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Friday, 29 April 2016

Aleppo hospital bombing: Statement by Syrian groups in the UK



PDF version

The bombing of another hospital in Aleppo by Assad’s air force, killing patients and medical workers, is the action of a lawless gangster organisation. Every Security Council resolution on Syria has been brazenly flouted, and every agreement broken.

That Assad’s criminal  air force is still at liberty to fly and bomb is a stain on the reputation of the UN Security Council, a stain on every one of the permanent member governments, a stain on NATO that allows this to continue a few kilometres across its southern border.

These killings, after five years of Assad’s slaughter of civilians, are a stain on every political party in the UK, on every politician in Britain who has failed to stand up for the right of civilians for protection.

The UK needs to take action to enforce UN resolutions and ground Assad’s air force.

The UK needs to answer the call of Syrian doctors for air drops to besieged civilians.

To stand by is to be complicit in the crime.


  • Syria Solidarity UK
  • Syrian British Medical Society
  • Kurds House
  • Rethink Rebuild Society
  • Peace and Justice for Syria
  • Scotland4Syria
  • Syrian Association of Yorkshire
  • Syrian Platform for Peace
  • Syrian Society of Nottinghamshire
  • Syrian Welsh Society




March With Medics Under Fire.

Saturday 7th May at 2pm, Trafalgar Square, London.

Facebook event page.




Join Women4Syria in solidarity with women in besieged Daraya.

Saturday 30 April, 12 noon at 10 Downing Street, London.

Facebook event page.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

The killing of Dr Muhammad Waseem Maaz



Via The Syria Campaign on Facebook

Dear friends,

I am Dr Hatem, the director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo.

Last night, 27 staff and patients were killed in an airstrike on Al Quds Hospital nearby. My friend Dr Muhammad Waseem Maaz (pictured), the city’s most qualified paediatrician, was killed in the attack.

He used to work at our Children’s Hospital during the day and then he’d go to Al Quds Hospital to attend to emergencies overnight.

Dr Maaz and I used to spend six hours a day together. He was friendly, kind and he used to joke a lot with the whole staff. He was the loveliest doctor in our hospital.

I’m in Turkey now, and he was supposed to visit his family here after I returned to Aleppo. He hadn’t seen them in four months.

Dr Maaz stayed in Aleppo, the most dangerous city in the world, because of his devotion to his patients. Hospitals are often targeted by government and Russian air forces.

Days before Dr Maaz’s life was taken, an airstrike hit only 200 metres away from our hospital. When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them.

Like so many others, Dr Maaz was killed for saving lives. Today we remember Dr Maaz’s humanity and his bravery. Please share his story so others may know what medics in Aleppo and across Syria are facing.

The situation today is critical - Aleppo may soon come under siege. We need the world to be watching.

Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts,

Dr Hatem




March With Medics Under Fire

Saturday 7th May at 2pm, Trafalgar Square, London.

Facebook event page.

Letter from MPs in Europe calling for urgent aid airdrops to Syrian civilians

As members of European Parliaments whose air forces are flying over Syria, we believe it is now time for our leaders to authorise urgent aid airdrops to the country’s trapped and starving civilians.

The denial of food as a weapon of war in Syria should have ended two months ago. Much needed food and medicine was expected to reach desperate communities within days of a partial ceasefire and an agreement that brutal starvation sieges would be lifted. Yet two months on many areas are still on the brink of starvation. Most have yet to see a single aid truck.

While all sides have used siege tactics, the government of Bashar al­-Assad is responsible for denying access to food, water and medical care to over 90% of besieged areas.

In Daraya, a small town of 8,000 people on the outskirts of Damascus, the situation is desperate. Bashar al­Assad’s snipers encircle the town, preventing people or food from entering or leaving.

The result is starvation. According to the UN, some have resorted to eating grass to survive and many residents are surviving on boiled water with spices. Malnutrition is rife, meaning many mothers cannot breastfeed and no baby milk is available.

Madaya, which became world news in January after many civilians starved to death, is still only occasionally accessible. Despite repeated pictures of skeletal children, aid access and medical evacuations have been denied.

These ongoing starvation sieges are a deep scar on the conscience of Europe. We know from the numbers of refugees fleeing to safety and the increasing threat from Isis what happens when we ignore the plight of civilians in Syria.

Lifting the sieges in Syria with sustained access and freedom of movement for civilians should always remain the priority for the international community. But the consistent lack of progress in this area cannot be a reason to continue sitting on our hands.

