registered, but photos of Ribal and his MP friends) my wife Rim and I get slagged off in an online article (if you can call it as such) in Arabic and English. It is highly defamatory in practically every word.

It has not been a pleasant week. The Conservative Member of Parliament who is hosting the event, Daniel Kawczynski, instead of answering why he his promoting an apologist for crimes against humanity, has written to both our employers. Rim was called in to meet with her head of department at Imperial College, who far from chastising her as Daniel hoped, asked her if she wanted protection. Daniel called me various things on the phone including that I was a “raving lefty and a communist”.. It seems he is taking lessons from the Assad family in making threats and intimidating critics.

I wrote back in July against Ribal when an MP gave him a platform to speak in Parliament, not just because it was so offensive generally, but also as the regime was pulverising Hama at the time making it doubly insensitive.

I also, as can be seen on my Twitter account @doylech, lobbied against Ribal’s event coming up this Wednesday. Caabu issued a press release on Friday. Huge pressure has been applied by Syrians and Syrian human rights organizations taking up the issue protesting to MPs and even Ministers. Ribal’s cozy relationship with a select few MPs, some of whom he has funded to go to the Middle East, is now under threat. Ribal of course acts as the front man for his father, as his arch apologist-in-chief. Ribal comically told Channel 4 News that his father had been a democrat since the 1970s, something that will appall all those killed, injured, tortured, and brutalized when he was at the top of the regime and running its notorious special forces. His great defense of his father was that he could not have ordered the shelling of Hama in 1982 which killed over 10,000 people as he was in Damascus at the time, as if his presence on the spot was required for him to give the order to his special forces.

It remains a disgrace that Rifat is roaming free in luxury throughout Europe living off his ill-gotten gains, and that his sons are excusing his behavior and polishing his image. It is a crazy world where the EU is sanctioning regime officials inside Syria but seem incapable of taking any action against Rifat and others .

So this is the background to the slurs in this article. They add up to nothing but strangely echo nonsense that both Daniel Kawczynski said to me on the phone and were also written in the comments section of my Guardian article. I am in no doubt that this is not a coincidence.

It is a bizarre set of accusations for a start barely worthy of writing about. Apparently according to the unknown author, Rim’s intervention on BBC women’s hour sounded like apologists for Iran when discussing women. (a non-hijab wearing wife of a British husband acting as a puppet of the Iranians!!) The interview was back in the early days of the protests, and the point of the program was to examine why it seemed not so many Syrian women had participated. She mentioned Mothers’ appearing on TV talking about their being children killed. She makes clear that these demonstrations were very, very risky for women.

Rim must be the only Syrian women not to know how terrible the situation is on the ground. Contrary to this rant, Rim has every idea how angry Syrian society is, she is part of it, with family on the ground with friends all over the country. I have had to comfort her daily as news of friends being arrested, tortured or killed have come in but above all, as her country that we love lurches into a dangerous and unknown future, with a regime that seems to know no limits to its brutality.

Before the protests, we have been involved in doing what can to help Syria, whether by promoting development, encouraging reform, and also promoting Syrians and Syrian culture that has been so often been denigrated in the West. Indeed I have spent 20 years doing little else but working against the demonization of Arabs in the West. We hoped, like so many others, that Bashar just might bring about some reforms. It was a faint hope but we clung to it. Those hopes have been dashed once and for all.

So during these years we helped with various organizations devoted to helping Syria. We set up a small charity, one of the first international NGOs to operate in Syria. Gulf Sands Worldwide not its Syria branch (not Rami Makhlouf who I lobbied to get sanctioned) donated to the Damask Rose Trust, a UK-based charity. Neither of us knew that Makhlouf was a shareholder of Gulf Sands in Syria at the time, but the donation was of no benefit to him nor us. Even today I am not sure just where Makhlouf has tucked away his extraordinary wealth that he has stolen from the Syrian people. I confess I may have bought one of his mobile phone SIM cards, and perhaps used one of his airport taxis, as there is little choice of course.

Rim and I are proud to be Trustees of the Damask RoseTrust that has done fantastic work in difficult conditions to help the deprived in Syria, set up a hotline for victims of domestic violence and supported rural communities. We make no apologies for that. I am proud of her role in setting up the Syrian Professional Women’s Association, an organization here in the UK, devoted to assisting Syrian professional women. I am also proud of what she did whilst involved some years ago with the British-Syrian Society (BSS). She took on some major successful cultural projects but felt she had to step down from the BSS, some time ago. Her cultural work was based on her passionate interest in Arabic and Islamic culture – she has recently curated a major exhibition at the Royal Society.

Our efforts pale into insignificance compared with those on the ground who risk their lives on a daily basis. We shall continue to assist in whatever small way we can.

It is a pity that @all4syria has allowed itself to be abused by Ribal Assad and his family. This does little to help the future of the Syrian opposition (Ribal has no interest in genuine opposition of course), which neither Rim nor I would ever dare to claim we represent, is crucial. Working together for a free and democratic Syria has never been more important. That there are those who seek to undermine all of this shows just how scared the Assad family is. That there are a handful of British MPs who collude with Ribal Assad is a shame on Westminster…

Source: Global Arab Network.

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