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Thursday, 30 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about crime.


A woman reacts as she looks at the images of dead bodies at the UN headquarters in New York. Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters.

Some of the best-known images of crimes in Syria’s war are those from the staged executions by ISIS, costumed and choreographed for presentation on social media. Assad’s killings of prisoners have had less of a media profile, and were not intended to be publicised. Nevertheless they were also documented, the bodies photographed in their thousands by Assad’s security forces.

In March an exhibition at UN headquarters in New York showed 30 of those photographs. From Raya Jalabi’s report for The Guardian:
The photographs were part of a cache of 55,000 smuggled out of Syria on flash drives last year by “Caesar”, the code name given to a former Syrian military photographer who defected. Caesar had been tasked with taking pictures of the corpses of those who died inside facilities run by the Assad regime. The thousands of images were taken between 2011 and 2013, and according to forensic analysis depict 11,000 deaths. Caesar and his team recently began posting photos from the cache of victims’ faces on Facebook, to help families and prosecutors identify their missing relatives.

Photographs from the collection have also been shown at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Read and watch the BBC’s Kim Ghattas report on the exhibition:
“Showing the pictures is part of our mission to show that genocide didn’t end with the Holocaust. This is not just a 20th Century problem, it’s a 21st Century problem,” said Cameron Hudson, the director of the museum’s center for the prevention of genocide. He described the pictures as more extreme than anything else shown at the museum.

International war crimes scholar Cherif Bassiouni, who helped create the International Criminal Court, talked to Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast about what the photos show:
“What I see in the pictures is to a large extent an anomaly to the culture of the Syrian army. The way these pictures were taken show a great deal of systematicity, reflecting a culture that is systematic in its approach. This culture, in my opinion, is more reflected in Russia,” he said. “What you see in Russian bureaucracy today, particularly in the successor to the KGB and military, is really no different than what existed in the USSR. The people haven’t changed and their methods haven’t changed.”

Regime torture was the catalyst that triggered the Syrian uprising, after the arrests and abuse of 15 children in Daraa for writing anti-regime graffiti. Some of the earliest photos in the Caesar cache are of two other children from Daraa, 13 year old Hamza al-Khatib and 15 year old Thamer al-Sharei, tortured to death in the first months of protests. The photos are gruesome and disturbing.

In May of last year, a draft UN Security Council resolution sought to give the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over crimes by all parties in Syria’s war. It was vetoed by the governments of Russia and China.

The Caesar photographs documented 11,000 victims killed. We can’t know how many more have died in Assad’s jails. Many more tens of thousands remain imprisoned or missing.

Our leaders have tried to take some action, but it hasn’t been near enough. We cannot feel comfortable in a world where people, adults and children, are so dreadfully abused. We cannot feel safe in a world where criminals are left free to deliberately torture and kill on such a scale.

Who is next?

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Let’s talk about... Syria


Call from Syria. Outside the BBC, London, 26 April 2015.

In this UK election, let’s talk about housing.

Let’s talk about the houses destroyed by Assad’s barrel bombs. Let’s talk about neighbourhoods destroyed, about cities under siege.

In this UK election, let’s talk about healthcare.

Let’s talk about hospitals bombed by Assad’s air force. Let’s talk about health workers targeted and killed.

In this UK election, let’s talk about education. Let’s talk about attacks on schools. Let’s talk about children who have seen their classmates, their teachers, ripped to pieces by Assad’s bombs.

In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services.

Let’s talk about refugees drowning. Yes, this at least we’ve started to talk about. But instead of blaming people smugglers, a symptom not a cause, let’s talk about what it is these people are fleeing.

Over a third of the people fleeing across the Mediterranean are Syrians. They are—most of them— fleeing Assad’s violence. The Assad regime is responsible for over 95% of civilians killed.

Syrian civilians are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

People say, what about ISIS? People say, better the devil you know. But in this case, the devil you know raised the devil you don’t know. Assad has supported ISIS financially. Assad has supported ISIS militarily. Assad has raised and fed ISIS. To get rid of ISIS, stop Assad.

Stop Assad killing civilians. Stop Assad spreading chaos.

Protect civilians. No-Fly Zone for Syria.

Links

A Manifesto for Syria.

More “Let’s talk about” posts.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Resettlement pledge campaign update

Syria Solidarity UK is supporting a campaign initiated by Citizens UK to persuade councils to pledge support for the resettlement of more Syrian refugees.

Amongst those that have already made pledges are Birmingham City Council and the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames. Read more from Citizens UK.