This month, the UN carried out its first successful airdrop into the city of Deir Ezzor, proving that there are options we could take to alleviate the worst of the hunger in Syria. If we can drop food to Deir Ezzor, we can drop it to places like Daraya and all besieged areas in Syria. Let's get this food and medicine to Syria’s civilians today, before more children die cruel, needless deaths.

Our countries, the UK, France, Netherlands and Germany are all flying in Syrian airspace as part of the anti­Isis effort. If the UN lacks the ability to deliver aid, we have the capacity and presence to act. And high­ altitude airdrops would keep our brave pilots safe.

Airdropping aid is only ever a last resort, but there are dependable partners on the ground in these besieged areas ready to coordinate the distribution of aid.

Today, Russia controls the airspace over Syria, and as a co­chair of the international Humanitarian Task Force that has demanded humanitarian access, should guarantee safe passage for these aid flights.

It is now time for our Governments to prioritise getting aid to starving Syrians. We can no longer wait for permission from the Bashar al­-Assad regime that may never come.

Signatories

  1. Marieluise Beck MP, The Greens, Germany
  2. José Bové MEP, The Greens/European Free Alliance, France
  3. Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat, UK
  4. Franziska Brantner MP, The Greens, Germany
  5. Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Scottish National Party, UK
  6. Jean­Michel Couve MP, Union for a Popular Movement, France
  7. Jo Cox MP, Labour, UK
  8. Karima Delli MEP, Europe Ecology/The Greens, France
  9. Stephen Doughty MP, Labour, UK
  10. Pascal Durand MEP, The Greens/European Free Alliance, France
  11. Eva Joly MEP, Europe Ecology/The Greens, France
  12. Roderich Kiesewetter MP, Christian Democratic Union, Germany
  13. Jason McCartney MP, Conservative, UK
  14. Greg Mulholland MP, Liberal Democrat, UK
  15. The Rt Hon the Baroness Lindsay Northover, Liberal Democrat, UK
  16. Christophe Premat MP, Socialist, France
  17. Michèle Rivasi MEP, Europe Ecology/The Greens, France
  18. Marietje Schaake MEP, Democrats '66, Netherlands
  19. Sjoerd Sjoerdsma MP, Democrats '66, Netherlands
  20. Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish National Party, UK
  21. The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP, Conservative, UK
  22. Charles Tannock MEP, Conservative, UK
  23. Stephen Twigg MP, Labour, UK

READ MORE:

European MPs urge governments to make airdrops to Syrian civilians, Ian Black, The Guardian.


Saturday, 23 April 2016

Join #Women4Syria, Saturday 30 April, 12 noon at Downing Street



Join Women4Syria in solidarity with women in besieged Daraya.
Saturday 30 April, 12 noon at 10 Downing Street, London.
Facebook event page.

Join Women in Black vigil for Syria.
Wednesday 27 April 6pm at the Edith Cavell Memorial, London.
Facebook event page.

This month, the women of Daraya in Syria made a call for help to the world, on behalf of its starving townspeople.

Is Daraya to become another Madaya? Women’s groups and Syrian groups in the UK support the call by Daraya’s women.

The UK Government could break the siege, and save the town, by making airdrops of food and medical aid from its bases in Cyprus.

Drop food not bombs!

Please sign and share the petition.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Syrian and UK doctors and aid workers call for airdrops to all besieged areas

The following statement comes from Syrian and British doctors and aid workers of UOSSM, Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations. For more, see Richard Spencer’s report, Syrian doctors call for RAF aid drops to civilians suffering ‘mass starvation.’

You can support the call for air drops by signing and sharing the petition to Government here:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/117658

If you are a medical worker and would like to add your support to the statement below, please email info@syriauk.org

Issued by UOSSM, Gazantiep, Turkey:

Doctors: Ceasefire in peril as Syria’s humanitarian crisis worsens, airdrops to all besieged areas urgently needed

Across Syria, hundreds of thousands of innocent women, men and children are confronting starvation, as ongoing starve and siege tactics put the tenuous Syrian ceasefire in jeopardy.  As Syrian doctors, nurses and medics and their supporters we cannot stand at the sidelines as our people are being starved to death in full view of the international community, which has thus far failed to break the sieges in Syria.

We are working day in and day out to save lives from barrel bomb attacks and artillery fire, including chemical weapons, only to see innocent women and children die of starvation that is entirely preventable. We cannot understand why our people are permitted to starve, when the international community could air drop aid and end starvation overnight.

18 communities are currently under siege, the vast majority by Assad’s forces.  And where the Assad regime does provide limited access to UN convoys, these are under strict conditions, including the regime’s removal of any medical aid for thousands of besieged Syrians. Only one of area under siege—Deir Ezzor—has received airdrops. In the remainder, civilians are being asked to fend for themselves and mass starvation is the result.  As Syrians and as doctors, we cannot understand why all efforts are not being undertaken to reach all people in need. This despite the UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien encouraging Member States to explore all options to break the sieges, including through humanitarian aid drops.

