•  Syria Solidarity UK  •  info@syriauk.org  •  www.facebook.com/SyriaUKorg  •  @SyriaUK

Monthly Archive

Search Syria Solidarity UK

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Support for the High Negotiations Committee from UK Syrian Groups



We support efforts by the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition to negotiate a political settlement which will lead to a transitional governing body, and to human rights for all, rule of law, and democracy for Syria. Given the scale of documented atrocities carried out by the Assad regime, it follows that such a process must bring an end to regime rule.

We believe that the HNC which was named as representing the opposition in negotiations is widely considered inclusive.

We further support the demand by the High Negotiations Committee that the international community implement in full the humanitarian provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 prior to negotiations.

The current Geneva III Conference has begun against a background of escalating Russian and regime bombardment of populated areas and civilian infrastructure, escalating starvation sieges, and ongoing mass detention and torture of political prisoners.

UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which set out the international mandate for these talks, called on the parties to “allow immediate, humanitarian assistance to reach all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas, release any arbitrarily detained persons, particularly women and children,” and demanded the full implementation of the long list of unenforced Security Council resolutions on Syria: 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014), 2191 (2014) and any other applicable resolutions.

Resolution 2254 further demanded “that all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians and civilian objects as such, including attacks against medical facilities and personnel, and any indiscriminate use of weapons, including through shelling and aerial bombardment.”

These items are the express will of the Security Council and as such are not for negotiation between parties. The international community should never preside over a process where humanitarian relief is allowed to be used as a card in political negotiation.

As long as the international community fails to enforce its own resolutions, the Syrian people can have little faith in the peace process. If the international community can’t deliver baby milk to besieged areas, how can they be trusted to deliver free and fair elections?

For peace talks to succeed, the international community must  implement the humanitarian provisions of its own UN Security Council Resolution 2254 in full.

Signatories

Dr Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society
Dr Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House
Dr Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice for Syria
Vivien Green, Syria Solidarity UK
Dr Haytham Alhamwi, Rethink Rebuild Society
Bachar Hakim, Syrian Society in Nottinghamshire
Mazen Ejbaei, Help4Syria
Dr Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria

PDF version.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Syria: Aid under fire



The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria will be holding two meetings in Parliament on 2 March in Committee Room 21.

At 2pm there will be a briefing from the NGO Goal on the humanitarian crisis in Syria. GOAL has been a leading humanitarian actor in Syria since 2012, with current projects benefitting over 2 million people.

At 3pm there will be a discussion led by the Syrian British Medical Society on the targeting of medical facilities in Syria and problems in accessing essential healthcare.

The meetings will be hosted by Roger Godsiff MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria

RSVP to warringtona@parliament.uk

Links

Goal Global in Syria: Delivering aid under fire

The Syrian British Medical Society

Further Escalation of Deliberate Attacks on Medical Facilities: SBMS, 25th December 2015

The Humanitarian Impact of Russia’s Intervention: Report on a Goal briefing, December 2015

A measure of last resort: Barry Andrews for the No-Fly Zone debate

Why no one cares about Syria: Barry Andrews, CEO of Goal, 2014

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Syrian Refugees Demand Dignity



While many people in Britain have welcomed refugees with open arms, Syrians frequently continue to be treated with hostility, contempt and disrespect.

It emerged this month that asylum seekers in Middlesbrough felt under threat because the doors to their houses were distinctively painted red, leading to the launch of a Home Office investigation. Pressure from the asylum seekers and campaigners has now led to the doors being re-painted in a range of colours.

In Cardiff, properties owned by Clearsprings Ready Homes, a private company contracted by the UK Home Office, forced asylum seekers to wear coloured wristbands to show that they were entitled to food. We are pleased that this policy has been reversed after public pressure, and will remain vigilant against such discriminatory practices.

In 2014, it emerged that HSBC was freezing the bank accounts of Syrians for no other reason than their nationality. This had an extremely negative effect on refugees, who found their accounts frozen at a time when they were extremely vulnerable. Members of the British Syrian community continue to campaign against this discrimination.

The discriminatory treatment of refugees is not just a British problem. In Denmark, Switzerland and Germany, refugees now face having their property seized. In Bavaria refugees are only allowed to keep belongings worth less than £578, while in Baden-Württemberg the figure is as low as £270. These policies make it much more difficult for refugees to start new lives.

These discriminatory practices are unjustified and unjust.