Avaaz are now also backing the Citizens UK campaign. Read more from Avaaz.

Here is our draft letter for sending to local councils:

To:
• • • • • [Leader of the Council or similar]
• • • • •
• • • • •

February 2014

Dear • • • • •,

Call for a [• • • • • Name of Council/Local Authority] pledge to resettle 50 Syrian refugees

We are writing in support of an initiative on Syrian refugees begun by Citizens UK.

Councils across the UK are being asked to pledge just 50 places each for the resettlement of Syrian refugees, with the goal of gaining pledges from at least 50 councils. This would amount to pledges to relocate 2,500 vulnerable Syrian refugees across the UK.

These pledges will be presented to central government to persuade them to increase the number of vulnerable Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the UK.

We call on [• • • • • Council/Local Authority] to play its part by pledging to resettle 50 Syrian refugees.

With the number of registered Syrian refugees now over 3.7 million, mostly in neighbouring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, UNHCR has called on governments around the world to provide resettlement for 130,000 of the most vulnerable by the end of 2016. These most vulnerable refugees considered in need of resettlement are survivors of torture, people with acute medical needs, or women alone or otherwise vulnerable.

The UK has so far resettled 143 through its Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, as of February 2015.

As European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (formerly European Refugee Fund) support would be available for housing, health, and education, we see no reason why the Council should not join those pledging places. The current refugee crisis is the worst since the Second World War, so the need is very great; this is a small and simple step to help move policy forward and enable the UK to play its part.

We would like to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this further.


Yours sincerely,

[• • • • • Main signatories, addresses in Local Authority area]

With the support of:

[ • • • • • Additional signatories, addresses in Local Authority area]


Here are two information sheets produced by Citizens UK:



Further reading:

In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services.

A manifesto for Syria: Syrian refugees welcome here

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Stop the War Coalition demands silence on Syria – UPDATED



UPDATE: A message from MAX re April 25th Migrant Lives Matter demonstration

Yesterday, Saturday 25 April, Syria Solidarity Movement UK joined with other groups at the Migrant Lives Matter protest to call for action on the Mediterranean crisis. Because of objections by Stop the War Coalition, the representative of Syria Solidarity Movement UK was prevented from saying these words at the demonstration:

The Syrian people are suffering terribly.

They’ve had four years of brutal war by the Assad's regime, armed by Russia, bankrolled by Iran, bombing cities and towns every single day for the last three years.

To give you an idea of the scale of the assault, since the start of April there have been 700 air strikes on Idlib province alone, and Aleppo has now got the dubious honour of being the most bombed city since World War Two.

There are 12 million Syrians in need of urgent aid, 8 million are internally displaced, 4.5 million are refugees overseas.

And Britain has only committed to taking 750 refugees per year.

And only 143 have been taken in in the last 18 months.

This is in comparison to 2,500 in Norway, 30,000 in Germany, and nothing compared to the 1.5 million in Turkey and 1 million in Lebanon.

We're campaigning for an expansion of the vulnerable persons relocation scheme, to restart the rescue missions and create safe routes for Refugees from Southern Europe to Northern Europe. The burden for taking refugees shouldn't fall on Greece and Italy, it should be spread across the whole of Europe.

There are practical things we can do to help Syrians. Citizens UK is campaigning for 50 councils to accept 50 refugees each, there is a draft letter on our website, send it to your council, arrange a meeting with them and lobby them to take 50 refugees. There are 4 councils signed up so far. We want to get 200 councils, not just 50, to take refugees, and rescue Syrian refugees from the terrible conditions they are enduring at the moment.

Thank you, and victory to the Syrian Revolution.

Below: Leaflet distributed by Syria Solidarity Movement UK at the protest. PDF file here.



Links:

Syrian Refugee Campaign Briefing

In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services.

A manifesto for Syria: Syrian refugees welcome here



UPDATE 15 May 2015: We are very pleased to have received the following positive message from Movement Against Xenophobia, organisers of the Migrant Lives Matter demonstration, and we look forward to continuing our support for their vital work.

Apology from MAX re April 25th Migrant Lives Matter demonstration

Dear colleagues at the Syria Solidarity Movement

I am writing on behalf of the MAX’ steering group to offer our sincere apologies for the inappropriate action by a staff from one of the member organisations, which led to excluding your speaker from contributing at the April 25th's Migrant Lives Matter demonstration.

Our meeting in London last night introduced new measures to prevent such unfortunate situation from arising in the future.

