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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.”

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Les répercussions des bombardements d’Ariha

Merna Alhasan, jeune journaliste syrienne d’Idlib, décrit la douleur ressentie par des civils des répercussions des bombardements depuis la ville d’Ariha, Idlib.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Sanction Putin’s officers. Ground Assad. It CAN be done.

Image from Channel 4 News report on Syrians fleeing the front lines.

Since late April, Russian and Assad regime forces have been relentlessly bombing civilians in northwestern Syria, in Idlib and northern Hama provinces.

From the start, the Russian and Assad regime escalation singled out hospitals as targets for bombing, along with Syria Civil Defence rescue centres, schools, water facilities, bakeries, markets, and agricultural crops.

The UK Government has adopted a line in recent years of saying that it has little leverage. But the UK does have the power to act.

  • Call for the UK to draw a red line on hospital attacks and other attacks on civilian targets.
  • Call for the UK to respond to hospital bombings as it does to chemical attacks.
  • Call for the UK to sanction Putin’s officers with command responsibility for crimes in Syria.
  • Call for the UK to ground Assad’s air force—responsible for both chemical attacks and hospital bombings.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports 606 civilians killed by Russian and Assad regime forces from 26 April to 12 July 2019, including 157 children.

From the start, the Russian and Assad regime escalation singled out hospitals and Syria Civil Defence rescue centres as targets.

The Syrian Archive has posted open source investigations into two hospital bombings in particular, the 5 May 2019 bombing of Nabed Al Hayat Hospital in Hass Town in Idlib, and the bombing of Kafranbel surgical hospital the same day.

These reports are a small sample from a campaign which has seen at least 32 medical facilities bombed from 28 April to 10 July 2019, according to UOSSM, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations.

In recent days, Channel 4 News has broadcast evidence of an apparently deliberately targeted attack on White Helmets rescuers as they were trying to save lives.

Channel 4 has also broadcast reporting on the Assad regime’s targeting of farmers and deliberate destruction of crops.

Why do Assad and Putin target hospitals, rescue workers, and even farmers? The answer is that these attacks are part of the same strategy as the chemical attacks and starvation sieges seen earlier in Assad’s war on Syria’s civilians. The aim is to make life unliveable in areas outside regime control, to force the population to either submit or flee.

And hundreds of thousands have fled, sheltering as close to the Turkish border as they can. An unknown number succeed in crossing the border, despite Turkey’s wall and armed patrols. UN OCHA reports 330,000 people internally displaced in these last two and a half months.

Once again, a report from Channel 4 News gives a clear picture of the situation amongst Syrians who have fled to the border.

Despite all the evidence, there are no EU or UK sanctions for Russian crimes in Syria. But the UK has the means to gather evidence of Russian attacks, and to identify officers in the chain of command. And the UK has the means to impose its own sanctions even if other EU states won’t agree.

UK action on chemical weapons shows that the UK can deter crimes by the Assad regime, Now the UK also needs to set a red line on hospital attacks and other attacks on civilian targets.

We saw the cost of failing to act in 2012 and 2013. UK leaders now again have a choice: allow this suffering to go on, once again escalating the refugee crisis, or act at last to protect civilians.

Sanction Putin’s officers.

Ground Assad.

It CAN be done.