Freedom Across Borders

Since April this year, Russian and Syrian aircraft have bombed over twenty-five hospitals inside the Idlib ‘Deconfliction’ Zone in northwest Syria, prompting hundreds of thousands of Syrians, many of whom have already been internally displaced, to flee once again. The UN watches helplessly as most of the rest of the world turns its back on the country, uncomfortably grateful that this ongoing horror story rarely makes headlines any more.

Even now, Syrian civil society activists struggle on, attempting to provide basic health and rescue services and to resist the brutality of both the regime and its allies and the jihadists who exercise much power in this part of the country.

But I, like I am sure many Syrians and their supporters, have become quieter and more despondent over the last couple of years, as events have conspired against those who demanded freedom and dignity and hope has drained away. I am sure I am not alone in being impressed and inspired by the Algerians and Sudanese who have stood up to their own tyrants, despite the blood-drenched examples from Syria and other countries in the region serving as a warning as to what desperately entrenched regimes are capable of.

So it is with renewed determination that I invite you to join me at the Freedom Across Borders conference at Amnesty International UK in London this Saturday 6th July.

The conference is an opportunity for a wide range of human rights activists in the UK and from Syria to meet and learn about each other’s work, and to explore opportunities for solidarity.

The conference organisers state: “We will be looking at how we can come together to protect all our freedoms. We aim to learn from each other, to widen our horizons, and to make connections for long term mutual support and action.”

Throughout the day discussions will follow three broad strands:

Refugees Welcome? – will focus upon refugees outside the UK; refugees’ journeys; refugees in the UK; looking ahead and reclaiming agency of refugees.

Survivor Strategies – on surviving trauma; mental health and self-care; security for activists and preserving Syrian memory.

Accountability – discussions on why we need legal accountability and what can be done within the UK; making aid accountable; UK military accountability and accountability versus normalisation.

The Lib Dems for Free Syria are proud to sponsor the next part of the event; a special screening of the documentary ‘Mr Gay Syria’ and a Q&A with Mahmoud Hassino, a Syrian journalist and gay blogger.

The conference will finish with Syrian music and food. There will also be an opportunity for any other Lib Dems attending to meet up and share ideas as to how we can support Syrians and those working for the promotion of human rights more generally. This is something our party has a good record on and something on which we have a distinct and vital voice.

Organisers and others attending include Airwars; Amnesty International UK; Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights; Enab Baladi; Freedom From Torture; Global Legal Action Network; Migrants Organise; Syrian Legal Development Programme; Syrian Women’s Political Movement and Waging Peace.

It is looking set to be a very moving and incredibly interesting event, so if you’re not campaigning in Brecon and Radnorshire for the brilliant Jane Dodds this weekend, please do register (for free) and join us.

* Jonathan Brown is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate of the Chichester Party and founder of the Liberal Democrats for Free Syria.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Events.


  • John McHugo 2nd Jul '19 - 10:03am

    Jonathan, sadly I cannot join you on Saturday but good luck with the Freedom Across Borders event at Amnesty.

    Thank you for reminding us all about Syria. One of the lesser discussed consequences of the Brexit nightmare over the last three years is how little attention problems like Syria now receive in the media. The other day I heard Chris Patten say, in the context of what’s going on in Hong Kong, how we now seem a much less serious country in the eyes of the world. It’s time for us to point out that Brexit is castrating Britain as a player on the international stage. Hardly a patriotic thing to support!

    The tragedy is that we and the other European powers acting under the umbrella of the EU could collectively be making a real difference in Syria. The conflict has been prolonged because the backers of the various factions are not hurting sufficiently to help it wind down. But if Europe could pull together on this one, its enormous soft power could make a real difference.

  • Jonathan Brown 2nd Jul '19 - 11:30am

    Thanks John,

    I think there are other factors too, but I agree – the degree to which Brexit has shut down our government’s ability to do things is astonishing. And internationally, where we do have powers and positions of influence that are not available to other countries we’ve been virtually silent.

    I think there is a real sense among the media and in politics that no one has anything useful to say on Syria and is just wanting to avoid talking about it or dealing with it.

    I hope that this conference will produce some ideas and alliances which will help raise it again. The fighting is clearly far from over and the underlying issues and as far from being resolve as ever.

  • Jonathan Brown 2nd Jul '19 - 3:23pm

    The event programme has now been published – copies can be downloaded here:

    Among the speakers are:
    Zrinka Bralo, Bosnian journalist and Chief Exec of Migrants Organise,
    Angela Burnett, lead doctor and Responsible Officer at Freedom from Torture, Kholoud Helmi, gender and media expert and co-founder of independent newspaper Enab Baladi,
    Dr Mustafa Alachkar, NHS consultant psychiatrist from Aleppo,
    Michael Bourton, cyber-security specialist,
    Rouba Mhaissen, Syrian-Lebanese economist and founder and director of Sawa for Development and Aid,
    Salama Mohammed Mubarak, humanitarian practitioner from Yemen and former head of the IOM office in Aden, Dr Zuhair Bashar, Sudanese civil society activist, Brian Whitaker, journalist and former Middle East editor of the Guardian
    and many more.

    It should be a really interesting day.

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