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Posted on Sep 4, 2013

Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)

Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)


The Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) was founded shortly after the end of the 1967 Six Day War to promote good relations between Britain and the Arab world.[1] To this end, it has been involved in organising parliamentary delegations to and from Syria by British and Syrian MPs.[2] [3] CAABU’s Director is Chris Doyle.[4]

Through Chris Doyle’s wife, Rim Turkmani, and CAABU’s former Vice-Chairman Shaza Shannan, CAABU was until recently affiliated with the British Syrian Society (BSS), established in 2003 and run by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s father-in-law, Fawaz Akhras (whom Doyle has described as “a pretty decent man”).[5] Akhras is considered to be one of Assad’s confidantes, and even advised him on how to improve the regime’s image in the eyes of the West while its armed forces murdered protesters on the streets.[6] Turkmani and Shannan were both formerly senior officials at the BSS, whose events CAABU, at one point, helped to publicise.[7]

Since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising and its brutal suppression by Assad’s forces, Doyle has sought to distance CAABU from the BSS and to reinvent himself as an opponent of the regime. Although Doyle continues to oppose any form of Western intervention in Syria,[8] he has written favourably of a Syrian opposition group, known as Building the Syrian State,[9] which was co-founded by his wife[10] in September 2011.[11]

Building the Syrian State is highly suspect for three reasons. Firstly, it is one of the only opposition groups which still rejects foreign intervention and armed resistance against the regime.[12] Secondly, its co-founder and leader, Louay Hussein, was the organiser and chairman of a regime-sponsored “opposition” conference that took place in Damascus in July 2011;[13] has met with the Syrian Vice-President[14] and one of the President’s advisers;[15] and was a signatory to a “roadmap” for a democratic transition that would leave Assad in power.[16] Thirdly, a leaked email from 2008 reveals that, just three years before co-founding the group, Rim Turkmani had “no interest in the subject” of ethnic cleansing by the Assad regime.[17]

Turkmani, along with husband Chris Doyle, is also a trustee of the Damask Rose Trust,[18] whose accounts note “a significant core cost donation from Gulfsands Petroleum PLC that enables the Trust to progress its ongoing development.”[19] Gulfsands is a British oil company which, until recently, generated more than 85% of its revenues from Syria,[20] and was part owned by Assad’s notoriously corrupt cousin, Rami Makhlouf, who controls as much as 60% of the Syrian economy and is on the US and EU sanctions blacklist.[21] In the same year that Gulfsands succumbed to economic pressure and ceased production in Syria,[22] the Damask Rose Trust’s annual income dropped from more than £51,000 to just £921.[23]

Soon afterwards, in February 2012, CAABU announced an “emergency funding drive”, warning that, “if we do not raise substantial funds, CAABU will have to close its office at the end of May.”[24]


















[18] See charity profile on





[23] See charity profile on


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