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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas