Bombing IS ‘will not help Syrian refugees’

An aerobics class for girls at the the Mercy Corps Youth Centre. Picture: Mercy Corps

An aerobics class for girls at the the Mercy Corps Youth Centre. Picture: Mercy Corps

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A CHARITY director working with Syrian refugees in Turkey has warned that bombing Islamic State will play to the terrorists’ agenda.

Rae McGrath, area director for Edinburgh-based Mercy Corps in North Syria and Turkey, called instead for Britain to play a “positive” role in helping end the Syrian civil war.

MPs are expected to vote next week on whether the UK should join the bombing of IS targets in Syria.

Prime Minister David Cameron set out his case for military action in the Commons yesterday, arguing Britain could not “outsource our security to allies”.

But Mr McGrath, on a visit to Mercy Corps’ headquarters in Sciennes, said: “I will always see this from the point of view of our humanitarian work. I work with Syrians every day and I don’t understand how we’ve decided that bombing IS can solve the Syrian civil war. Isis is just one part of the Syrian civil war.

“Bombing is playing into IS’s agenda. They want us to become more and more violent. This all plays into their game plan.”

He said there were already “quite a few” countries dropping bombs on the terror group.

“Why can’t we play a different role? Why can’t we do something positive? Let us focus on bringing peace, bringing an end to the civil war, not just dealing with the part of the war we are frightened is going to cause a problem for us.

“We won’t get rid of IS by being terrified of them. We need to be confident in our democracies and our humanity and that means we need to help the Syrian people.”

He argued a solution to the civil war was not impossible.

“I was a soldier years ago and I remember being in Northern Ireland and people saying you can never bring an end to this. The first thing it took was bringing all the people engaged to the conflict to the table and that’s something we’ve never done in Syria.”

Mr McGrath also said efforts to dissuade refugees from coming to Europe were likely to be in vain.

“If you’ve been living for three years, keeping your family alive in Aleppo city, you’ve been barrel-bombed and gassed and your apartment building has been blown from under you and you’ve left Aleppo.

“You’ve heard about Europe and you probably know somebody who has already gone to Europe, so you set out to go there.”

“Warnings about the risk of dying in dangerous seas did little to deter people when they were fleeing such an existence. We can’t frighten Syrians.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com