BNP’s Nick Griffin tours Damascus as guest of President Assad

Party leader compared life in Syria to that in Belfast during The Troubles

It is, one might think, the very last thing that Syria needs right now. As if a bloody sectarian civil war were not enough to be dealing with, the residents of the Syrian capital Damascus woke up today to a rather unexpected international visitor: the BNP leader Nick Griffin.

In a bizarre but graphic illustration of the old saying “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”, the far-right politician arrived in the country from Lebanon at the official invitation of President Bashar al-Assad and the Arab Socialist Baath Party. And he wasted little time pinning his colours to the Assad mast. In a series of tweets he castigated British support for Syrian opposition forces, claimed the rebels were jihadist terrorists and likened security in Damascus to Belfast in the Troubles.

Mr Griffin’s arrival in the Syrian capital coincided with a suicide attack on a police station that killed at least 14 people. But Mr Griffin at first insisted that all was well. “Occasional explosions in distance but life in capital normal,” he wrote on Twitter. “Traffic busy, shops full of goods. Families out in sun.”

When he was later taken by the regime on a visit to the scene of the attack, he used it to further push its political agenda: “Just visited site of rebel suicide bomb attack this am. Smelt like abattoir. Vile. Hague wants your taxes to arm these terrorists!”

He also linked support for the rebels with the murder of the soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich. “Cameron & Hague plan to send UK money & weapons to rebels dominated by Islamist jihadis like killers of Lee Rigby,” he wrote. More than 80,000 people have been killed in Syria in the two years since a peaceful uprising in the country slowly degenerated into civil war.

Echoing the propaganda of the Assad government, which has sought to portray itself as the only government capable of preventing the country from descending into chaos, Mr Griffin said: “Why turn stable secular state into Iraq-style hell of secrarian [sic] hate? More madness from the people who dragged us to costly war in Iraq & Afghan.”

Asked about the trip by The Independent, a spokesman for the BNP said he was not prepared to answer questions. “You will just twist everything I say,” he said. “You are even worse than The Guardian.”

But speaking to the Daily Mail, the BNP spokesman Simon Darby said Mr Griffin, who is an MEP for North West England, was invited to Damascus as part of a delegation of European politicians, including MEPs and MPs from Belgium, Russia and Poland. 

Mr Darby said that he was not being paid by the Syrian regime and did not want his presence in the country to be seen as an endorsement of Mr Assad. “What he wants is to let people have a proper view of what is going on in Syria, because at the moment all we have is William Hague and his infantile war-mongering,” Mr Darby said. “He wants to ascertain just how many British citizens are fighting out there for the so-called Free Syrian Army and other elements opposed to Assad.

“He is representing the point of view of ordinary British people who don’t want any engagement in the Middle East and its troubles, any more than they wanted to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq... He is sick and tired of seeing lads from Manchester and Liverpool coming back in body bags or with arms and legs missing.”

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone