When Oz Katerji challenged Britain’s Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn Syrian president Bashar al Assad, he wasn’t met with applause.
After he heckled Corbyn in the middle of a meeting of Stop the War Coalition on Saturday, the crowd united with a chant of “no more war”. It was a sentiment that Katerji would likely agree with – but it’s easier to agree on the necessity of peace than how to actually get there.
An activist who’s worked across the Middle East, Katerji advocates for military intervention against the Assad regime. He accused Assad of marginalizing Syrian voices, along with several other hecklers at the London event.
In a speech following the skirmish, Corbyn reiterated his position that a political solution to the Syrian conflict was possible.
Responses to the incident exposed a sharp divide on the British left.
Oz Katerji, the pro-war thug who heckled Corbyn today, says such profanity & harassment is "political criticism": https://t.co/ysa04XDHS8— Asa Winstanley (@AsaWinstanley) 8 October 2016
Stop the War remains a controversial organization in the UK: it was set up to oppose the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which the UK participated in. That’s earned it kudos among many, including politician Diane Abbott and musician Brian Eno. But since then, it has been accused of advocating a narrow anti-imperialism and blindness to the involvement of players like Russia and Iran, who, like the US and UK, are regularly accused of committing war crimes.
Perhaps someone could let us know when the next Stop the War demonstration outside the Russian Embassy will be?— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) 8 October 2016
In a statement posted on Twitter following the furore, Katerji called on the legacy of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered earlier this year and who had attracted popularity by working with Syrian organizations. “The bloodshed in Syria cannot be stopped while continuing to refuse to hold Assad accountable for his crimes” he wrote.
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