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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Foreign Affairs Committee Report on Syria: Childish and Delusional!

Manchester-based Syrian advocacy organisation Rethink Rebuild Society heavily criticises the report released by the Foreign Affairs Committee on Syria on 24 March 2016 titled ‘The UK’s role in the war against ISIL following the Cessation of Hostilities in Syria in February 2016.’

The report, published approximately four weeks after the official cessation of hostilities in Syria, lays down its strategy for combating Daesh in Syria. However, instead of recognising the counterproductive role that Assad has played in the creation and expansion of Daesh, the report suggests that Assad can, or should, be an ally in the war on terror.

Dr. Haytham Alhamwi, director of Rethink Rebuild Society, has the following to say of the report:
“We are really surprised with the Foreign Affairs Committee’s suggestion that cooperating with Assad will help in defeating Daesh. Quite the contrary, promoting such a suggestion is the biggest help for Daesh: Daesh will use it to make the argument that the West is working with a regime that has killed hundreds of thousands of Muslims and destroyed a key Muslim country in the region, and will use this argument as a recruitment tool.

“The FAC report is completely out of touch with the realities on the ground in Syria. It first makes the
mistaken assumption that Assad has played a constructive role in the fight against Daesh, which he has not. To the contrary, getting rid of Daesh is not for the benefit of the Assad regime which is using the threat of Daesh to ask the world to empower it again.

“Additionally, the report’s suggestion that the FSA freedom fighters can cooperate with the criminal Assad regime is utterly ridiculous. Has the FAC forgotten that the FSA was established by those who defected from the Syrian Army because of its brutality against the Syrian people? Does the FAC really believe that the Syrian people will cooperate with a regime which has killed their loved ones and made them refugees, a regime which is responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity against its own people? While the Syrian people do consider Daesh as a threat for Syria, they also importantly consider the Syrian regime as the biggest threat.

“The FAC report also did not answer the important question of who will control any Syrian territory reclaimed from Daesh by joint rebel and Assad forces. To ignore such a question makes the report childishand delusional.”

Rethink Rebuild Society released a briefing to policy makers with a more detailed reaction to some of the points raised in the FAC report:

Briefing: Assad cannot be an ally in the fight against Daesh—Reaction to the Foreign Affairs Committee Report of 24 March

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Women in Black vigil in solidarity with Syrian women



Women in Black are holding a vigil in solidarity with Syrian women on Wednesday 30th March, 6pm at the Edith Cavell Memorial, London.

Facebook event page here.

Women In Black’s leaflet for the event calls attention to the Badael Foundation’s work with women activists inside Syria.

Women In Black are asking people to support their call for the UK Government to insist on the full inclusion of Syrian women in negotiations and subsequent constitution building; to give generous funding support to Syrian women’s organisations working for reconciliation and peace; and to insist that the sieges are relieved—15 areas are still under starvation sieges. Drop food not bombs on the besieged areas.

This is part of the #Women4Syria round of The Syrian Calendar. Below are short videos of some earlier events from the #Women4Syria round.



London Palestine Action in Solidarity with #Women4Syria are asking for Safe Passage

Video by Dasa Raimanova.

From the London Palestine Action statement:
A refugee is not an identity, but an experience. Everybody has their own story, their own history and dreams. With this gathering asking for #SAFEPASSAGE we want to recognise refugees with the dignity they deserve and highlight that the deaths of refugees crossing into Europe are a consequence of European colonialism and militarism.

Now that British ships are in the Aegean Sea to turn back more people who are trying to cross, the sea can only become more dangerous for those forced to flee.

For Palestinians struggling for liberation from occupation and apartheid; for Syrians struggling for liberation from dictatorship and repression; for all those looking for safety and an end to state violence, let us be clear: European border control is racist and it kills.



Syrian Women Rising: ‪#‎Women4Syria‬
A planting action celebrating and commemorating Syrian women, organized by London Palestine Action as part of #Women4Syria.

All over London we planted saplings, trees and edible plants in public spaces to honour the lives of millions of Syrian women enduring siege, war, exile, disposession and imprisonment, as well as those who have passed away.

We remembered women that we know, women that we don’t know, and women that we will come to know a little about.

The reason we are using edible plants is to remind people in the UK of the 1 million people across 46 communities in Syria who are besieged and struggling to eat.