The people of Syria have made clear their demand for dignity and freedom in their country, and it is tragic that they are faced with inhumane and illiberal treatment when they come to seek refuge in Europe.

The government constantly reminds us that it is important for refugees to integrate in the country that has offered them asylum. But this is a two-way process, and refugees cannot be expected to feel like a part of British society if they are not treated with the same respect, dignity and decency as British citizens. Integration and discrimination are mutually exclusive.

We call on the British government to exercise greater vigilance towards discrimination against refugees.

We call for an end, too, to the government’s negative rhetoric about refugees, which contributes to an unwelcoming atmosphere and legitimises discrimination.

We will continue to campaign for the rights and dignity of Syrian refugees. We will continue to make sure that the voices of Syrians are heard.

Refugees are not a crisis. We are human beings.

Signatories:

Dr. Haytham Alhamwi, Rethink Rebuild Society
Dr. Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House
Abdullah Hanoun, Syrian Community of the South West
Dr. Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria
Dr. Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society
Abdullah Allabwani, Oxford for Syria
Dr. Sharif Kaf al-Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Amr Salahi, Syria Solidarity UK
Mazen Ejbaei, Help 4Syria
Dr. Bachar Hakim, Syrian Society in Nottinghamshire
Talal Al-Mayhani, Centre for Thought and Public Affairs

PDF version.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Civilian Protection: event in Parliament on 27 January



The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria will be holding a discussion on civilian protection from 3pm til 4pm on Wednesday 27th January in Committee Room 18.

Speakers:

 • Syria Solidarity UK
 • Dr Ayman S Jundi, Syrian British Medical Society
 • Yasmine Nahlawi, Rethink Rebuild Society

The event will be chaired by Roger Godsiff MP.

All are welcome to attend. Please RSVP to Alethea Warrington at warringtona@parliament.uk

Read more: Civilian Protection: The UK’s responsibilities

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Stop bombing schools: a solidarity appeal to education organisations and trade unions



The brutal war being waged by the Syrian regime against its own people has placed schools and teachers in the front line.  The Assad regime and its Russian backers have been pursuing a tactic of forced displacement of civilian populations, attacking civilian infrastructure, particularly schools.

A Save the Children report on education in Syria published in September 2015 found that 3 million Syrian children were not in education, that 25% of Syria's schools had been damaged or destroyed, and that over four hundred teaching staff had been killed. The majority of the destruction is caused by aerial bombardment. School enrolment in rebel held Aleppo has fallen to 6% as a result of these attacks. Targeting schools has been taking place for years.

On 29th September 2013, a technical school in Raqqa was bombed, killing sixteen people, ten of them students.

On 30th April 2014 one of the worst massacres took place at Ein Jalout school in Aleppo. It was displaying an exhibition of students’ artwork when it was bombed, killing twenty students, two teachers, and another adult.



Aftermath of the 30 April 2014 bombing of Ein Jalout school in Aleppo.

Attacks continue despite multiple UN resolutions calling for a halt to all attacks on civilian targets.

On 12th April 2015 missiles were again fired at a school in Aleppo, killing 5 children and 4 civilians.

On 3rd May 2015 barrel bombs were dropped on a school where students were sitting exams, killing four children, a teacher, and two other adults.

Since the Russian intervention, attacks have increased in frequency. In the past week, four schools have been bombed, killing and injuring dozens. On January 10th a Russian airstrike targeted a school in the town on Ain Jara in Aleppo, killing twelve children and three adults.



Interview with a victim of the 10 January 2016 Ain Jara attack.

In response, the Education Directorate in Idlib has closed schools for a week, to try and prevent further loss of life due to the constant bombardment. This decision has deprived over 70,000 students of access to education. In the besieged suburb of Douma, education officials suspended school indefinitely in response to repeated cluster bomb attacks directed at schools.

These attacks violate international humanitarian law, and specifically violate UN Security Council Resolution 2139 which was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council in February 2014, and which demanded an end to all attacks against civilians, in particular an end to aerial bombardment of populated areas.

The regime and Russia must not be allowed to bombs schools and kill students and teachers with impunity. We are calling on all teaching and education organisations, and teacher unions, to condemn these attacks and send messages of solidarity to Syria’s teachers and students who are trying to maintain education services in the middle of the brutal conflict.

Please see the draft motion below.

