Monday, 26 September 2016

Five weapons Putin and Assad are using in Aleppo


Photo: Injured being treated in Aleppo, 25 September 2016, via @HadiAlabdallah.

From a call with Aleppo local council yesterday

SyriaUK: How are you?

Aleppo Council: This situation is the worst we have ever seen, a never ending nightmare, shelling is non-stop throughout the night when there’s no electricity or lights, people are unable to sleep. We also get shelled in the day, but less frequently.

The bunker buster missiles used are causing massive shock waves; some buildings are collapsing without being targeted due to the effects of shock waves. These missiles are particularly designed to target underground shelters, so people have nowhere to hide. We woke up yesterday to a building that fell purely because of shock waves, forty people died.

To make matters worse, we are under siege, the markets are empty and we have nothing at all.

How can we help? What would you like us to do?

The whole world knows about what is going on in Aleppo, it is no secret. There was a special UN session about Aleppo today and world leaders kept rehashing the same lines. We know they do not care and will do nothing, but maybe if the general public are aware they would pressure their governments to do something. Make them aware how many types of bombs and missiles are being used against us. We are being shelled with five different types of bombs and missiles: napalm; phosphorous; cluster; barrel bombs; and bunker buster bombs.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

How to respond to Monday’s bombing of a Red Crescent aid convoy

SYRIAN GROUPS IN THE UK CALL FOR AIRCRAFT TRACKING, AIRDROPS, AND A NO-BOMBING ZONE

On Monday night an air attack by pro Assad forces destroyed a Red Crescent aid convoy and killed at least 12 people including Omar Barakat, Red Crescent director in Orem al-Kubra, Aleppo province.

The convoy had travelled from regime held territory into opposition territory so was known to the regime. A video released by the Russian Ministry of Defence prior to the attack appears to show that the aid convoy was under Russian drone surveillance at some point before it was hit by an airstrike.

Both Russia and the Assad regime have denied responsibility.

Today, Tuesday, the United Nations suspended all aid convoys across Syria, including to Madaya which has been denied food and medical aid for months, and is suffering an outbreak of meningitis.

Also on Monday, Assad regime 4th Division forces at checkpoints were accused of spoiling food aid for the besieged town of Moadamiyeh.

Monday’s aid delivery to besieged Talbiseh was followed by pro Assad air attacks that killed at least three people and injured fifteen.

The only area to receive UN aid today Tuesday was regime-held Deir Ezzor by World Food Programme airdrop. Deir Ezzor has received regular airdrops for months now (107 WFP airdrops up to 31 August) while no opposition held area has received a single one despite a UK-proposed and ISSG-agreed deadline of 1 June for airdrops and air bridges to several besieged communities.

The events around yesterday’s aid convoy bombing show the need for aircraft tracking, airdrops, and a no-bombing zone in Syria.

ON AIRCRAFT TRACKING, we have recently been briefing Foreign Office and DfID officials on this option. The UK has the ability to track flights from Assad regime and Russian air bases in Syria at a distance of 400 km. Tracking and publicly reporting aircraft responsible for attacks on civilians would begin to bring a measure of accountability for breaches of UN resolutions, and would help identify command responsibility for potential war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The need for this is clearly illustrated by Russian and Assad regime denials over yesterday’s aid convoy bombing.

ON AIRDROPS, the UK has the experience and the capacity to airdrop food and medical aid to besieged communities from its bases in Cyprus. The UK has the military might to deter attacks on its aircraft. Suitable partners on the ground are available through UOSSM, Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, and others to coordinate drop zones and aid distribution.

ON A NO-BOMBING ZONE, it is approaching a year now since Jo Cox set out the case in Parliament for ‘deterring the indiscriminate aerial bombardment of civilians in Syria through the willingness to consider the prudent and limited use of force.’

A no-bombing zone does not require boots on the ground; does not require air patrols in Syrian airspace; does not require bombing Syrian air defences; does not require coming into armed conflict with Russia.

A no-bombing zone requires giving the Assad regime an ultimatum to stop air attacks against civilians, and then answering any subsequent air attacks with carefully targeted strikes against Assad regime military assets. It is a measured, proportionate proposal to save countless lives and open the door to peace.

We have heard the ‘no military solution’ mantra repeated about Syria for over five years. We need a political solution, but diplomacy without pressure has failed again and again to deliver a political solution, and all that time the Assad regime backed by Russia has continued military action against Syria’s civilian population, driving people to flee and destroying any hope for an inclusive political settlement.

It is time to learn from over five years of failure and act to end the killing in Syria.