We reject the weaponisation of food in conflict and we assert that land and food sovereignty are key to the dignity and self-determination of all people.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Education for Freedom



One of the consequences of the Syrian conflict has been the massive disruption of children’s education, particularly in communities outside regime control. School enrolment has fallen by half and there are 3 million children in the country not in school.

There are however several Syrian charities and NGOs working as best they can to fill the needs of these children, who are hungry for knowledge and desperately in need of contact with the outside world to gain a sense of what ‘normal’ life is like.

These people are working under difficult circumstances and with limited resources. Syria Solidarity UK is seeking to promote links between educators in Syria and teachers, schools, and educational professionals in the UK, to provide them with assistance in areas like training, curriculum development, and educational materials.

Come to our meeting and hear from Syrians who are involved in this work and discuss what you can do to help them and Syria’s children.

Education for Freedom
Helping Syria’s children to build a better future

Speakers: Heba Ajami, Syrian teacher and education activist, and Anass Tooma, Managing Director, Human Care Syria.

Saturday 26 March at 6:30 p.m.
Stanmer Room, Brighthelm Centre,
North Road, Brighton BN1 1YD.

Facebook event page.

For more information see our education page.


Image: Bombed school in Aleppo, Syria, 2013, Al-Riyadh/AFP.
Via The Ruin of Syria’s Schools: Mapping Damaged and Destroyed Schools in Syria, by Joseph Adams, Syria Direct.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Five years into a revolution betrayed, Liberal Democrats need to build links with Syrians

A guest post by Jonathan Brown, first published at Liberal Democrat Voice.

Five years ago, on Friday 18th March 2011, Syrian civilians in the southern town of Deraa took to the streets to demand freedom, dignity and a fair future. The regime of Bashar al-Assad and his coterie responded immediately with deadly force, and over the following weeks more and more protesters were shot down, more and more mourners were murdered while attending funerals and more and more innocent Syrians were rounded up for torture – in many cases never to be seen again.
In May 2011 the civil uprising was invigorated by the desperately sad revelation that 13 year old Hamza al-Khateeb had died in prison. When his body was returned to his family, “the boy’s head was swollen, purple and disfigured. His body was a mess of welts, cigarette burns and wounds from bullets fired to injure, not kill. His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off.” Even Syrians, after decades of oppression, were shocked that the regime would stoop so low.

As this post explains: “By June 2011, Islamist radicals, many of whom had been released in presidential amnesties, began to organize into small militias conducting hit-and-run attacks on the army. Now thoroughly disabused of the notion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government could be swayed by peaceful protest, many former demonstrators and military defectors also took up arms.”

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon put it, the international community has completely failed Syria. We have stood by or allowed fuel to be poured on the fire of one of the worst humanitarian crises since WWII.

As someone who lived in Syria for several years, and who remains in contact with Syrians there, and in the refugee communities, it is clear that my sympathies lie with the Syrian people, divided though they may be. Last week’s conference debate on the emergency motion ‘Towards a Stable and Peaceful Syria’ was, despite the perhaps unrealistic optimism of the title, nevertheless a step forward. As a party we have debated air strikes and united around Tim Farron’s call that we should do much, much more for refugees (not all of whom are Syrian, it should be noted). What we have not been good at doing, as a party, a government, a country or even as a continent, is to really listen to Syrian voices and create space for them to lead and inform our debates.

If the controversy around air strikes has achieved one thing, it has been that this has begun, ever so slightly, to change. On Saturday 9th January many of us attended the very informative “Syria Vote and Beyond—Radical Ideas for Difficult Problems” conference, and heard from two Syrian speakers. We were privileged that one of them, Yasmine Nahlawi of the Manchester Syrian Community’s Rethink Rebuild Society, came to speak at the ‘Safe at Last? Syrian Refugees in the UK’ Fringe in York last weekend.

I have founded, and aim shortly to officially launch the Liberal Democrats for Syrian Freedom, Peace and Reconstruction. The primary purpose of the group is to help connect Lib Dems with Syrians and to enable us to hear directly from them. It exists to be a conduit for Syrians to connect with us. I hope that we will be able to develop links with, and learn from, organisations such as the Rethink Rebuild Society, the Syrian British Medical Association, Badael and many others. With the recent partial ‘cessation of hostilities’, Syrians have taken to the streets in great numbers once again, protesting against the horrific regime and the extremists who have attempted to co-opt the revolution. We should be with them in spirit and in solidarity.