Schools also need material support. The Syrian grassroots campaign group Kesh Malek (Checkmate) is running a programme to twin schools in Aleppo with schools in other countries. You can access information about the twinning programme through the following links:

Our Twin School Campaign

Introductory files for five schools in Aleppo

Kesh Malek English Language Website

Draft Motion
This association notes that Syrian children and school staff are being targeted in air attacks by the Assad dictatorship and its Russian backers, and that very many pupils and teachers have been murdered or maimed in the ongoing bombing.

A Save the Children report on education in Syria found 3 million Syrian children were not in education, 25% of Syria's schools had been damaged or destroyed, and over four hundred teaching staff had been killed. The majority of the destruction is caused by aerial bombardment. School enrolment in Aleppo has fallen to 6% as a result of these attacks.

More children are dying as they try to flee to safety as refugees and millions of Syrian children of school age are experiencing the most extreme forms of psychological trauma.

This association condemns the targeting of populated areas and the bombing of schools. We extend our solidarity to everyone working to provide a normal education to children in Syria, and to those students who are refusing to serve in Assad’s army or Daesh.

We encourage school union groups to establish direct links and send material support such as pens, books and other equipment to schools in Syria through organisations like Kesh Malek which supervises and monitors nine schools in the liberated areas of Aleppo City, providing 3,330 pupils with education.
Links

Education under attack in Syria, Save the Children, September 2015.

The Cost of War: Calculating the impact of the collapse of Syria’s education system on the country’s future, Save the Children, March 2015.

“When I Picture My Future, I See Nothing,” Human Rights Watch report on barriers to education for Syrian refugee children in Turkey, November 2015.


Saturday, 16 January 2016

UK protests against starvation sieges in Syria

January 16th was a global day of action against the starvation sieges being perpetrated in Syria by the Assad regime. Rallies and protests were held around the world to demand action from the international community.

In Britain, rallies were held in Manchester, Oxford, and London by Syrian and British activists to demand action from the British government to break the sieges.

A petition calling for the British government to air drop food to besieged towns has now received over 57,000 signatures.

Madaya, the focus of most international media attention, has now received two aid convoys, but without the lifting of the siege, this food aid will only last some weeks and people will be reduced to starvation once again.

And the aid convoys to Madaya provide no relief to the over one million Syrians trapped in the other 51 sieges across Syria. An estimated four hundred thousands are at immediate risk of starvation and malnutrition. But these sieges haven’t received the same media attention as Madaya.



In Deir Ezzour, 200,000 civilians are trapped in civilian areas between the Assad regime and ISIS front lines. Over 200,000 civilians are surrounded in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus, to which no aid has been delivered since 2013.

The total suffering under sieges is as many as a million people.

Syrian community groups are calling on the British government to begin air drops of food and medical aid to besieged areas in order to provide some immediate relief to civilians, and to pressure the Assad regime to lift the starvation sieges.



Solidarity with Madaya in London.



Trafalgar Square, London.

Friday, 15 January 2016

As Syrians Starve, Airdrops are Needed



“We are being left to die.”

On Monday, the first UN aid convoys arrived to Madaya to deliver urgently needed aid to the town’s 42,000 residents. The aid came after a months-long siege enforced by Syrian regime forces. As aid was delivered, Syrians warned that the piecemeal delivery of humanitarian assistance would not be enough to stop the ongoing starvation of the one million Syrians living in besieged areas, and appealed to the international community to break the sieges across Syria—through airdrops if necessary:

“The piecemeal delivery of aid to Madaya will not stop the starvation of Syrian civilians. All Syrians in besieged areas need regular, unimpeded access to humanitarian aid, and they need it now. Any further delays or obstructions by any party to the conflict will only cost more innocent lives and condemn more children to starvation. But right now, there are no assurances that residents of Madaya—or any of 52 communities currently under siege—will have sustained access to the food, water and medical care they need.

“No one should live in fear of starvation, but this is the reality for roughly one million Syrians who are trapped in areas under siege. Deprived of basic food staples like flour and bread, families are resorting to eating leaves, rodents and insects. Many feel they are being abandoned—having been left behind to suffer, starve, and die.

“The suffering in Syria’s besieged areas is entirely preventable. The use of starvation as a method of warfare is a war crime. The Security Council has repeatedly prohibited the use of siege tactics by all parties to the Syrian conflict and authorised the United Nations to deliver humanitarian aid across conflict lines—irrespective of Syrian regime consent. But in too many places, the UN continues to wait for permissions and authorisations that it already has. In so doing it, it gives the Syrian regime the power to determine life and death in besieged communities. This is a power no government should rightfully have.