Signatories
Syria Solidarity UK
Rethink Rebuild Society
Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Kurds House


LINKS

UN Aid Convoy Hit By Airstrike, Head Of Syrian Red Crescent Killed; Drone Footage Shows Convoy Before Attack

UN suspends aid convoys in Syria after hit, ICRC warns on impact

Homs: 15 killed, wounded in regime air strikes on Talbiseh

Syrian Arab Republic - 2016 UN Inter-Agency Operations as of 31 August 2016 (PDF)
Showing 107 World Food Programme airdrops to regime held Deir Ezzor and 82 World Food Programme airlifts to Quamishli, and zero airdrops or airlifts to opposition held areas under siege.

House of Commons adjournment debate on civilians in Syria, 12 October 2015


AIRCRAFT TRACKING



The UK has the ability to track flights from Assad regime and Russian air bases in Syria at a distance of 400 km. Tracking and publicly reporting aircraft responsible for attacks on civilians would begin to bring a measure of accountability for breaches of UN resolutions, and would help identify command responsibility for potential war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Read more (PDF)

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Syria groups on ‘the ignorant’ Simon Jenkins



Water bottles tied to roses and notes, distributed by Daraya protesters in 2011.


A letter in response to a Guardian column by Simon Jenkins.

Media coverage of the conflict in Syria has been generally poor, but Simon Jenkins has crossed the line between poor analysis and outright offensiveness.

The article displays all the usual signs of somebody who knows little or nothing about Syria, but nonetheless has an axe to grind or a pre-existing theory to apply. Discussing the Middle East as if the only things that mattered were the invasion of Iraq and ancient sectarianism remains the go-to approach for the ill-informed would-be expert. It’s impressive, in a sense, that Jenkins has managed to write as though Western countries, whose responsibilities to protect have been called on and ignored, are the cause of everything, whereas Russian imperialism and Hezbollah death squads are a sort of optional add-on.

Where Jenkins surpasses the usual low standard of analysis is in his assertion that Syrians aren’t ready for democracy. He probably isn't aware, but the day the Guardian published his piece, the town of Daraya fell to Assadist forces. In 2011, the people of Daraya rose up in peaceful protest, calling for democracy and human rights, and were met with massacre. For four years they have been subjected to a starvation siege, barrel bombs and napalm, and they have resisted. In the midst of this they have organised their community democratically, and have been a symbol of the Syrian dream of freedom. How dare Jenkins speak of this heroic resistance in this way?

Jenkins says that a thousand years of tyranny are better than a day of anarchy. It seems unlikely that Jenkins would make such a comment about white Europeans.

Syria today suffers from tyranny and anarchy at the hands of the Assad regime. There are a great many Syrians who would give anything for the sort of comfort in which such flippant comments about tyranny can be made.

If Jenkins doesn’t know anything about Syria—and he doesn’t—he shouldn't write about it. Syrians could do without the condescension of the ignorant.

Signed

George Morris, Rethink Rebuild Society
Dr Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House
Dr Bachar Hakim, Syrian Society of Nottinghamshire
Abdullah Allabwani, Oxford Solidarity for Syria
Dr Mohammad Isreb, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Mazen Ebjaei, Help 4Syria
Dr Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria
Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society
Clara Connolly, Syria Solidarity UK
Dr Fadel Moghrabi, Peace & Justice for Syria
Dr Abdullah Hanoun, Syrian Community of the South West
Reem Assil, Syrian Platform for Peace

A statement regarding the forced evacuation of the people of Daraya



Following the forced evacuation of the people of Daraya, the Local Council of Daraya has announced the following demands.  Together for Syria calls on the UK government and international community to support and implement these demands:

  • Protect the civilians from Daraya wherever they are, whether forced to other besieged areas, or to the opposition held areas in the north that are under regime and Russian bombardment, or to the closed border with Jordan, or to the refugee camps of the region, or to the sea crossing to Europe.

  • Uphold the rights of the people of Daraya to their land and property. Set in operation a process to return the people to Daraya through political and legal means.

  • Break the sieges: redeem the broken promise on airlifts and airdrops to all remaining besieged areas.

  • Call on the UN to put its warehouses where they are needed: in the besieged areas.

  • Call on the UN to put their administrative hubs where they are needed: in the besieged areas, not the Four Seasons Hotel.

  • Call on governments to refuse UN agencies money to pay organisations run by regime members under EU sanctions.‏


Together for Syria signatories:

Help4Syria
Peace and Justice for Syria
Rethink Rebuild, Manchester
Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Syrian Platform for Peace
Syrian Society of Nottinghamshire
Syria Solidarity UK
Syrian Welsh Society


About Daraya—a town of fierce hope, whose betrayal is a lesson we must learn from.

