Saturday January 9, 2016 from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM GMT
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Bermondsey Village Hall, 
Kirby Grove,
London SE1 3TD

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Graham Colley 
Rights- Liberties-Justice (LDLA) Liberal International, LibDem Christian Forum 
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Right-Liberties-Justice with Liberal International and LibDem Christian Forum

 joint conference 

"The Syria Vote and Beyond -

Radical Ideas for Difficult Problems"

Saturday 9th January 2016

The 'vote' caused upset amongst a number of LibDem activists. 

Expressed concerns included:

- The problems (Daesh/ Jihadism / Syria/ the multi faith issues) and possible solutions were not clear;

- that a strategy to deal with the war and the aftermath was not dealt with and remains open;

- communication with the Parliamentary Party was inadequate and dialogue was insufficient; and

 - that in the  debate opposing contributors were often criticised when all views should be respected and welcomed.


The Conference will look at how the Parliamentary Party arrived at its decision, the problems behind the conflict in Syria and Daesh and how a 'stategy' for Syria can be formulated. It will then look at how comunications can be improved with the Parliamentary Party and how debate can be positive.


Draft Programme

Tea, Coffee and welcome [09.30-10.00]

•    Session 1 [10.00 -10.50]   Explanation of why LibDem MPs voted the way they did.  Tom Brake  MP Kelly-Marie Blundell and a Peer. Questions, but no debate.

•    Tea, Coffee [10.50-11.10]

•    Session 2 [a] 11.10 -12.00 Root causes - religious background and Islam issues, radicalisation and why Daesh are ‘the way they are’? Father Nadim Nasser - Director of the Awareness Foundation, John McHugo 

•       Session 2 [b] 12.00 - 13.00- Experts views on "the problem" and diplomatic solutions for Syria and Iraq etc. Lord (William) Wallace, Jonathan Brown and Yasmine Nahlawi

•  Lunch - 13.15-14.30 (to allow time to leave the Hall and come back)

•    Session 3. [14:30 - 15-40]. How can these issues be dealt with better within the Party? - "discuss/disagree/learn from others in a respectful way to promote better understanding" - Dave Walker of Southwark Mediation and Simon Hughes

•    Tea, Coffee [15.40. 16.00]

•    Session 4.[16.00 -17.00]  Plenary session.Ideas for improving dialogue.  Accepting that the meeting is not policy making.  Insistence on the positive - forward looking ideas . No recriminations, no looking backwards, but radical ideas.


Note CPD points will be available for certain sessions

Charitable donation - see below



Register Now! Please note that payment by cheque or at the door is subject to a small handling charge which wil be donated to the charitities below. Whilst online payment is through PayPal, please note you do not need a PayPal Account - you may pay by credit/debit card as a 'Guest'.


We hope you can come to this important event, but if you cannot and wish to send your apologies. please click on 



Whilst Syria is a political problem for Liberal Democrats, it is a humanitarian and personal catastrophe for those involved.

The following are six small charities. If you donate, pay by cheque or register at the last moment, your donation will be shared equally amongst these six charities. Any surplus from registrations and expenses will be istibuted to these charities.

If you are unable to attend, we hope you will still make a donation, which we will share between the six charities:

1. Migrant Offshore Aid Station

This charity exists to save children like Alan Kurdi, with a fleet of rescue boats patrolling the Mediterranean to save migrants lost at sea.

2. Refugees Welcome

Dubbed as a kind of “Airbnb for refugees” this German nonprofit matches people with spare rooms with refugees in need of housing. If you don’t have a spare bed in Germany, you can donate here.

3. The Worldwide Tribe in Calais

A group of social activists documenting stories in the Calais migrant camp, they also raise relief funds.  

4. Small Projects Istanbul

Provides classes and cultural enrichment and scholarships to Syrian children in Turkey.

5. Karam Foundation

A  charity that works in Turkey and is also focused on educational opportunities for Syrian children, currently raising funds to rebuild schools in Syria.

6. Hand in Hand for Syria

One of the few organizations that directly provides aid on the ground in Syria, including food, clothing, water, sanitation and crucial medical assistance to “help people to stay in Syria instead of fleeing to another country.”

Details of Speakers ( this secion under edit)


John McHugo (LibDem Member) is the author of a book Syria: A Recent History which was published in 2015 and has received much critical acclaim. He is also a senior fellow at the Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews University, and an adviser to Tim Farron on peace in the Middle East (Israel/Palestine).  

http://www.johnmchugo.com/biography/ (He is  no longer chair of Lib Dem Friends of Palestine, and his appointment as an adviser to Tim Farron is not yet there)

Jonathan Brown is Risk Manager at medical assistance company CEGA (www.cegaroup.com), where he advises journalists, NGO workers and corporates on handling medical emergencies in remote and hostile locations. He lived in Damascus and Amman between 2004 and 2007, raises money for Hand in Hand for Syria (www.handinhandforsyria.org.uk) and is an activist with the Syria Solidarity Movement UK (www.syriauk.org). He is Chair of the Chichester Liberal Democrats.

Yasmine Nahlawi is Advocacy and Policy Coordinator at the Rethink Rebuild Society (http://www.rrsoc.org/) and is going to be speaking in the slot on options for the future with a particular focus on including Syrians in the process.   RRS produced the policy document 'Syria between dictatorship and ISIS - What can the United Kingdom do?' ( http://www.rrsoc.org/node/313 ).

Reading and links:

John McHugo : an article based on his  lecture at the Gingko Conference in London a year ago on the aftermath of the First World War in the Middle East. The topic was the link between today's sectarianism in Syria and elsewhere and the Mandates:  http://bit.ly/1kvMK43

Omar Ashour

Omar Ashour is Senior Lecturer in Security Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in University of Exeter. is unable to attend but supplied links to two articles:

His latest study on why the Islamic State militarily endure and expand may be of interest to you:

 "On 10 June 2014 the Mosul garrison of 30,000 Iraqi Security Forces fell to an IS attacking force that was estimated to be between 800 to 1,500 IS fighters. The two Mosul-based Iraqi divisions outnumbered the attackers by at least 20-to-1. Compared to the Taliban regime, which fell in a two-month campaign by US-led strikes, the organization is much more resilient.” Why?


BBC : 

Rethink Rebuild Society -  policy document titled

'Syria Between Dictatorship and ISIS: What can the United Kingdom Do?   :



LibDem Voice 05/01/2016:

Article by George Kendall