Scotland Stop the War is horrified by the attacks in Paris. We mourn all those who died and our thoughts are with all those who lost loved ones and those who are recovering from their injuries. We also mourn all those who have been killed across the Middle East. In the same week as the Paris attacks, a bomb killed 40 people in Beirut and another bomb killed 17 in Baghdad. In Yemen, at the end of September, 130 were killed at a wedding party by a direct hit from a Saudi-led coalition warplane. Tragically these events are not unusual.
The Middle East is in tumult. Many millions have been displaced from their homes by bombs and terror. Most of these refugees are living in grinding poverty in Jordan and Turkey while many more have chosen to risk the perilous route across the sea to Europe in search of safety and some kind of future.
Stop the War abhors the actions and the politics of ISIS. But the rise of ISIS, the current horror in the Middle East and the civil war in Syria can only be understood in the context of Western actions in the region since 2003. According to the Lancet the invasion of Iraq resulted in half a million dead; it also devastated Iraqi society and infrastructure. Even Tony Blair admits that this created the conditions for the growth of ISIS.
Fourteen years on from the bombing of Afghanistan, and twelve years since George Bush declared victory in Iraq, US and UK policy is in tatters. At each horrific turn of events the response is to resume or intensify aerial bombardment. The evidence of the last decade is that such actions are akin to pouring petrol on a fire. The focus is now on Syria where, according to the United Nations more than 200,000 people have been killed. In the last fifteen months civilian casualties resulting from intensified aerial bombing by US, French, Turkish, Russian and other warplanes have risen steeply. So when David Cameron argues that after Paris Britain should join in bombing Syria we argue that this will not defeat ISIS, nor stabilise the region.
We remember the dead in Paris, Baghdad and Beirut; in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and around the world. We campaign for an end to policies that have torn the Middle East apart. Specifically:
Scotland Stop the War opposes Britain's use of drones to carry out extra-judicial executions overseas. We are particularly concerned that Britain has targeted its own citizens in this way. And we are concerned that these operations have been carried out in Syria, even though Parliament has not yet agreed to military action there.
Scotland Stop the War re-affirms its continuing opposition to the ongoing British bombing campaign in Iraq.
Stop the War welcomes the positive and proactive approach that the Scottish Government has taken to welcoming refugees. We call on the whole of Scottish society to stand together against Racism and Islamophobia. Attempts to equate migrants and refugees with the perpetrators of the Paris attacks are a travesty and an insult to those who died. In just a few days we have seen racist attacks in Methil and Bishopbriggs and the online abuse of Humza Yousaf. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in Scotland and internationally.
The Westminster response to the refugee crisis is woefully inadequate. We will work with other campaigning groups to increase the pressure on Westminster to tackle the crisis. Refugees are welcome here.
In the short term we call for pressure on MPs to hold firm to the position taken in 2012 when they refused to sanction military intervention in Syria. Don’t bomb Syria.
In the longer term we aim to rebuild a mass anti-war campaign that can end Western military intervention in the Middle East and arms sales to dictators and tyrants in the region.
We pledge to stand in solidarity with refugees and migrants and resist racism and Islamophobia at every turn.
Background Note from SACC
In January 2015, the UN estimated that 220,000 people had been killed in the Syrian conflict, and over a million injured. By that date, the Violations Documentation Center in Syria had documented 111,422 people killed by the regime and its militias.
During January 2015, 72% of the 1060 people killed by the regime were civilians. 85 people, 40 of them civilians, were killed by ISIS in the same month. The VDC documents people killed by regime forces and by ISIS (which it does not regard as part of the opposition), but does not document deaths at the hands of other anti-regime forces.
During May 2015 (the last month for which a report is available), the VDC documented 1579 people (71% of them civilians) killed by the regime. The biggest single cause of death (48% of the total) was from bombing/shelling by regime warplanes. 187 people (43% of them civilians) were reported killed by ISIS.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in April 2015 that it had documented 220,271 deaths since the start of the conflict, 104,629 of them civilians. They say that that, in addition to the documented deaths, they believe a further 86,000 non-Syrians have been killed fighting for militias on both sides of the conflict. These deaths are missing from the record because of what the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights calls "the extreme discretion by all sides on the human losses caused by the conflict". They bring the estimated total to 310,000 deaths.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that its figures do not include "20000 detainees in regime prisons and thousands of those who disappeared during regime raids and massacres."