I will write more soon, but if anyone would like to register their interest or get involved, please contact me via the Facebook page linked to above and/or email me on LD4FreeSyria@gmail.com

Jonathan Brown is a Liberal Democrat activist from Chichester, an executive committee member of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and a Syrian rights campaigner. He is writing here in a personal capacity.

We would like to hear of any similar initiatives by members of other UK political parties, unions, or civil society organisations—please contact us at info@syriauk.org

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Robin Yassin-Kassab on Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War

On February 27th Syria Solidarity UK and DESTIN, the student society of the Department of International Development at LSE, hosted a discussion with Robin Yassin-Kassab on his new book Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War, co-authored with Leila al-Shami. The event was kindly supported by Professor David Graeber.

Robin's talk and question and answer session are available below to watch. They give a brilliant insight into the Syrian revolution, and the work that went into writing the book.



Part one.



Part two.

Our Terrible Country



On March 2nd, Syria Solidarity UK and DESTIN, the student society of the Department of International Development at LSE, held a screening of Our Terrible Country, a documentary by Mohamad Ali Atassi and Ziad Homsi.

There followed a discussion with Haid Haid from Planet Syria, chaired by Leena Zahra. This screening was part of the Syria Untold series of events organised with Destin.

The Film

Our Terrible Country tells the story of a road trip  in 2013 from Douma to Raqqa, in Syria, and from there to Istanbul in Turkey. The travellers are Yassin al-Haj Saleh, leftist writer, and Ziad Homsi, a young revolutionary photographer whom Mr Saleh  met when he came to join his wife, Samira Khalil, a human rights activist in liberated Douma.

The film opens in the bomb devastated streets of Douma where Samira Khalil  is challenged  for not having her hair covered.  Immediately we are aware that this is not going to be a hymn to the revolution (or to Mr Saleh himself)  but a wry and thoughtful reflection on its contradictions.

As a road movie, it is decidedly downbeat—heat, sand,  and checkpoints by a variety of militias making what would have been a simple one day journey before 2011 into a nineteen day odyssey. When they arrive in Raqqa to join Mr Saleh’s family, they find that his brother has been abducted by ISIS who are now in full control of the town. Mr Saleh spends his few months there in hiding.

The tone of the film changes at this point, as Ziad emerges from behind the camera to become a  movie character himself, and there develops a strong and affectionate bond between the older intellectual (who, unlike many of his contemporaries, fiercely supports the revolution) and  the younger activist  and sometime fighter. Ziad obviously esteems the older man highly—he calls him the “doctor of the revolution,” and in turn Saleh trusts and admires him as representative of the younger activists who are risking everything including their lives. They reflect sombrely on whether it is worth dying, or killing,  for an “idea,”  and whether “the Monster” (as Saleh calls ISIS) is a product of their revolution. Saleh says it’s the revolution’s cancer.

As the scene changes from Raqqa to exile in Istanbul, Mr Saleh is shown not as a man of  towering intellect, but as increasingly frail,  fretting about the isolation of intellectuals from the revolution, and worrying constantly about his wife, stuck in Douma which is by now under siege. His worries are with good reason: while the film was nearing completion Samira was abducted, along with 3 friends, and has not been heard of since. The Army of Islam, then led by Zahran Alloush, are widely held to be responsible.

The film ends with an emotional  reunion of the two travellers in an Istanbul cafe. Ziad has been kidnapped by ISIS on the way from Raqqa, and tortured. Ziad consoles Saleh for having fled Syria: he says “anyone who loves life has to leave, there is only death in Syria.”

So there are few consolations in this unsparing film, except for the sense of fond comradeship and the continuing good humoured resilience of the characters. And of course from our knowledge of the aftermath: despite the traumatic events in which both  have been involved, they have continued in exile, along with countless thousands of other Syrians, to support the revolution in defiance of Assad and of ISIS.    

Discussion

Haid Haid of Planet Syria gave a short account of the civil society organisations that sprang up in Syria after 2011, of their efforts to create a free society where collective decisions are made and conditions for ordinary people improve. They continue this work despite the difficulties of constant bombardment and of the fragmentation of the country. He explained that, as the film showed, these activists have been targeted by both the regime and by ISIS and other Islamists, and many are dead or in exile. They continue their work in exile, remaining in close touch with organisations inside Syria, despite the difficulties caused by tighter border controls and by ‘anti terror’ controls by international banks, which prevent transfers of funds to Syria.