Airdrops are not a perfect solution, but they are the best hope our people have of avoiding starvation, and they are the only way to give hundreds of thousands of Syrians on the ground the hope and belief in the political negotiations in Geneva.  It is incomprehensible to us that world leaders believe they can reach a peace agreement in Geneva while Syrians are being starved to death in Daraya.

The world can relieve the suffering in besieged areas, but it is choosing not to.  This failure is putting the ceasefire in peril, and it is costing the lives of our people.   The British Government has indicated it will consider air drops as a last resort… we are well and truly at that point now.

Dr David Nott OBE (UK)
Dr Ghanem Tayara (Syrian, UK)
Dr Redwan (Syrian, UK)
Dr Abdullah (Syrian, UK)
Dr Chamaa (Syrian, Switzerland)
Dr Ayham Al-Zoebi (Syrian, Germany)
Dr BANANEH Ahmed (Syrian, France)
Dr Issam MOUSSLY (Syrian, France)
Dr Anas Al Kassem (Syrian, Canada)
Dr Khaula Sawah (Syrian, USA)
Dr Wahiba Chaker (Syrian, Turkey)
Dr Hassan Wazait (Syrian, UK)
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon OBE (UK)

Monday, 18 April 2016

Red Lines



RED LINES: Screening today Monday 18 April 7pm at SOAS London.
Room B102, Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh St, London WC1H 0XG.

Facebook event page.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Take action: New calls for UK air drops of aid to Syria



At the start of January, when the newspapers published pictures of starving children in the besieged town of Madaya, Christopher Bridges started a petition calling on the UK Government to start air drops to besieged communities across Syria.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

His petition gathered over 60,000 signatures, and then the Assad regime relented, and let an aid convoy through to Madaya. Newspapers and TV moved on to other stories.

But Madaya is still under siege. Even though some food aid has reached the town, the Assad regime and its allies Hezbollah still block medical aid from reaching the town, and they still block medical evacuations. People are still dying in Madaya, from the effects of malnutrition, and from untreated injuries from landmines laid around the town.

Other besieged towns are faring even worse. The Cessation of Hostilities was supposed to allow aid to all besieged communities, but the Assad regime is still blocking most aid to besieged areas across Syria, and even when they let in food aid, the Assad regime removes medical aid from convoys.

Now the women of Daraya, in a neighbourhood only a short drive from central Damascus, are calling on the world for help. Demonstrating in the ruins left by Assad’s air force, they are calling for food not bombs. Women’s campaign groups in the UK are supporting them.

Responding to Christopher’s petition, the UK Government wrote, “Use of air drops to deliver aid is high risk and should only be considered as a last resort when all other means have failed, and it is an effective way of getting humanitarian supplies to people.”

Since then we have seen the World Food Programme drop food to Deir Ezzor in Syria, a town under siege from ISIS. This clearly demonstrates that aid drops are possible. If aid can be dropped to a town besieged by ISIS, it can be dropped to the many communities being besieged by Assad.

Glenys Kinnock wrote in The Guardian this week: “Manifestly, ‘all other means’ have failed. Surely, now it is time for the UK, and others in the UN with the capability, to take action on air drops?”

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British Army veteran, wrote in The Telegraph this week: “The RAF are the experts in high altitude air drops, capable of accurately dropping packages to within a 10 meter radius. This is ideal for dropping aid into the besieged and flattened towns across Syria.”

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

Signing this petition can make a real difference. Air drops have been supported by individual backbenchers from all sides of the House of Commons. If Christopher’s petition to the UK Government passes 100,000 then air drops will be debated in Parliament.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Refugee campaigning: Reflections on the past year



A guest post by Zrinka Bralo

I have been involved in campaigning and advocacy efforts for refugee rights for more than 20 years, ever since I became a refugee, fleeing the war in Bosnia. When the war in Syria started, the news of it brought back my trauma, as the destruction of many Syrian cities and the people trying to survive look very much like my own experience of the siege of Sarajevo.

It is hard to believe that five years have passed and we have not yet found the way to peace in Syria. The sense of powerlessness and anger has been overwhelming for me. I am sad to say that I know from experience how it feels for Syrians here who still have relatives trapped back home.

In 2014, I started working on a campaign to provide protection to more Syrian refugees in the UK. The campaign was organised by Citizens UK in the run up to the General Election in 2015, and we asked each local authority to take just 50 refugees to increase the number of resettlement places from a mere 750, which is all that our Government offered at the time.