“All Syrians deserve food, water and medical care. If any party to the Syrian conflict denies such assistance, the UN should take steps to deliver it regardless. If the UN can’t provide the assistance Syrians need, we appeal to Member States to carry out airdrops to bring aid to those who need it and to break the sieges inside Syria. In some cases, this may be the only way to help those who are starving and ensure that more don’t die.”

Signatories

Syria Civil Defence (The White Helmets) · Syrian NGO Alliance · Syrian Women's Network · Syrian Nonviolence Movement · Syrian Feminist Lobby · Mayday Rescue · Help4Syria · Kurds House · Peace and Justice for Syria · Rethink Rebuild Society · Scotland4Syria · Syrian Association of Yorkshire · Syrian Community of the South West UK · Syrian Platform for Peace ·Syria Relief Network · Syria Solidarity UK · Syrian Welsh Society · Syrian Community in Nottinghamshire


Save Our Syria is a coalition of Syrian civil society and humanitarian groups from inside and outside Syria.

PDF version.

Food not Bombs: An open letter to anti-war and peace campaigners

Dear anti-war and peace campaigners,

The Syrian people need your support. Having suffered massacres, torture and brutal war, they are now being murdered through starvation. The Assad regime is enforcing starvation sieges on towns and cities across Syria. These sieges are part of the regime's “Kneel or Starve” campaign, ongoing since 2013, aimed at forcing rebellious towns and districts to surrender. Many refuse to do so, knowing the horror that awaits them if the regime reimposes control. So their suffering continues.

It does not have to be like this. Those of us in the West, in Europe and America, can pressure our governments to act to break the sieges and protect civilians from starvation. Many of these governments are currently bombing ISIS in Syria. We are calling on the British governments to use its air power to drop food not bombs: To use their planes to break the starvation sieges with food aid, to relieve the suffering of the residents, and to save lives.

The international publicity surrounding the siege of Madaya has forced the Assad regime to allow aid in to the town for the first time in sixth months. This shows what public protest and pressure can do. But the aid that has reached Madaya will only last some weeks, and very many more areas are also under siege.

We call on you to support the campaign to break the sieges, support the call for the UK government to airdrop aid to all besieged towns, and defeat the regime's attempts to starve the population into submission.

Please sign and circulate the petition and attached graphics, and urge the British government to act to protect civilians.

In solidarity,

Syria Solidarity UK

Sign the petition to start aid drops to besieged civilians in Syria.

Websites:
All of our posts on besieged civilians in Syria are here.





Thursday, 14 January 2016

Important information about the starvation in Moadamiyah

Translation by Amaney Neihoum

Original here. Cross-posted from News of the Revolution in Syria.

Damascus suburbs, Moadamiya Levant media office
13 January 2016

Daily summary of happenings in the city

Since morning hours the city has witnessed barrel bomb attacks targeting the city’s southern frontline, and similarly attacks from Shilka trucks targeting residential areas. This led to Assad’s forces, fortified by heavy artillery and tanks, making numerous attempts to advance and take over the frontline, but all attempts were in vain due to the heroic defence by the Free Army which led to causing losses whilst the Shilka vehicles continued to target residential areas until the late hours of this evening.

The humanitarian situation

Humanitarian disaster is about to befall 45,000 civilians, including children, women, the elderly, for the 19th consecutive day.

The Assad forces continue to flex their control by closing the only crossing to the city and denying entry or exit and by denying the entry any relief or humanitarian aid, worsening the humanitarian situation faced by residents. Most of those remaining in the city have not enough to feed their children.

As the humanitarian situation is worsening, there are hundreds of cases of children and the elderly with chronic diseases due to malnutrition and its effects, and also the loss of urgently required medicines.

Every day the siege continues the situation deteriorates further and today marked the death of Saeed Carbouge (15) a special needs child, due to the reduced availability of required medicine and malnutrition and the Assad forces preventing his family from taking him elsewhere, raising the tally of martyrs of the siege up to four today: three children and a 25 year old woman. The health of all of them had deteriorated, and the families were not allowed to take them outside the city to receive treatment.

The medical situation

The medical staff in the city have announced a dire and catastrophic situation due to the loss of important and urgent medical supplies and equipment in the face of increasing numbers of elderly and paediatric patients, and of injuries from the attacks. Their medical situation is worsened by malnutrition and the cut off of specialised medical supplies for their recovery.

Every day dozens of cases visit the centre but with no chance of receiving treatment, and so the siege is about to claim hundreds of children and elderly people by preventing them from leaving the city to get treatment.