MAX has and will continue to support the work of Syria Solidarity Movement.

Nazek Ramadan
Chair at the MAX meeting May 14th (MAX’s meetings are chaired on a rotational basis)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about emergency services.


Rescued in in the Aegean Sea, September 6, 2014. Photo: Coast Guard Aegean Sea Region Command.

With a death toll close to that of the Titanic sinking, a week of disasters in the Mediterranean has forced UK and EU leaders to pay attention to the failure of their brutal policy of withdrawing rescue services.
The UK Government can and should also act immediately to fund initiatives such as the joint MSF/MOAS rescue mission.

These disasters have made clear what is necessary. Still there are attempts by UK and EU leaders to displace responsibility, to distract from the primary causes and thus avoid effective action.

This exodus is not caused by “human traffickers”, it’s caused primarily by war. The term “human traffickers” is misleading, conflating people-smuggling with enslavement. Those fleeing across the Mediterranean, while they may be exploited by boat owners, are not enslaved by them. They have not been kidnapped and sold into bondage, but have for the most part made a rational choice between trying to survive war, and trying to survive the sea.

Attacking smugglers is no more a good answer than withdrawing rescue services was.

It’s not that long ago that some Europeans were charging other Europeans who were fleeing genocide enormous sums of money to make an escape by sea. For example Denmark proudly remembers 1943, when almost all of Denmark’s Jews escaped the Holocaust with the help of their fellow citizens. Less emphasis is placed on the fact that many were charged amounts equivalent of up to £5,500 for places on boats making the relatively short crossing to safety in Sweden.

Where there is desperation there will be exploitation, so tackle the reasons for the desperation to stop the exploitation.


Another diversion in some responses to the Mediterranean crisis has been to blame the deaths on NATO’s intervention in Libya.

But note that Libyans themselves are barely represented amongst those fleeing. Syrians make up over a third of those entering the EU irregularly according to figures from Frontex, the EU’s border agency. The next largest national group are people from Eritrea. 67,000 Syrians sought asylum in Europe last year, most arriving by sea.

In contrast UNHCR figures show the current total of Libyan refugees and asylum seekers at under 6,000 worldwide—though the number seeking refuge abroad may yet rise significantly as UNHCR believe up to 400,000 Libyans are internally displaced.

The true role of Libya in the Mediterranean crisis is as a place of transit, though it is far from being the only one. Sailing from Libya has become easier since the fall of the Gaddafi dictatorship. Previously a deal between Italy and Libya resulted in the regime acting as Europe’s outsourced border guards, locking up people trying to flee on boats. Here’s a description from a 2010 report by PRI’s The World, describing the experiences of Daoud from Somalia:
Daoud tried to make the trip north aboard a smuggling vessel, but he was arrested as he tried to board, and sent to a prison in Tripoli, where he became seriously ill.

“I believe it used to be a chemical plant because all of us had skin rashes and the Libyan prison guards used to beat us at least twice a day,” Daoud said. “And that’s what created and forced us to break out of jail. My intention was just to get out of Libya and head to the seas and to see where my luck takes me.”

Daoud alleges that his dark skin color had a lot to do with how he was treated in Libya: “They directly called me a slave. So, it was horrible. They will tell you in your face.”

Jean-Philippe Chauzy is director of communications for the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. He’s traveled frequently to Libya, and said Daoud’s story is shared by many migrants there.
Daoud’s experience shows why this policy was morally unsustainable. The collapse of Gaddafi’s regime showed it was also practically unsustainable. Had NATO not intervened to protect civilians there, the likely result would not have been a more stable Libya, but a longer and more bloody revolution as we’ve seen in Syria, with many more desperate people fleeing to Europe’s shores.

Links:

The 900 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean were killed by British government policy, by Dan Hodges, The Telegraph, 20 April 2015.

Mediterranean migrant deaths: where British parties stand, Channel 4 News, 15 April 2015.

UK Election Notes: Foreign Policy Opportunities – Resettling Syrian Refugees, by Dr Neil Quilliam, Chatham House, 10 April 2015.

Restart the Rescue: Help stop children drowning in the Mediterranean, campaign by Save the Children.


Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



Sunday, 19 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about education.


Above: From a Syria Civil Defence video of a bombed elementary school in Aleppo city, 12 April 2015. At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded. Via EA WorldView.

Schools in opposition-held territory in Aleppo shut for at least a week following the deaths of at least five children in the April 12 air attack pictured above. See Syria Deeply and EA WorldView for more.