He found hope, however, in the recent upsurge of activism, in the increasingly visible demonstrations in Syria since the partial ceasefire, and he believed that if the ceasefire holds, it will allow civil society to revive and  the exiles to return.

His answers to questions from the audience included the following:

What caused the rise of ISIS?

Assad was sponsoring Islamists before the revolution. He allowed them to travel to Iraq to fight the US. Then he imprisoned them when they returned, but released them after the revolution while imprisoning peaceful activists. Thus Al Nusra and then ISIS were born. We see them as the other face of  the regime.

Why has the world abandoned Syria?

Everyone was waiting for the US to take action, but it became too late because the US and others did not want the regime to fall without knowing what would take its place. So the West has moved gradually over to the Russian view: protect the regime for fear of ISIS. The legal conditions to provide humanitarian protection have existed for a long time in Syria, but the political will has been lacking.

What is left of the revolution, and is it still worth fighting for?

Many of us have asked ourselves this question from time to time, but we don't have any option but to continue. We have to work on a small scale and survive until the situation improves, to support the people inside who are still willing to fight for their freedom. They are not ready to quit in Syria; those who are still there inspire me. When you travel in Syria  you get a different impression from outside. People are still running their own affairs and controlling their areas, electing democratic councils. We need to be careful not to see only the sad side of the story. Activists  are working on more than just survival and obtaining food—though this is a huge priority in some areas—they are still trying to make a difference, and to create a new society.

What do you think of the refugee situation, in neighbouring countries and in Europe?

There is no legal framework that acknowledges the existence of Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries. Therefore, they are considered guests with no clear refuges rights. Syrians in the neighbouring countries are suffering on all levels and that’s why they risk their lives to move to a place where they can access their basic rights. The situation of Syrian refugees is a bit better in Europe but they still face many challenges there as well. Europe is approaching the refugee crises wrongly by focusing on how to keep Syrians out of Europe rather than how to enhance their situation in the neighbouring countries so they don’t have to come to Europe.

Can you say more about the local councils in the liberated areas?

Despite constant bombardment and in some cases  prolonged sieges, they deliver the essentials of life—water and bread—and they coordinate resources as well as they can. Some are democratically elected, other are appointed by the armed groups. They are funded in various ways, by opposition groups, or by private individuals and charities. But transferring funds, as I said, is becoming more difficult. It’s difficult to be able to talk about the local councils in general as the situation is different from one area to another. However, the local councils are a great improvement on the Assad regime. People are participating in choosing them, at least in most of the areas, and they are able to criticise them publicly when they fail to do their job.

Are you hopeful about the current ceasefire?

The positive aspects of the ceasefire are that the US and Russia agreed on it and made it happen, and that there is also for the first time a working force to monitor and deal with violations. But Russian airstrikes are not included. Russia says they are targeting  ISIS and Al Nusra, but they are actually targeting opposition forces who are fighting ISIS as well as the regime. This is merely an excuse to continue to crush civilians in opposition areas and drive them out. The agreement considers Russia to be neutral but it is not—it support the regime. The Assad regime promised to allow humanitarian access, but it is not keeping its promises.

No-one is stopping the violations of the ceasefire, and besieged areas are still not getting food, so it is not being implemented properly so far.

Do you feel guilty for starting the revolution?

Was it our fault that the peaceful revolution was met with violence, and grew out of all proportion when outside forces became involved? No we should blame the perpetrator of violence: the regime, which made violent resistance inevitable. Victims often tend to blame themselves, it’s part of a survivor guilt. The regime violence was deliberately provocative: it tortured the children of Daraa and handed back the mutilated bodies; it pursued a policy of collective punishment to inflame whole cities. Assad wanted the revolution to become militarised because it’s easier to deal with an armed conflict than a peaceful one. Starting the Syrian revolution was the right thing to do and the Assad regime is the one to be blamed for what Syria and Syrians are going through.

What is Planet Syria?

It’s a coalition of 114 civil society activists inside Syria. It’s called Planet Syria because they feel like they are on a different planet and no-one outside is listening to them. When we conducted a survey of their priorities for international action, these emerged as firstly, stop the aerial bombardment and protect civilians, and secondly, establish a real political process for peace. The demands are clear, but sadly the political will from the international community is still missing.