Daraya has been a town of fierce hope and inspiration for four years, embodying the values of the Syrian revolution.

In 2011 the people of Daraya took to the streets to demand democracy and freedom from the oppressive dictatorship of Assad. In their hands they carried flowers, yet their peaceful demands were met with bullets. In late 2012 the Assad regime placed Daraya under siege.

For four years the town has defied brutal repression to establish a democratic, pluralist community, upholding the values of the revolution. The town has been democratically governed by an elected local council, who ran services including education, agricultural cultivation, a field hospital, and a public kitchen. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel fighters in Daraya were also subject to the control of this elected body. Freedom of expression has flourished, with dozens of radio stations and free newspapers discussing democracy, non violence and women’s rights. This in a country where voices have long been silenced, through the threat of torture, rape and arbitrary detention.

Daraya exposes the myths that have been cultivated about Syria, in the media and political spheres, that there is no alternative between dictatorship or DAESH.

The betrayal of Daraya by the international community is a potent symbol of the betrayal of the revolution and the lack of international will to do anything concrete to protect civilians.

Time and again the international community has failed to respond to the pleas of the people of Daraya for support and protection:

In late 2011 peace activist Ghiyath Matar was tortured to death by the regime for giving flowers and water to government soldiers. His detention received international attention, his funeral was attended by the US ambassador among others, yet no action was taken to save him and other political prisoners.

On 20-25 of August 2012, over 500 citizens of Daraya, men, women and children as young as eight were murdered in cold blood by Assad regime’s troops and pro regime militias. This was widely reported in the international press but the international community chose not to investigate this genocidal act. (1)

UN plans to deliver humanitarian aid have never been backed by real pressure on the regime, despite the existence of several UN Security Council resolutions demanding that they allow entry. This has amounted to collusion with the Assad regime's nationwide ‘kneel or starve’ strategy. The sole delivery of food from agencies to reach Daraya arrived on June 9 this year. It lasted less than one month and no further deliveries were made. This is how, although just ten miles from UN warehouses, residents of Daraya lived on the brink of starvation, subsisting on one meal a day. Grass soup became a common meal for the children of Daraya.

International measures to save Daraya from its suffering were not taken. The UK cross party call coordinated by the late Jo Cox MP for no bombing zones and humanitarian aid-drops by the RAF to besieged civilians failed, as it was not supported by the leadership of the main UK parties.

Daraya like other rebel held areas has been relentlessly bombed by the Assad regime and its Russian allies, with over 9000 barrel bombs dropped indiscriminately on the town. August 2016 saw the napalming of the town’s last hospital. The women of Daraya repeatedly made public calls for international protection, most recently on the 23 August. Once again their request went unheard. (2)

Daraya is not just a place, the values and ideas that it embodied can not be killed.

Daraya was a town where democracy and pluralism flourished against all the odds. As the fighters and civilians have left, forced out by Assad’s regime, the values and ideas of the revolution and the experience of those that lived them will endure. They are carried with them and by all who choose to support the values of the Syrian Revolution, of democracy, peace and freedom of expression for all Syrians.

________________________________

(1) Contemporary reports of the Daraya massacre:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/aug/28/syria-worst-massacre-daraya-death-toll-400

US Department of Human Rights, 2012 report, page 3:
http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/204595.pdf
Figure quoted came from local testimony.

(2) On napalm and starvation: an open letter to the world from the women of Daraya, 23 August, 2016:
http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/open-letter-women-daraya-syria-napalm-1593121734


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A statement in response to the recent attacks on Michael Weiss

The recent dishonest attacks on Michael Weiss are symptomatic of an ugly failure in political responses to the Syrian slaughter. We have seen a popular revolt by the Syrian people ignored, shunned, distorted, and denied. We have seen a widespread betrayal of professed principles by figures who on other causes speak loudly of solidarity, who lay claim to the inheritance of past struggles for liberty, and who present themselves as being at the forefront of today's struggles against injustice.

Michael Weiss has been a stalwart supporter of the Syrian cause through his vital journalism and analysis. Michael wrote of, spoke up for, and firmly stood by the Syrian people. He did this when others turned a blind eye, or even worse, betrayed Syrians suffering genocidal attacks by the Assad regime and its allies.

The personal attack on Michael cannot be understood if analysed as a single incident. Sadly, it is part of a series of attacks on supporters of the Syrian people, such as the recent attacks from both left and right on the Jo Cox Fund for its support of the White Helmets, the rescue volunteers of Syria Civil Defence.

This political failure seen across left and right reflects a failure of society to recognise and respond to human suffering. In the face of such cruelty we will treasure our friends all the more.


Syria Solidarity UK