Due to the compounding of hardship, the medical staff of the city have asked global humanitarian and medical organisations and the international community to stand up to their full responsibility to stop this punishment, and to work immediately to find ways of bringing in urgently needed medical supplies as fast as possible.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Break the Sieges: Three ways to help



Above is a video appeal to support besieged civilians in Syria, giving three ways people in the UK can help break the sieges.

Firstly, ask for support for the petition calling on the UK government to begin air drops. Even though Madaya has received temporary respite, the amount of aid is limited, with further road deliveries currently dependent on the whim of the regime. And beyond Madaya, many other areas are also under siege, with civilians suffering greatly.

Air drops are not a long term solution, but are urgently needed now as an emergency measure to bring relief. In 2015, only 10% of UN aid access requests to the regime were granted and delivered. The UK government needs to stop playing Assad’s game. Air drops can break the regime’s control of aid, break the sieges, and bolster efforts to bring peace.

Sign the petition here, and please share it with your friends.

Secondly, members of the Syrian community in London have called a protest for Saturday 16 January, at 2pm in Trafalgar Square.

The Facebook event page is here: Drop Food Not Bombs. Please come and show your support. If you can’t come to London on the day, please try to organise your own protest, or record your own video and share on the event page, or on Twitter, or in the comments section here.

Finally, please write to your MP asking them to support the call for air drops, and to help put civilian protection at the centre of the UK’s Syria policy.

More information

Watch yesterday’s Urgent Question on the siege of Madaya in the House of Commons, or read here, via Jo Cox.

We have a moral duty to save the starving Syrians in Madaya, by Paddy Ashdown and Jo Cox.

The Syria Campaign launch Break the Sieges website.

Siege Watch.

Syria Under Siege.

Statement by the Local Council of Daraya City

Local Council of Daraya City Statement regarding the state of siege in the city and the dire need for humanitarian aid

For over three years, the city of Daraya has been subjected to a brutal assault by the Assad regime’s military forces and sectarian militias, led by Hezbollah, who have been supported politically, and recently militarily, by Russia. The military campaign used all types of weapons, including internationally banned weapons such as Sarin Gas, barrel bombs, and cluster bombs. As a result, thousands of civilians were killed and injured. The Assad regime continues to impose this genocidal siege to the city’s 12 thousand civilians, depriving them of any form of humanitarian aid. Even worse is the daily bombing by the barrel bombs. During 2015, the total number of barrel bombs dropped on the city was 3,430 barrels.

The local council of Daraya city would like to point out that it has been in constant contact with the United Nations and the Office of the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura for a long time, but none of its appeals for humanitarian aid have been met. The Council would like to draw attention to the suffering of the city’s inhabitants caused by siege, hunger and shelling. It would also like to cite UN Security Council resolution No. 2165 issued on July 14, 2014, which authorises the delivery of humanitarian aid without requiring approval from the Syrian regime. We reiterate our readiness to protect the delegations of the United Nations and Relief agencies within the city of Daraya, and facilitate their work from the moment they enter the city and until they leave.
Local Council of Daraya City
Daraya,
January 10, 2016

Press release by the Syrian British Medical Society

The SBMS Calls for Lifting of the Starvation Siege

The eyes of the international media have been focused for the past few days on the plight of the 40,000 starving civilians in the besieged town on Madaya. We are relieved that humanitarian aid and medical supplies are, finally, getting through to the town, and we look forward to further aid deliveries in the coming few days.

However, we wish to remind the international community that tragic situation in Madaya is not unique. There are vast numbers of civilians who are still under starvation siege throughout Syria, including several suburbs of the Capital, Damascus. Whole communities all over the Country have been deprived of food, clean water, medical supplies and heating fuel for several months, even years. Without the dedicated work of courageous volunteers and aid workers, who put their very lives at great risk smuggling in food and medical supplies, the besieged communities would not have had the slightest chance of survival.

Furthermore, the starvation siege affecting Madaya, and many other Syrian towns and communities, is not in any way resolved. The supplies that have made it through the siege will barely last for one month, and are not a long-term solution.

The Syrian British Medical Society would urge Her Majesty’s Government, the international community, and the international medical relief organizations, to condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of food as a weapon of war, and to exert pressure on all parties to left the starvation siege throughout Syria.