Notes by Clara Connolly.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Five years on

A post by Dr Peshang Abdulhannan and Dr Mohammad Tammo of Kurds House—one in a series of reflections to mark the 5th anniversary of the Syrian Revolution.

Five years on since it was first said in the southern city of Daraa, “the people want the regime to fall.” A sentence that led to the arrest and torture of Hamza Al-Khateeb and his teenager friends and subsequently the eruption of nationwide anti-government protests that turned to a full-scale civil war.

A war that witnessed the killing of Ghiath Matar, Ibrahim Qashoush and Mashaal Tammo, and has ripped the country apart, killing more than 250,000 Syrians and forcing more than 11 million others from their homes. A conflict that is now more than just a battle between the Assad’s regime and the rebels. Violence, war crimes and the use of chemical weapons have been familiar news while the rise of so-called Islamic State has added another dimension to it. This in turn opened the door for UK, Russian and US-led strikes in Syria, and the fleeing of more than 5 million people, mostly women and children, across the borders to become one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Reflection on the anniversary

A post by Yasmine Nahlawi of Rethink Rebuild Society UK—one in a series of reflections to mark the 5th anniversary of the Syrian Revolution.

It has been five long years for the Syrian people. They have endured the worst humanitarian crisis of modern times and have been failed by world powers who have claimed to be their friends. Their neighbourhoods and villages have been reduced to rubble, and their loved ones have been brutally snatched from them in what continues to be a struggle for freedom and dignity against a brutal Assad dictatorship.

As the fifth anniversary of the Syrian revolution approaches us, Syria is in a period of relative calm. A recently announced ceasefire is helping to mitigate civilian casualties, although it has proven extremely shaky with multiple violations recorded by Assad and Russia. However, this period of military calm has been accompanied by a frenzy of activity by Syrian civil society. Spectators would expect that Syrians, war-weary and struggling for basic survival, would use this chance to attend to their immediate needs. Instead, Syrians have displayed immense resilience and have seized this opportunity to resume the same non-violent protests against the Assad regime that they began in 2011. Syrians are in effect showing to the world that the spirit of revolution is very much alive, and that their quest for freedom and dignity will not be forsaken.

Why should we celebrate the Syrian Revolution?

A post by Mark Boothroyd of Syria Solidarity UK—one in a series of reflections to mark the 5th anniversary of the Syrian Revolution.

As the 5th anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian Revolution approaches, it may seem strange that the revolution should be something to celebrate. With the revolutionary struggle and ensuing war having claimed the lives of half a million people, injured another two million and displaced or made refugees over half of Syria's population, while laying waste to the country, there seems little to celebrate.

Yet as someone committed to social change and social justice, the mere fact the revolution began at all points to the strength and courage of millions of people, and their ability and potential to effect social change through mass political action. This is an example which we must not allowed to be buried in the reports of bloodshed, regime brutality and ISIS tyranny which dominate most news stories about Syria.

Syria… Five years on

A post by Dr Sharif K al-Ghazal of the Syrian Association of Yorkshire—one in a series of reflections to mark the 5th anniversary of the Syrian Revolution.

Five years, five long years and still the Syrian people demand their freedom. They have been resisting a tyrannical regime; one ruled by a family of corrupt autocrats for 46 years. But the recent entry of Daesh into the fray has muddied the waters within the media narrative. Unlike back in 2011, Syria is increasingly being seen through the lens of counter-terrorism as opposed to a people’s revolt as it should be. Realities on the ground dictate that until the very recent ceasefire, widespread protests were impossible; that should not however mask the reality of the situation on the ground and the Syrian people’s hatred of both the Assad regime and Daesh and their yearning for freedom.

The international community has failed the Syrian people. Syria has been abandoned, its people forgotten; left to starve and fend for themselves. When the international community had the opportunity to assist the Syrian people in the early days of the revolution they made the wrong choice and failed to help. Furthermore, the humanitarian aid that has been offered has been meagre and has contributed very little within the greater scheme of things. Moreover, the failure of the international community to stand beside the Syrian people against the brutal Assad regime and its Iranian allies opened up a vacuum for extremists to exploit; one that spawned the death cult that is Daesh. To make matters even more grave, Russia has intervened on the side of the Assad regime under the pretext of attacking Daesh though it has just brought with it more death and destruction, killing civilians in rebel held areas and making the situation even more bleak.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

#Women4Syria – More events for The Syrian Calendar



The Syrian Calendar for March 2016: ‪#‎Women4Syria‬

More events have been added! See the list below, and follow the Facebook page for updates.

