Jo Cox mourned by her Syrian friends five years after her murder

Cox called for UK military intervention in Syria, no-bombing zones and aid drops

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Jo Cox may only have had a short career as a British Member of Parliament before her tragic death but five years on her campaigning to help the people of Syria still bears fruit.

The mother-of-two was murdered by a far-right extremist just 13 months after her election but during her tenure she rallied politicians from all parties to raise the plight of Syrians and urge UK military intervention.

The 41-year-old former aid worker called on the British government and the UN to do more to protect civilians from bombing campaigns by President Bashar Al Assad's forces and subsequent, widespread starvation.

G3YG3T Previously unreleased photo dated 12/05/15 of Labour MP Jo Cox, who has been shot in Birstall near Leeds, an eyewitness said.

"Some may think that a military component has no place in an ethical response to Syria," she said in a 2015 op-ed for written with fellow MP Andrew Mitchell.

“We completely disagree. It is not ethical to wish away the barrel bombs from the Syrian government when you have the capacity to stop them. The deaths and fear generated by these indiscriminate air attacks are the main drivers of the refugee crisis in Europe.”

Jo Cox called for no-bombing zone

In her last speech to Parliament before her murder on June 16, 2016, she called for a no-bombing zone and aid drops.

Executive director of The Syria Campaign, Laila Kiki, told The National that Cox used her short time as a politician to "do more than any other MP" to call for protection of civilians in Syria.
"Jo Cox continues to be a beacon of hope for Syrian women pursuing freedom, democracy and peace because she was a politician who stood up for what she believed in. She was outraged by war crimes and pushed for action to stop them," she said.

“If fellow politicians in the UK, Europe and US were half as committed to protecting civilians, many lives would have been saved.”

Researcher Dr Yasmine Nahlawi, who worked at the Manchester-based Syria think tank Rethink Rebuild Society, accused the government for failing to honour Cox's legacy on Syria.

"Jo would have been utterly disappointed to see that her calls for a no-bombing zone and aid drops were ignored," she told iNews.

“In the aftermath of her murder, Jo’s brave and passionate work for Syria was praised by UK political leaders from both major parties. The reality, however, is that her legacy on Syria has not been honoured in Westminster.”

White Helmets rescue children in Aleppo after what activists said was an air strike by regime forces. Sultan Kitaz / Reuters

Cox called on the government to tackle the Assad regime and ISIS jointly.

"I have long argued that ISIS and Assad are not separate problems to be chosen between but are action and reaction, cause and symptom, chicken and egg, impossible to untangle no matter how much we might like to," Cox wrote in the Huffington Post in 2015.

“The brutality of Assad, who has killed seven times the number of civilians as ISIS, has helped nurture ISIS and been its main recruiting sergeant. As such, they can only be addressed together as part of a coherent strategy.

“As we know all too well, it is the Assad regime that is primarily responsible for the policy of sustained, systematic starvation of the population of Syria. Of the areas under siege, 52 are under Assad control, two under rebel control and one under ISIS, so let us be clear: he is responsible for 99 per cent of those areas under siege.”

During her time as a politician she re-established and co-chaired the all-party parliamentary group Friends of Syria with Mr Mitchell to promote UK policies aimed at protecting civilians in the conflict zone.

“This is a conflict so horrific that more than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, more than half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes and credible sources estimate the death toll at over 330,000,” she said.

“Therefore, in our view, it is time to get Syria off the ‘too difficult to deal with’ pile and to get back to basics, to see the crisis in Syria as primarily about Syria and Syrians.”

MP’s murder 'deeply affected' the people of Syria

Su Moore, chief executive of the Jo Cox Foundation, told The National the MP's murder had a profound effect on the people of Syria and in the UK many still mourned her death.

“Syria was incredibly important to Jo,” Ms Moore said. “During her time in Parliament she campaigned for Syria, she spoke in an impassioned way about it being one of the major challenges facing our generation and needing to act.