The Syrian British Medical Society

11th January 2016

Editors’ Notes:

The Syrian British Medical Society was established in 2007, as a forum for healthcare professionals of Syrian descent working in the UK. It is a non-profit, non-political organization that aims at promoting the highest professional and ethical standards amongst British-Syrian Healthcare Professionals, and the creation and promotion of academic and professional links with the Healthcare Profession in Syria and related organizations worldwide. Since the start of the uprising in Syria in 2011, the SBMS has redirected most of its activities towards helping the devastated healthcare sector in Syria.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Petition: Start aid drops to the starving people of Syria

A petition calling on the UK government to start aid drops has gathered thousands of signatures overnight. Please sign if you are a UK resident, and please share with your friends.
Whilst the civil war in Syria continues and every effort is made militarily to bring it to an end as soon as possible the UK has an armed forces very capable in humanitarian missions.

People are starving to death in Douma, Idlib, Madaya and many other places. Let us be the ones to feed them.

SIGN HERE

As Jo Cox told World at One news on Friday, “We have the experience, the capacity, the capability” to do this.

The little aid that the Assad regime is offering to let through is too little too late. To protect civilians we need to stop the regime using control of aid as a weapon.

Aid drops without the permission of the Assad regime are legal under UN Security Council Resolutions 2139, 2165, 2191, 2254, and 2258.

Thanks to Christopher Bridges for starting this petition.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Support for RAF air drops to besieged Syrian civilians



UPDATE – Petition to Parliament: Start aid drops to the starving people of Syria.

Read more here.

Yesterday, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron backed the call for RAF air drops to besieged Syrian civilians in comments to the Guardian.

Jo Cox MP and Lord Ashdown have written to the Prime Minister calling for action.

PDF version.


David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

7 January 2016


Dear Prime Minister,

The images and stories from besieged Madaya in Syria are truly shocking.

According to reports, in the past month alone 31 civilians have died in Madaya as a result of starvation or attempted escape, while the UN estimates that 400,000 remain besieged across the country.

We find it astonishing that so little has been done by the international community to break these sieges when life-saving medical and food aid are often only minutes away.

The UK played a critical role in negotiating several Security Council resolutions authorising UN agencies to deliver aid across conflict lines and break these sieges. To date, however, far too little has been done to challenge the Assad regime’s unacceptable veto over aid distribution to these areas. Though welcome, the agreement for aid to get into Madaya, reached by the UN on Thursday, may prove to be yet another empty gesture, and does not change the pattern of besiegement across Syria.

Even in Deir Ezzor, an area of 200,000 under siege by ISIS, it is the Syrian regime that is refusing the UN access to the airport which could be used to alleviate the suffering of the local population.

The Government rightly takes pride in being the second largest bilateral donor to the UN Syria appeal. But there is little point in contributing significant amounts of aid if we are not doing enough to make sure it reaches those who need it most.

We must also not allow international aid to become a political tool in the Syrian conflict. It is unacceptable that aid is being distributed in areas under regime control but we are allowing the regime to deny distribution to other areas.

Successive Security Council resolutions state: “United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners are authorised to use routes across conflict lines”, so why are they not exercising this authority?

We urge you to push the UN, in particular the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to be far bolder in its aid delivery and stop asking unnecessary permission from the Syrian government.

In the case that the UN continues to be denied access to these besieged areas by the Assad regime, the UK should strongly consider airdropping aid to those communities at risk of starvation. In some of these areas, the RAF is already flying anti-ISIS missions, and if necessary this is something we should press our European partners to support.

Like the airdrops by the US in 2014 to the Yazidis in Iraq, and the leadership shown by the last Conservative Government to save lives with similar action in Northern Iraq, there are immediate steps we can take to stop more vulnerable people dying needlessly of hunger. We cannot sit by and watch this happen.

Yours sincerely,
Jo Cox MP
Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon


Report on Madaya from Syrian NGO Ghiras Al-nahda

Today:

We are Ghiras Al-nahda organisation, working in rural Damascus since the beginning of the crisis, and we have representatives in Madaya as we have representatives in all the rural Damascus area.

You can read more about us in this link.

We tried to warn the UN OCHA and all the donors of coming crises in Madaya about 3 months ago but nobody answered.

The situation in Maday is very bad, yes they are eating from garbage as they are eating cats and dogs. You will find attached our report for Madaya, as you will find attached the last report of food security cluster of UN which based on our report sent to them.