To find out more, to taking part in one of these events, or to add your own event, email calendar.syria@gmail.com

Upcoming events:

  • Friday 11th March, Edinburgh
    Ladies’ Night in aid of Syrian Orphans and Children in Need
    By Edinburgh Cares.
    6pm-9pm, at St Thomas of Aquin’s High School 2-20 Chalmers St, Edinburgh EH3 9ES.
    Facebook event page.

  • Saturday 12th March, London
    5 Years March
    #Women4Syria will be joining the march in London to mark the fifth anniversary of the Syrian Revolution.
    London march assembles 12 noon at Paddington Green, London W2.

  • Saturday 12th March, Manchester
    A workshop by Syrian women: Recognising Women in our Community
    By Rethink Rebuild Society.
    11am–5pm, at 18-32 Brentfield Avenue, Manchester M8 0TW.

  • Saturday 12th March, Manchester
    Raising Our Voices
    By Rethink Rebuild Society.
    12 noon–3pm, at JNR8 Youth and Community Centre, Cromwell Avenue, Manchester M16 0BG.

  • Sunday 13th March, London
    Syrian Women Rising: A Solidarity Action
    A planting action celebrating and commemorating Syrian women, by London Palestine Action.
    3pm, Meet by the Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin's Place, London WC2N 4JL.
    Facebook event page.

  • Wednesday 16th March – London
    Aid, Development and the Syrian Refugee Crisis + Screening: Not Who We Are
    In association with DESTIN, the student society of the Department of International Development at LSE.
    Facebook event page.

  • Sunday 20th March – London
    SAFE PASSAGE in solidarity with Syrian women
    by London Palestine Action.
    Victoria Tower Gardens, Abingdon Street, Millbank, London.
    Facebook event page.

  • Wednesday 23rd March – London
    Brick Lane Debate
    on women’s activism in the Syrian Revolution.


Director Zaina Erhaim speaking via Skype to a screening of Syria’s Rebellious Women at SOAS, London, 7th March.

Thanks to Zaina Erhaim for speaking and to SOAS Syria Society for organising this event.

A statement on the repression of the Kurdish population in Turkey



We the undersigned are deeply concerned at the deterioration of relations between the Turkish government and Turkey’s Kurdish communities, and call for the ending of all repressive measures against the Kurdish population, and the lifting of all sieges imposed on Kurdish areas.

We are motivated to make this statement by the same principles that drive our unconditional support for the democratic struggle against the Assad regime and its allies, which we identify as first and foremost responsible for the grave humanitarian crisis that the Syrian people have been plunged into and which has resulted in close to half a million deaths.

As we support the struggle for a free, united, democratic Syria, so we support the right of all people to a life of dignity, free from state repression, and their right to democratically govern their societies and communities. This includes the right to celebrate their diverse cultures through the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association. We uphold these principles and champion their universal extension without condition.

Even as we recognise that Turkey has been a far truer friend to Syrians than the Western powers have been, opening its borders to two and a half million refugees fleeing Assad’s repression, we also recognise that any restrictions on democratic rights in Turkey will negatively impact on those Syrian refugees who have sought refuge there. Moreover, we fear that the EU, in its efforts to persuade Turkey to contain the refugees and prevent them from crossing to Europe, will overlook the human rights abuses committed by the Turkish state.

On principle, we call for the lifting of all sieges in all ongoing conflicts. Using food as a weapon is a war crime.

In the spirit of the non-sectarian, democratic struggles that sparked the Arab Spring revolutions and whose supporters continue to resist repression in Syria and Egypt, we call on President Erdogan to end the indefinite state of curfew in Sirnak, as well as and to reopen the political process for reaching a settlement with the Kurdish citizens of Turkey.

Moreover, we firmly declare our solidarity with the democratic civil society groups seeking a political solution ensuring the civil rights of the Kurdish people. We are alarmed that the Turkish State is engaging in repression of these groups, such as the Kurdish-Turkish HDP parliamentary party, the students delivering much needed humanitarian aid to the Kurdish regions of northern Syria, and the Turkish academics who have spoken out against the repression. We fear any further escalation of fighting or repression will close down the democratic space needed for dialogue, and for non-violent political actors to organise, further polarising the situation and rendering it intractable.

