Jeremy Corbyn speech interrupted by protesters led by Peter Tatchell demanding action on Aleppo

Demonstrators demand Labour leader takes more prominent stance on Syrian civil war

Lizzie Dearden
Saturday 10 December 2016 12:17
Protesters interrupt Corbyn event to speak about Syria

Protesters have interrupted a speech by Jeremy Corbyn on domestic violence and human rights to demand Labour takes a stronger stance on battles raging in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, led demonstrators who burst on to a stage shared by the opposition leader and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.

As protesters held posters in front of television cameras demanding “actions not words”, Mr Tatchell said: “What’s happening in Aleppo is a modern day Guernica. We haven’t heard the leader of Labour party speak out enough to demand UK air drops.

Peter Tatchell (right) leads protesters disrupting a speech by Jeremy Corbyn to demand more action in Aleppo, in London on 10 December

“Hundreds of thousands of life are at risk. We expect the leader of the Labour party to speak out.”

Mr Corbyn remained at the podium, appealing with the demonstrators to leave their comments to a question session scheduled at the end of his speech.

“Peter, could we leave this to the questions please? We’re trying to make a speech here,” he said, before being urged to “sit down for a minute” by Lady Chakrabarti. “Just let them do this,” she added.

Mr Corbyn could be heard asking aides if and when the Labour Party condemned the bombing of rebel-held areas of Aleppo before returning to the stage as protesters receded.

Thanking demonstrators for “raising the issue”, he said Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow Foreign Secretary, had “made it absolutely clear that we do think there should be aid given to aid given to people in Aleppo, we do think the bombing should end, we do think there should be a ceasefire, we do think there should be a political solution, we do think the war should end in Syria.”

Mr Corbyn had started making a speech to mark Human Rights Day when the protest started. It was due to focus on a commitment to lay down minimum standards of support for those fleeing abusive relationships under the Istanbul Convention.

“We will put women’s rights and freedoms, human rights, at the heart of our programme for government,” he was due to say.

“Women will not only be at the heart of my government, women’s rights and interests will be front and centre stage of everything we do.”

Saturday’s protest was mounted by the pro-opposition Syria Solidarity UK campaign group, which is calling a parliamentary vote on UK aid drops, the end of sieges in Syria and humanitarian evacuations of civilians.

Mr Tatchell has previously criticised the Labour leader for failing to speak out loudly enough against Russia and its role supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

He has also hit out at the Stop the War Coalition Mr Corbyn previously headed for opposing Western military action.

The row comes as Syrian government forces and allies from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, continue to advance on rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo.

The UN warned that the city risked becoming “one giant graveyard” as bombing continued in civilian areas and thousands fled their homes. Numerous violations of international law have been reported on all sides, including indiscriminate bombing, the targeting of hospitals and civilian infrastructure and the use of chemical weapons.

Russia’s defence ministry claimed more than 20,000 civilians have left eastern Aleppo so far, on Saturday, and that more than 1,200 rebels had put down their arms, although the numbers could not be independently confirmed.

Read Peter Tatchell's article on the Stop The War Coalition here

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