UN has done nothing yet. Yesterday they said that they had approve from Syrian regime to enter a convoy to Madaya but nothing arrived yet.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

News from Madaya

Syria Solidarity UK has been talking today to aid workers and doctors inside the besieged Syrian town of Madaya. This is their reaction to the announcement that the Syrian government is going to allow UN aid into Madaya.

First point: This aid alone will not solve the problem. The problem must be tackled from the root, which means not every now and then getting aid into the city on the conditions of the Syrian government, but th UN have to establish safe routes for food to come to the city on a regular basis without interference from the Syrian government or any groups.

Second, Madaya is not the only besieged community in Syria, there are other besieged areas, and if a solution is found for Madaya it should be used for other besieged communities to break the siege, and hunger should not be used as weapon against civilians.

Third, there is one rumour that aid has already arrived; this is not true. There is another rumour that aid will take two to six days to reach Madaya. If so at least three people at least will die for each day of delay. There is no guarantee of how long it will take for food to arrive, so this is not a solution. They need food right now.

Finally, if the UN actually manage to get food to Madaya, it will feed the population for a month and after a month the cycle will start all over again, and there will be people dying all over again. This is not a permanent solution, and the people of Madaya need a permanent solution.


Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Break the siege of Madaya: UK Syrian groups call for RAF food drops


UPDATE – Petition to Parliament: Start aid drops to the starving people of Syria.

Read more here.



In the Syrian town of Madaya, 40,000 people are under siege by the Assad regime and its Hezbollah allies. These civilians are being deliberately starved to death.

In the past month alone, at least 31 people have died of starvation or been killed trying to escape.

As recently as Sunday a pregnant woman and her daughter were killed by Hezbollah forces as they tried to escape.

Besieging civilians breaks international humanitarian law, and breaks UN Security Council Resolutions 2139, 2165, 2191, 2254, and 2258.

Weeks after the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2254 to bring peace to Syria, it looks like yet another empty promise.

As a member of the International Syria Support Group, and as a Permanent Member of the Security Council, the United Kingdom has a particular responsibility to see that humanitarian assistance reaches “all people in need, in particular in all besieged and hard-to-reach areas” in accordance with Resolution 2254.

The UK has shown it can drop bombs in Syria: they are no help to the starving. Now it is time to show what good the UK and its armed forces can do for people inside Syria. Protect civilians: Begin RAF food aid drops to Madaya now.


Signatories

Syria Solidarity UK

Yasmine Nahlawi, Rethink Rebuild Society

Dr. Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House

Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice for Syria

Amer Masri, Scotland 4 Syria

Dr. Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society

Dr. Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire

Dr Ayman S Jundi, Syrian British Medical Society



Events in January and February

Upcoming events on Syria in the UK

Contact info@syriauk.org to let us know of an event.

Check our event page for future updates.

Saturday 9th January 2016
  • The Syria Vote and Beyond: Radical Ideas for Difficult Problems
    Rights-Liberties-Justice with Liberal International and LibDem Christian Forum.
    Speakers include Tom Brake MP, Lord (William) Wallace, Jonathan Brown, and Yasmine Nahlawi.
    Online registration.
    9:30am–5pm, Bermondsey Village Hall, Kirby Grove, London SE1 3TD.

Wednesday 13th January 2016
  • Documentary screening: 7 Days in Syria
    Q&A with Janine di Giovanni, Producer and MENA Editor at Newsweek.
    Jointly hosted by APPG on Women, Peace, and Security, APPG United Nations, APPG Friends of Syria.
    Event details.
    To attend please RSVP to Kady Billington-Murphy: kady.murphy@gaps-uk.org
    4:30pm–6:30pm, Committee Room 11, Palace of Westminster.




Wednesday 20th January 2016
  • APPG Friends of Syria: Evidence session on diplomacy
    One of a series of events leading to a report on all aspects of UK policy on the Syrian crisis.
    Event details.
    RSVP to: secretariat@thesyriacampaign.org
    4pm–6pm, Committee Room 12, Palace of Westminster.

Wednesday 20th January 2016
  • Book launch: Burning Country
    Co-author Robin Yassin-Kassab in conversation with Kristyan Benedict.
    Event details and booking via Eventbrite.
    6:30pm–9:30pm
    Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, 23 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.

Friday 22nd January 2016
  • There's Still Life Here: Syria Today and the Forgotten Narrative
    Speakers:
    Laila Alodaat, Syrian human right lawyer
    Ziad Majed , Professor of Middle East Studies, American University of Paris
    Rouba Mhaissen, founder and director at Sawa for Development and Aid
    Hosted by KCL Action Palestine
    Facebook event page.
    7pm, Arthur and Paula Lucas Lecture Theatre, Strand Campus, Kings College London.