An overview of the war’s impact on education within Syria:
Education is in a state of collapse with half (50.8 per cent) of all school-age children no longer attending school during 2014- 2015, with almost half of all children already losing three years of schooling. There is a wide disparity in school attendance rates across the country as the conflict is creating inequality in educational opportunities. The conflict has generated increasing inequality between the different regions, while the quality of education also deteriorated. The loss of schooling by the end of 2014 represents a human capital debit of 7.4 million lost years of schooling, which represents a deficit of USD 5.1 billion in human capital investment in the education of school children.
From a UN-published report, Syria: Alienation and Violence, Impact of the Syria Crisis (PDF), March 2015.

Save The Children report that:
  • Basic education enrolment in Syria has fallen from close to 100% to an average of 50%.
  • In areas like Aleppo which has seen active conflict for a prolonged period, that is closer to 6%.
  • At least a quarter of schools have been damaged or destroyed.
  • Almost three million Syrian children are out of school.
  • In 2014, half of refugee children were not receiving any form of education.
  • Education programmes are underfunded by almost 50%.
From The Cost of War: Calculating the impact of the collapse of Syria’s education system on Syria’s future (PDF), March 2015.

There is also an education crisis for children who have escaped Syria’s dangers. According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 400,000 out-of-school Syrian children in Lebanon. For The Guardian, Maggie Tookey describes the difficulty of supporting education for refugee children in Arsal, on Lebanon’s border with Syria. And at Syria Deeply, Lamia Nahhas talks of the difficulties in establishing and sustaining schools for refugees in Al-Rihaniyeh, Turkey, and for internally displaced children in the Atmeh camp on the Syrian side of the border.

Lastly, have a look at these descriptions by Robin Yassin-Kassab and blogger Maysaloon of working on Zeitouna education projects for Syrian refugee children.

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



Thursday, 16 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about healthcare.


Aftermath of regime attack on the Hilal Hospital belonging to the Syrian Red Crescent in the city of Idlib,  March 29, 2015. Photo by Firas Taki/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

In Syria, healthcare personnel, medical facilities, and ambulances are deliberately and routinely targeted as part of the military strategy of the Syrian government, according to a recent report by the Syrian American Medical Society.

At least 610 medical personnel have been killed, and there have been 233 deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on 183 medical facilities. The Syrian government is responsible for 88 percent of hospital attacks recorded by Physicians for Human Rights, and 97 percent of medical personnel killings, with 139 deaths directly attributed to torture or execution.

For people in Syria, life expectancy at birth has plunged from 75.9 years in 2010 to an estimated 55.7 years at the end of 2014, reducing longevity and life expectancy by 27 per cent, according to a March 2015 UN report.

Restoring healthcare in Syria depends on ending the worst of the violence. Dr Samer Attar wrote recently recently in the Wall Street Journal of his experiences as a volunteer surgeon in Aleppo, saying “no amount of humanitarian aid will offset the systematic and sustained slaughter of civilians.”
Ask any doctor in Aleppo how to help them save lives and their first response is not more aid. They all say the same thing: “Stop the barrel bombs.” A year ago, I asked a doctor there what he would need if the bombings didn’t stop. “More body bags,” he said.

Reports:

Syria: From bad to worse, by Aitor Zabalgogeazkoa, Head of Mission of the MSF team in Aleppo in 2014, MSF—Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders 7 January 2015.

Syrian Medical Voices from the Ground: The Ordeal of Syria’s Healthcare Professionals, February 2015 report(PDF) by the Syrian American Medical Society.

‘If the medics leave, the civilians will die’ – a UK doctor’s story from Syria, by Aisha Gani, The Guardian, 12 March 2015.

Syria: In a besieged hospital, sleeping and resting were an impossible luxury, by Dr. S, a young surgeon in a makeshift hospital east of Damascus, MSF—Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, 13 March 2015.

Syria field post: ‘I had to do procedures I’d never seen. YouTube helped a lot’, by Lubna Takruri, The Guardian 16 March 2015.

Doctors in the Crosshairs: Four Years of Attacks on Health Care in Syria, Physicians for Human Rights report, March 2015.

Syria: Alienation and Violence, Impact of the Syria Crisis (PDF) by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR), UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), March 2015.

Aleppo Diary: The Carnage From Syrian Barrel Bombs, by Samer Attar, Wall Street Journal, 12 April 2015.


Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



Wednesday, 15 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about housing.