“We still hear from lots of people in Syria who met her and they speak so highly about her and how she touched their lives. They feel she really listened to them and understood them.”

Cox supported the Syria Civil Defence, the rescuers known as the White Helmets, and money raised after her death by the foundation went towards eight ambulances for the group.

Zaki Al Ghazal, advocacy officer at the Syrian Association of Yorkshire, told The National she would never be forgotten.

"On the fifth anniversary of the death of Jo Cox, we commemorate and remember all that she stood for," he said.

"Jo was a particularly strong advocate for the Syrian cause. In a time of increasing isolationism and hostility to those who are deemed to be different, Jo displayed remarkable care and solidarity for the Syrian people.

"The work of Jo Cox benefited Syrians in the UK and in Syria too. She raised awareness of the oppression Syrians felt under the Assad regime and she encouraged the government to take in and protect asylum seekers and refugees who were fleeing the conflict.

"Her support for the White Helmets in Syria has not been forgotten, and she played a huge part in ensuring the public understood the work that they do. Jo has been missed and we hope that others follow the example she has set."

Syrian curator opens exhibition to honour MP’s work

In Manchester, CultureLabs project manager at the People's History Museum, Abir Tobji, who is from Syria, described Cox as her "hero" and to mark the fifth anniversary of her death has opened a year-long exhibition called More in Common: in memory of Jo Cox.

PHM CultureLabs Project Manager Abir Tobji, More in Common - in memory of Jo Cox exhibition at People's History Museum. Photo: People’s History Museum  

On display for the first time since her death is the Jo Cox Memorial Wall, which was erected outside the Houses of Parliament in London in the aftermath of her murder and features hundreds of handwritten tributes.

“Jo’s beliefs and message reach out to everyone and represent the values that she lived by, just as this exhibition is intended to reach out to everyone,” Ms Tobji said.

“Jo’s story joins the stories of individuals who embody her belief in ‘more in common’ and highlights the realities of a diverse world, both from an individual and collective perspective. We hope all of the stories will inspire visitors to gain a greater appreciation of the power of a ‘more in common’ view of the world.”

Jo Cox Memorial Wall, 2016. More in Common - in memory of Jo Cox exhibition at People's History Museum. Photo: People’s History Museum

Ms Tobji told The National that Cox worked tirelessly to protect Syrians.

“During her humanitarian career, Jo witnessed the suffering of people in different areas around the world," she said.

"I believe this gave her a deeper understanding of foreign policy as a politician where we can clearly see her passion in fighting injustice.

"Jo recognised the importance of her role in the House of Commons and acted tirelessly to protect civilians from atrocities in conflicts, rather than simply provide aid for them.

"As a Syrian refugee here in the UK, I’ll never forget Jo’s efforts to launch the all-party parliamentary group Friends of Syria and all her speeches in Parliament to mobilise her fellow MPs to find policy solutions.”

Cox’s sister, Kim Leadbeater ,said her family had released images that would go on display.

“This exhibition is a fantastic way to remember Jo, her life and her work. It has a special resonance as it coincides with the fifth anniversary of Jo being taken from us,” she said.

“As a family we have taken the opportunity to go through the piles of photos and other memories of Jo and many of these will go on display for the first time.

PHM Conservator Kloe Rumsey, More in Common - in memory of Jo Cox exhibition at People's History Museum. Photo: People’s History Museum

“It’s been a bittersweet experience, of course, but we are hugely grateful to everybody at People’s History Museum for their work in putting on what I know will be an amazing and inspirational exhibition.”

The Syria Campaign hopes the exhibition and anniversary will help reinvigorate her legacy.

"When Jo Cox was killed on June 16 the Syrian people – inside and outside the country – lost their most vocal and passionate defender on the international stage," the campaign said.

“It is now down to others to continue her legacy and strive for the protection of civilians everywhere – in Syria and beyond.”