Monday 25th January 2016

Thursday 28th January 2016
  • Inside Syria: Life Amidst Revolution and War
    Speakers:
    Hassan Hassan, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme
    Robin Yassin-Kassab, Author, Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War
    Further speakers to be confirmed.
    Booking / registration details on the Chatham House website.
    1pm–2pm, Chatham House, London.

Thursday 4th February 2016

Tuesday 9th February 2016
  • APPG Friends of Syria: Evidence session on military policy
    One of a series of events leading to a report on all aspects of UK policy on the Syrian crisis.
    RSVP to: secretariat@thesyriacampaign.org
    4pm–6pm, room to be announced.


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

How can ‘Stop the War’ help stop the war in Syria?

A personal reflection on engaging with Stop the War, by Fardous Bahbouh.



I was delighted to accept an invitation to attend a public meeting in December organised by Waltham Forest Stop the War and Stand Up to Racism, and an invitation to speak at a Stoke on Trent protest organised by Staffordshire Stop the War. I am anti-war myself and I believe in engaging with people. I wanted to speak to the conscience of the Stop the War members and try to convey the voices of victims of the war in Syria. I met many wonderful people, and I was touched by their compassion and eagerness to campaign against wars. I have so much respect for Stop the War’s protests against the Iraq invasion in 2003. I highly appreciate their recent campaign to welcome refugees.

I also have so much disappointment and disagreement regarding Stop the War’s position on Syria. I am aware that many members of Stop the War are perceiving the Syria war through the same lense as they saw the Iraq invasion in 2003, as ‘an unjust imperial war.’ This is one of the main reasons for the big clash between Stop the War and people supporting the Syrians’ struggle for freedom, dignity, and democracy. I will present my perspective about the Syrian revolution, which might be different to their perspective; it is always helpful to see the other side of the story. Acknowledging our differences can help us to find a common ground and to work together for a just cause. The Syria war is tragic and I am writing to the minds and hearts of peace-loving people to reflect, and to suggest things we can do to help.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Women’s Perspectives on the Syria Conflict

An event with Laila Alodaat and Raheb Alwany

“Peacebuilding defines our future now” is a study of women’s peace activism in Syria by the Badael Foundation. On December 16th, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP chaired an event organised by Syria Solidarity UK at Portcullis House to discuss how women civil society activists inside Syria are responding to the war. Speaking were Laila Alodaat, Crisis Response Programme Manager at the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Raheb Alwany, a researcher at Badael and a co-author of the report.

The Syrian conflict began with violence against peaceful civilian protesters, and as targeting of the civilian population has continued to be central to how the war is fought, so women have suffered particular disproportionate effects of that violence. This event however went beyond describing how women are victims of the conflict to discussing women’s contributions towards resolving it, and as a consequence arguing for the importance of including women in the current negotiations.

In introducing the event, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh cited her own recent experience of visiting a UNHCR camp in Gaziantep, Turkey, near the Syrian border, to confirm the key role of women in helping those fleeing the conflict: “That involves very much psychological support also, because of what women have had to experience, and indeed what their children have had to look at.”

Laila Alodaat talked of how the Syrian conflict has been one of the most violent in recent times, and also the best documented. We know the violations that are happening, and we have the chance to analyse and to understand how we can impact them.

Unfortunately this information is not being transformed into wider understanding around the world: “Everybody feels that there must be something to be done but we don’t know what it is. What we try to do here, and what the report by Badael has done, is to give examples of what actually can be done, and how this information, the documentation that people literally lost their lives to make possible, can be made use of.”



The physical impact of the conflict

Laila Alodaat described three areas where the conflict has a disproportionate impact on women, beginning with its physical impact, on which she gave two examples.

A February 2015 report by Physicians for Human Rights said that in the year prior to that the Assad regime had attacked 83 health facilities in areas outside of regime control where health care is almost non-existent:

“And although this is not the worst that has happened to civilians in Syria, this in particular has an enormous impact on women, because we found in a report by my own organisation, I work for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom… what we found around the conflict in Iraq and the conflict in Syria is that 80% of women who died during pregnancy or delivery, their death could have been prevented if they had any access to health care, which the way this conflict is being conducted is actively preventing them from.

“These women will die in their homes giving birth and we will never hear of them as casualties of the conflict.”