Damaged buildings in Jouret al-Shayah, Homs, Syria, on February 2, 2013. Photo by Yazen Homsy/Reuters.

The city of Homs, pictured above, has seen some of the worst physical destruction of the past four years, but it is not alone. A March 2015 UN report used satellite imagery to record tens of thousands of homes damaged or destroyed across Syria. Some were hit by shelling or air attacks, others were levelled when the Assad regime demolished entire neighbourhoods considered sympathetic to the opposition. As thousands of families were driven from their homes, satellite photos also recorded the growth of refugee camps in surrounding countries. Mass graves of many of those who didn’t escape were also recorded in satellite images.

Full report: Four Years of Human Suffering: The Syria conflict as observed through satellite imagery (PDF) By UNITAR/UNOSAT, March 2015.

Report excerpts: A bird’s-eye view of war-torn Syria, Washington Post, 20 March 2015.

Over half of Syria’s population have been displaced. Over 4 million refugees have fled the country, over 3.9 million of them to neighbouring countries. In the space of a year, Zaatari camp in Jordan became the world’s second largest refugee camp and Jordan’s fourth largest city. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is equal to at least a quarter of Lebanon’s population prior to the crisis.

António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, says one-tenth of Syrian refugees require resettlement, but for now UNHCR have called on governments to provide places for 130,000 of the most vulnerable people. To date less than 85,000 resettlement places have been confirmed. Norway has pledged to resettle 2,500, Sweden 2,700, and Germany has pledged places for 30,000.

The UK resettled just 143 people up to February of this year.


Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



In this UK election, let’s talk about our shared history.


Photo: Firemen at work in bomb damaged street in London, after Saturday night raid, circa 1941. Source: US National Archives.

Over 67,000 British civilians were killed in the Second World War. Around 40,000 of them were killed by air raids.

When Hitler’s air force attacked, pilots from several other nations joined in defending Britain, including experienced fighter pilots from Poland and Czechoslovakia: the 303 “Kościuszko” Polish Fighter Squadron was amongst the most successful squadrons fighting in the Battle of Britain.

Today, more civilians have been killed in Syria than were killed in Britain in World War Two. The vast majority of them have been killed by the Assad regime: over 95% according to records collected by the Violations Documentation Center in Syria.

Today, no international pilots have come to defend Syrian civilians from Assad’s attacks. The US-led coalition is intervening in Syria, but not against Assad. He is free to bomb cities and towns and villages with Russian-supplied helicopters and Iranian jet aircraft. Two in five of all civilians killed last year were killed by Assad’s air attacks. Over half the women and children killed in 2014 were killed by Assad’s air force.

This month marks 70 years since Anne Frank was killed in the Holocaust. The Anne Frank Declaration is intended to draw from her life lessons for the present, not just memories of the past. It says:
Anne Frank is a symbol of the millions of innocent children who have been victims of persecution. Anne’s life shows us what can happen when prejudice and hatred go unchallenged.

Because prejudice and hatred harm us all, I declare that:
  • I will stand up for what is right and speak out against what is unfair and wrong
  • I will try to defend those who cannot defend themselves
  • I will strive for a world in which our differences will make no difference – a world in which everyone is treated fairly and has an equal chance in life
Many leading British politicians have signed this Declaration, including David Cameron and Ed Miliband, but when we look at their actions on Syria, we have to ask how well they are living up to their pledge.

On the last day of Parliament, the Coalition Government announced that they were joining the US-led effort to train Syrians to fight ISIS. Earlier it was reported that if re-elected the Conservatives intended to join US-led strikes against ISIS in Syria. Whatever the merits of these policies, they contained nothing to defend Syrian civilians from their greatest threat: the Assad regime. Assad and his allies are responsible for over 95% of killings of civilians. Assad’s forces continue to target civilians with barrel bombs, chlorine bombs, and Scud missiles.

The legal basis for joining US-led strikes against ISIS in Syria would be collective defence of the Republic of Iraq, not the humanitarian defence of Syrian civilians. It would not live up to David Cameron’s promise to “defend those who cannot defend themselves.” For that he would have to back action to stop Assad bombing civilians.

As for how well Ed Miliband is living up to his promise: Since he signed the Anne Frank Declaration, Ed Miliband has been talking about his August 2013 decision to block joint UK-US action in response to the Assad regime’s mass killing of civilians with Sarin chemical weapons. But in his telling of the story there was no mention of the men, women, and children poisoned. In his telling there was no mention of standing up to Assad, only of standing up to Obama.

