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Thursday, 10 October 2019

Stop forced deportations from Turkey to Syria

Cross-posted from The Syria Campaign.

Arabic version.

Turkish version.

Dear Commissioner Hahn, High Representative Mogherini and High Commissioner Filippo Grandi,

We, the undersigned Syrian and international human rights organizations, are writing to ask you to urge the Turkish authorities not to deport Syrian refugees from Istanbul and other cities to Syria, where they face a real risk of detention, torture, and death.

On 20 August the Istanbul governor's office announced that Syrian refugees in Istanbul who are registered under the country's temporary protection policy in other provinces must return there by 30 October. Turkey's Interior Ministry has also said that unregistered Syrians found in Istanbul will be sent to other as yet unspecified provinces in Turkey. Since late 2017, Istanbul and nine other provinces have stopped registering newly arriving Syrian asylum seekers, forcing many to live in Turkey without a temporary protection permit.

In addition, in recent months, xenophobic sentiment towards Syrian refugees in Turkey has escalated , fueled in part by hostile rhetoric from politicians across the political spectrum who have promised voters to send refugees home.

Since mid-July, activists and human rights organizations have documented many cases in which the authorities have arrested and detained registered Syrian refugees outside their registered province. The arrests have included those traveling from other parts of Turkey to their registered provinces, as well as unregistered Syrians. The authorities have coerced Syrians into signing “voluntary return” documents before deporting them to Syria.

In July and August, 6,160 and 8,901 Syrians — both registered and unregistered — were deported to Syria from Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to the Syrian immigration authorities' website. This is a significant increase compared to previous months and coincides with the July policy change. These figures may also include Syrians intercepted and deported shortly after they crossed into Turkey, a practice that has been going on for a number of years.

Reports from media and activists in touch with our organizations confirm that the Turkish police have beaten detainees, denied them medical care and, in some cases, sent them to Idlib and northern Aleppo, where more than 1,180 civilians have been killed since February 2019, according to the local monitoring organization, the Response Coordination Group.

By deporting refugees and asylum seekers to a war zone or to areas where there is a real risk of persecution, Turkish authorities are in violation of their obligations under international law, and specifically the prohibition on refoulement. The Syrians being sent back not only face being caught up in the offensive in Idlib governorate but are at risk of arrest and torture at the hands of the Syrian government or armed groups.

Syrians we have spoken to describe how afraid they are now in Turkey. They stay at home to avoid arrest, including once they have returned to the cities where they were registered.

In August, the EU announced a further € 127 million to boost its Emergency Social Safety Net program for refugees in Turkey. In total, the EU has pledged € 6 billion in refugee funding to Turkey, while the UNHCR continues to support Syrian refugees in the country.

However, neither the European Commission, EU member states, nor UNHCR have spoken publicly about these deportations, despite the clear risk that large numbers of Syrians in Turkey's cities now face. They should press the Turkish authorities to stop all forced return of Syrians, including an end to coercing Syrians into signing voluntary repatriation forms, and to give those already deported to Syria the option to return to Turkey.

Member states, the European Commission and UNHCR should also commit to increasing their presence in Turkey's removal centers to ensure that Syrians are not coerced into signing voluntary repatriation forms.

If needed, they should support Turkish authorities to register unregistered Syrians and ensure ongoing financial support to Turkey to better protect Syrian refugees.

We also urge EU member states to resettle significant numbers of Syrian refugees from Turkey.


Adopt a Revolution
Cairo Institute for Human Rights
Human Rights Watch
Irish Syria Solidarity Movement
PÊL- Civil Waves Bell - 
Syrian British Council
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression
Syrians for Truth and Justice And Justice
Syrian Network for Human Rights
Syria Solidarity UK
The Syria Campaign
Women Now for Development

Thursday, 3 October 2019

The Syrian Apple: Art by Amany Al-Ali in Lancaster, October 18-29

Rethink Rebuild Society and the Children’s War Museum are presenting an exhibition of art work from Idlib at The Storey gallery in Lancaster from October 18th to October 29th.

The Syrian Apple features art by Amany Al-Ali from Idlib, Syria. Her work reflects the feelings and experiences many Syrians of the journey and the fate of what was once their green revolution.

‘I made sure that I depicted the green apple as complete, healthy and beautiful in all the drawings in order to emphasise that the Syrian Revolution is still strong, alive and beautiful,’ explained Amany. ‘For me, the Syrian Revolution is an idea, and ideas do not die. Ideas cannot be killed or extinguished. An idea may test the patience of those who carry it; it might transform them or make them into heroes as they die for it.’

