Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Mark Williams’

Bread Not Bombs for Syria

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 9th January, 2016

I was totally opposed to the recent decision by the UK parliament to bomb Syria, in the absence of a coherent strategy for bringing an end to the civil war in that country, and I was pleased that among the LibDem MPs, at least Norman Lamb and Mark Williams voted that way. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground has got much worse in many places, thanks partly to the Russian support for the murderous Assad regime, which is itself responsible for the vast majority of deaths in Syria, without mentioning the gross human rights abuses that it perpetrates in its prisons and detention centres. Now, there is a new, horrific spectre in the land, in which over 250,000 have died and millions have fled or been displaced. This has been most vividly illustrated by the harrowing images of starving children from Madaya, which has been under siege by regime forces for many weeks, and other places. The images are as awful as the pictures that came out of Bergen-Belsen at the end of the Second World War, and are similarly of the victims of a pattern of extermination. Quite apart from the adults who are dying on these appalling conditions, infants and babies are being fed on boiled leaves, watered-down jam and anything else that distressed parents can lay their hands on. So tell me, am I being unrealistically utopian in wishing that instead of dropping bombs on Syria, the RAF should be dropping food and medical supplies on Madaya and other communities in distress? I don’t think so. It is pain humanity. But that seems to have been lost in the noise of the anti-ISIS narrative. Of course, self-style Islamic State is repulsive and needs to be combatted, but can we really say we are on the side of the angels if that combat means we stand by and let innocents die?

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Why I Would Have Voted No to Syria Airstrikes

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 3rd December, 2015

Syria bombs 2Had I been a member of the UK Parliament I would have voted against airstrikes in Syria, as I was pleased to note LibDem MPs Norman Lamb and Mark Williams did last night. While I share the British public’s repulsion at the activities of self-styled Islamic State, I fear the decision to join airstrikes was a knee-jerk reaction to the recent Paris bombings without thinking through a coherent strategy first. It is often true that if bombs are the answer then you are asking the wrong question, but I feel that is particularly apt in the current case. Syria is in a state of civil war, with numerous groups fighting with different objectives and a vicious governing clique trying to hang on to power with the support of Russia, Iran and others. But Britain does not have a clear strategy for responding to that situation and most well-informed analysts believe that David Cameron’s claim that there are 70,000 “moderate” fighters lined up against the Assad regime is pie in the sky.

Syria bombs 1Moreover there is a fundamental question that has not been adequately addressed, let alone answered. That is, how do we best counter IS/Da’esh’s ideological warfare which is still managing to rally radicalised Muslim youth to its cause? Moreover, how can IS ever be persuaded to lay down arms? Bombing is not an answer to either of those questions and in my opinion it is only likely to recruit more young fighters ready to martyr themselves (as well as to slaughter others) for the perverse IS cause. I understand completely why Tim Farron and five other LibDem MPs wanted to demonstrate their determination to stand up to ISIS, but I fear they have made the wrong all. And bombing Raqqa and other places in Syria will only increase the suffering of the Syrian people, not reduce it.

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Mark Williams Speaks up for the Baha’i

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 23rd March, 2011

One of the more exotic consequences of Lembit Opik’s failing to retain Montgomery at last year’s general election was that the Baha’i Community in the United Kingdom lost an entertaining compere for their annual Naw Ruz (‘New Day’, i.e. Spring) reception on the House of Commons terrace. Lembit was an active champion of the cause of the Baha’i, who continue to suffer terrible persecution in Iran. Last night, this year’s reception was instead hosted by the Ceredigion LibDem MP Mark Williams, who gave apologies from veteran human rights campaigner Lord Avebury (aka Eric Lubbock) and reminded everyone that even at this time of celebration of the new awakening of Spring — marked by the Zoroastrians as well as the Baha’i, and various ethnic groups such as the Kurds — there was a sombre undertone, namely the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran for the simple reason that they were serving the religious and social needs of their beleagured community. Iran’s Islamic religious leaders despise the Baha’i because the Baha’i see spiritual truth in many places and acknowledge the contribution of prophets and visionaries of various faiths. But their central message is one of peace and community, which makes their suppression all the more outrageous.

Link: www.bahai.org.uk

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Western Sahara: The Forgotten Injustice

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 25th October, 2010

A delegation of British MPs and Peers, including Mark Williams (LibDem), Jonathan Evans (Conservative) and Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), went in a delegation to see Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt MP today, to protest yesterday’s fatal shooting of a 14-year-old Saharawi boy, Nayem el-Garhi, by Morrocan security forces. The boy was attempting, along with his brother and a number of others, to enter a protest camp which has been set up outside El Aauin (Laayoune) by 10,000 Saharawis who wish to draw attention to the ongoing occupation of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara that has endured since 1975. When Namibia became independent, many British media incorrectly reported that the decolonisation process in Africa was complete, but that was not true. Though Saharawi forces (the Polisario) managed to defeat Mauritanian troops who had occupied the southern part of the territory after the Spanish withdrew and succeeded in getting their withdrawal, the Moroccans are still there and have been settling many tens of thousands of Moroccans in the territory. An enormously long earth wall separates the occupied part of Western Sahara from the desert fiefdom of the Polisario, many of whose supporters live in refugee camps just inside Algeria, as they have done for decades now. In 1991 (just one year after I visited the Polisario-controlled areas), the UN brokered a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario, which was meant to lead to a referendum in which the Saharawis could choose their destiny, but this has not happened. Bizarrely, MINURSO, the UN peacekeeping mission to the Western Sahara, has no mandate to monitor the human rights situation there, unlike other such missions elsewhere in the world. The current protest camp — which Moroccan forces have effectively blockaded — was set up a fortnight ago to highlight the situation at a time when a UN special envoy, Christopher Ross, is visiting the region. As Mark Williams comments, ‘We cannot continue to ignore the brutality of the Moroccan authorities against those who peacefully demonstrate for their rights to independence. The first step is for the Security Council to implement human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.’

Link: http://wsahara.org.uk

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