Ed Miliband said that his decision in August 2013 proved that he is “tough enough” to be prime minister: “Hell yes.” Many of his supporters seem to agree, and “Hell yes” t-shirts have been produced, celebrating Ed Miliband’s toughness in helping get a mass-murdering regime off the hook.

Not that those supporters see it in quite that way. Jamie Glackin, Chair of Scottish Labour, denied that there was any connection between Ed Miliband’s “hell yes” phrase and the August 2013 chemical attack: “It’s got nothing to do with that. At all.”

But it has everything to do with that. Ed Miliband’s chosen anecdote to show toughness was to point to the time he prevented action against a mass-murdering dictatorship, one that gave refuge to a key Nazi war criminal, that has tortured its citizens on an industrial scale, that is inflicting starvation sieges on hundreds of thousands of people, that has driven half of the population from their homes, four million of them driven out of the country as refugees, and that has continued killing civilians in their tens of thousands since Ed Miliband said “no” to action.
Anne’s life shows us what can happen when prejudice and hatred go unchallenged.

When asked about the consequent events in Syria, Ed Miliband avoided taking any responsibility. “It’s a failure of the international community,” he said. But we are the international community. The UK is a key member of the international community, one of only five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and one of only three functioning democracies amongst those five. When Ed Miliband blocked UK action, the consequences were critical.
I will try to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Anne Frank was 15 years old when she was killed in the Holocaust. You can read more about her at the Anne Frank Trust, and  at the Anne Frank House museum.

According to a November 2013 report by the Oxford Research Group, Stolen Futures: The hidden toll of child casualties in Syria, 128 children were recorded amongst the killed in the Ghouta chemical attack: 65 girls and 63 boys.

Something of two of those girls, Fatima Ghorra, three years old, and her sister, Hiba Ghorra, four years old, is told by Hisham Ashkar here.

The names of 54 of the girls killed are listed by the Violations Documentation Center in Syria. For some, clicking on a name will give a little more information, such as a photograph of one in life, or in death, or their age.

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

In this UK election, let’s talk about our shared future.


Rescue in the Mediterranean. Photo: Amnesty International.

A British general election is about deciding how Britain is governed, about Britain’s future. But our future here, and the future of our children, doesn’t only depend on what happens within the borders of the UK, it depends on events in the wider world.

We can’t have a safe country in an unsafe world. We can’t build a caring home for our children if we care nothing for others. We can’t expect a prosperous future on these islands if we turn away from the rest of humanity.

Read more: A manifesto for Syria

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



Monday, 13 April 2015

A manifesto for Syria



In this UK election, let’s talk about Syria.

For a peaceful, democratic Syria, a Syria without Assad and a Syria without ISIS, we support the calls by Planet Syria activists and Syria Civil Defence rescue volunteers for action to stop the violence.

Read more:

Join us in London on the 26th of April to answer the call from Syria.



Saturday, 11 April 2015

Signal received – we see you Planet Syria



Planet Syria is a joint campaign by non-violent activist groups in Syria calling for an end to Assad’s air attacks in order to enable meaningful peace talks, even if that requires a no-fly zone. Read more at planetsyria.org or on their Facebook page.

On April 7th supporters answered that call with messages of solidarity. Here is Syria Solidarity UK’s response.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Call from Syria: London march 26th April




Sunday 26th April will be a global day of action to answer a Call from Syria:

  • Stop Chemical Attacks
  • Stop the Bombs
  • A No-Fly Zone for Syria

Facebook event page.

In London, we will assemble at 1pm at Marble Arch, before marching to the US Embassy, and then on to the BBC via Oxford Street.

The Assad regime remains the greatest threat to civilians in Syria. Despite multiple UN Security Council resolutions, barrel bombs filled with explosives, and sometimes chlorine gas, are still being used by the regime to terrorise, maim, and kill.

We come together to ask for a No-Fly Zone for Syria. Only a No-Fly Zone can help turn the tide in this humanitarian tragedy.

We also gather to condemn the lack of coverage in the mass media of the horrific chemical attacks in Sarmin, Binnesh and Idlib. The media must be the voice of our collective humanity.

Amongst those calling for a No-Fly Zone are Syria Civil Defence, also known as The White Helmets. They have been joined by a coalition of non-violent activists united in the Planet Syria campaign who are calling for an end to barrel bombing, if necessary by means of a No-Fly Zone, as an essential requirement to enable meaningful peace talks.


Below: Demonstration calling for No-Fly Zone, Kafranbel, Syria.