The exhibition also includes photography by Young Lens, Humans of Syria, and photojournalist Antonio Olmos. Young Lens are a group of young activists who have been recording their experience of the Syrian revolution since 2011. Humans of Syria are creating profiles of some of the thousands of children who have been displaced within Syria. Antonio Olmos documented the Syrian refugee journey across Europe in 2015.

The launch event is at 6.30 pm on Friday October 18th at the lecture theatre, and will include a film of interviews with some of the Syrian refugees who have come to the UK.

Pictured: Illustration by Amany Al-Ali from the latest issue of Syria Notes.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

LCID and SyriaUK call on Diane Abbott to distance herself from pro-Assad atrocity denier

A letter from Labour Campaign for International Development and Syria Solidarity UK to Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, on news that she is to join in the launch of a publication co-authored by David Miller.

Diane Abbott MP
Shadow Home Secretary
House of Commons

5th September 2019

Dear Diane,

We are deeply concerned to learn that you are to take part in the launch of a CAGE publication co-authored by David Miller, a notorious pro-Assad atrocity denier. You previously appeared with him at a ‘Spinwatch’ panel event back on the 26th of March.

David Miller, a professor of political sociology at the University of Bristol, is part of a group that systematically denies high profile Assad regime crimes against civilians in Syria, particularly the Assad regime’s repeated use of chemical weapons. David Miller has also sought to deny Russia’s responsibility for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Labour’s 2017 manifesto, when referring to Syria, committed to work for justice for the victims of war crimes.

As Home Secretary in a future Labour government, you would have responsibility for policy towards Syrian refugees in the UK who are victims of—and witnesses to—the Assad regime’s crimes. Diane Abbott would also have responsibility for the UK’s own investigations into war crimes, currently dealt with by SO15, the Counter Terrorism Command of the Metropolitan Police.

If you associates herself with a committed war crimes denier such as David Miller, this must undermine confidence in the willingness of Labour to work for the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for crimes in Syria, including some of the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity seen this century.

We hope you will reconsider appearing on this panel and be more careful about who you associate yourself with in future given your responsibilities as an MP and as Shadow Home Secretary.

Yours sincerely,

Batool Abdulkareen,
Syria Solidarity UK

Bronwen Griffiths,
Syria Solidarity UK

David Taylor,
Vice-Chair LCID

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Photographers in Idlib

Merna Alhasan talks about a photography exhibition in Idlib.

The exhibition was organised by the Shafak Organisation and sponsored by the Al Karameh Community Centre.

Friday, 9 August 2019

The aftermath of bombing: video by Merna Alhasan

Merna Alhasan, in the town of Arihah, in the Syrian province of Idlib, speaks about the pain of the aftermath of bombing:

“Of course we all experience it, but in the immediate aftermath we don’t feel the full catastrophe that has befallen us. In the immediate aftermath of an airstrike, people are busy praying for those killed, pulling the injured from the ruins, and clearing up the town. But there is greater anguish that affects us after bombardment.

“Here, five people were killed, and many injured, including women and children. It’s not only people’s homes that are deliberately targeted, but also vital institutions and infrastructure. It is an attempt to completely cut the lifelines of towns. It is a policy of systematic destruction to force civilians to flee, targeting rural parts of south and west Idlib, Arihah and other towns. These areas have been under a vicious military campaign by Russian aggressors as well as Assad forces.

“Arihah today is almost empty, no longer the bride of the north, no longer the city of cherry trees. The ground is tinted with blood of the children and women killed.

“We witnessed devastating events. Rawan and her sister, the people who perished here, burned to death, because there was a fuel store here. “Here in the same place we had a local authority department, and a teachers’ union. People have left here now.

“Some will return to this town, to the cities they fled from, but they will find no home, no life. So where can these people go?

“Some people can’t afford to flee. This reflects the general situation of people living in liberated areas.

“But still, some people will return, return to find homes destroyed, their city decimated. So families are forced to leave, or forced to live in a small room, bare, with nothing but a roof, because they want to stay in their home town.

“That is why I wanted to talk about these less obvious effects, far reaching effects of bombing which amount to a humanitarian catastrophe. All that we worked for, that we spent our lives building, is under threat of destruction, of being ground down to the floor by Russian aggressors and Assad forces.

“But I want to send a message: Here in Idlib, there are millions of people, and they have not given up. This is our hope, God willing, that we will win our freedom, despite all the bloodshed, despite all we have sacrificed, and that victory will be with us.”