Syria Solidarity UK

with

Dr. Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House

Michael Karadjis

Jason Pike, Gdansk, Poland

Shelagh Besley

Laurence Humphries, RED Liberation

Fred Mecklenburg, News & Letters

Bob French, News & Letters

David Turpin Jr

Laila Alodaat

Mary Rizzo

This statement was written by a number of our activists in collaboration with fellow activists in other organisations. Our thanks to all who have given their consideration and advice in further developing the statement.

Syria Solidarity UK

To add your signature to the statement, please email info@syriauk.org

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

#Women4Syria Dabke in solidarity with Syrian women



As part of the Million Women Rise march on 5th March, #Women4Syria danced dabke in central London to celebrate Syria’s revolutionary women.

This event is part of the first round of The Syrian Calendar. Follow The Syrian Calendar’s Facebook page for more.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Hikayetna: Our Story



Sulaiman of Hikayetna writes:

Hikayetna, meaning ‘our story’ in Arabic, is a new art project that brings people together to talk about the human side of Syrian society. For decades, freedom of expression has been absent from our society, but with our words and our stories we can become united, and feel our humanity, to turn fear into hope.

Hikayetna is a non-political and independent initiative that encourages, develops and aids communities in need while promoting tolerance, love, humanity and cultural values. This initiative is about finding common grounds and interests between people, it neither promotes political agendas nor religious ones. Our aim is to put forward personal stories and life experiences to build a bridge of love and humanity.

Through this project we hope to spread Syrians’ thoughts, words, and feelings, especially Syrians living in refugee camps. We aim to make their voice heard by different audiences around the world, who would have never had the chance to hear those stories otherwise.

The goal of this project is to motivate young people to write and create stories by equipping them with practical trainings. We are therefore inviting young Syrians to help us create and share their stories, focusing on culture, arts, and music. Moreover, this project is a way to encourage young people to learn, socialise, and participate in building civil life and be active actors in it.

Finally, we strive to continually grow and attract diverse audience using different media platforms, including organising events and online workshops.

We hope this project will be a voice for all Syrians, regardless of their views, religion or background. We aim to break the media’s negative images about Syria and to show a beautiful picture of Syria and Syrians.


Image: Coast of Syria by Esam Hamzeh, from My Journey from Damascus to the UK by Dr Milad Zinah.

Friday, 4 March 2016

5 years – #TheRevolutionContinues



Taking advantage of the reduction in bombing, however temporary, Syrians held demonstrations across Syria today in support of the revolution.

Despite the years of killing, despite the mass murder of civilians by the Assad regime, despite the mass imprisonment, torture, and execution, of adults and children, despite the ongoing sieges, despite the bombing of hospitals and schools, Syrians still came to the street to demand freedom, democracy, and the end of the dictatorship.

On Saturday the 12th of March, Syrians from across the UK, along with friends and supporters, will come to march in London to mark the 5th anniversary of the Syrian revolution.

The march will assemble at 12 noon at Paddington Green, London W2.

Join us – #TheRevolutionContinues

Thursday, 3 March 2016

“There is no ceasefire”

Yesterday Dr Abdel Aziz in Aleppo spoke via Skype to a meeting in the House of Commons’ Committee Room 21, organised by the Syrian British Medical Society and hosted by Roger Godsiff MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Syria.

Dr Abdel Aziz:

The situation is terrible, especially in some hard to reach cities such as Aleppo now. The situation in Aleppo currently is very difficult because the city now could be classified as hard to reach because there is snipers attacking anybody coming crossing the only road to the city. We have by the way now, the total number of doctors including specialist, resident, or medical students, no more than 30 doctors inside Aleppo city. One example in my hospital, we have in the ICU only one technician covering 24 hours a day. We don’t have any other staff because so many technicians fled out of the city, because they heard the city could be besieged at any time.

We have two orthopaedic in the whole of the city. The total population of the city, it was 350,000, and now decreased at least 100,000 because so many people fled out of the city. The daily basis airstrikes never stopped, maybe at the same time three, four, five in the sky, and targeting mostly civilians, mostly hospitals, schools.