The progress was slow, and the mood among campaigners was not very optimistic, as our extremely negative discourse on immigration holds back efforts to provide protection to refugees. I felt that, as advocates, we were doing our best, but that we were nowhere near close enough to creating meaningful change. But then Alan Kurdi died. The image of his body on the beach provoked decent people around the world to speak out and start doing something to end this tragedy. Citizens UK rose to the challenge by organising the Refugees Welcome movement and we are now working hard on the introduction of community sponsorship visas to provide safe passage to more people.

The Syria Solidarity UK campaign was very helpful in this process of keeping the issue alive and building a network of various campaigns and Syrians already here, as well as the new arrivals who can speak authentically and legitimately about the situation in Syria and urge action to bring the war to an end.

The 12th September march through London was a powerful expression of goodwill and solidarity with refugees and Syrians, and it was a true privilege to be asked by Syria Solidarity to be one of 100 refugees carrying the banner and leading the march.

That march, along with many other campaigning efforts, moved our government to increase the resettlement quota to 20,000 Syrians. There are many challenges ahead of us and the temptation is to try to do too much. One thing that I, from my Bosnian experience, can share with fellow Syrians is: do not wait for the war to end to start thinking about peace—start preparing for peace now—organise, develop leadership in the diaspora, build consensus among various groups and start lobbying for justice infrastructure to deal with war criminals. Until that happens, the Syria Solidarity UK campaign can continue to create the space and support efforts to have a better informed debate about what is happening in Syria and what potential solutions are required to end the war and to help refugees who are stranded around the world to find protection and safe routes to countries of asylum.

Equally importantly, Syria Solidarity UK can continue to be a much needed space for British and other people of goodwill who want to show solidarity with the plight of the Syrians and offer them support to work for peace and provide protection to those who managed to flee.

Zrinka Bralo is Chief Executive of Migrants Organise. She is a human rights campaigner and former refugee from Bosnia.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The World Food Programme has shown aid drops are possible—now it’s time for the UK to show what it can do.



Jo Cox MP asked a good question in Parliament today. Now that the World Food Programme has shown aid drops are possible in Syria by dropping aid to Deir Ezzor, isn’t it time for the UK to bring its expertise to help?

In Daraya, women continue to protest the starvation siege. The local council stands ready to coordinate aid. The damage of Assad’s bombs means there is all the room needed for a drop zone. So where is the UK?

Other areas are also still desperate for help. And in areas where the UN has been able to bring food aid, the Assad regime has refused medical aid to pass. The UN even reports Assad’s forces removing medical supplies from convoys.

Dropping aid only to regime-held Deir Ezzor while allowing civilians to go on starving in the many areas under regime siege is once again allowing Assad to manipulate UN aid to his own ends. Disturbingly, activists allege that the regime is diverting World Food Programme aid in Deir Ezzor to its own militias. There is an urgent need for transparency from the World Food Programme on what verification measures it has in place.

Call on the UK to act now and drop aid to besieged civilians across Syria.

Below are details of Jo Cox MP’s question in the House today, and the inadequate Government response.

Question from Jo Cox MP, House of Commons, 12 April 2016

Jo Cox MP:

Daesh is of course is a particular threat to civilians in Syria, as also is the ongoing besiegement of communities across the country. With the Syrian regime continuing to block UN trucks, less aid is now reaching those communities than before the Cessation of Hostilities. Does the welcome news on Sunday that the World Food Programme was able to deliver 20 tonnes of aid to Deir Ezzor through a successful air drop demonstrate that the Foreign Office, along with DFID and the Ministry of Defence, should now examine again the possibility of air drops to all besieged communities in Syria?

Mr Tobias Ellwood MP, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

Mr Speaker, I pay tribute to the work that the honourable lady does in this particular area, and her knowledge of it. She’s right to recognise the extra work that is being done to ensure that aid gets through to those very difficult areas, and this is one of the focuses that is taking place as the Cessation of Hostilities begins to endure. We must make sure that those who have been caught up in this horrendous war are able to receive the aid that they require.

MORE: Women4Syria in solidarity with the women of Daraya.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Solidarity with the Women of Daraya: DROP FOOD NOT BOMBS!





On April 5 2016, the women of the besieged town of Dayara, Syria, in an initiative organised by the local Women Now Centre, made an urgent call for help to the world:

https://diary.thesyriacampaign.org/an-urgent-call-from-the-women-of-the-besieged-town-of-daraya/

Daraya’s women say that they have been under siege for 3 years: “There is no food at all.”
They are cooking soups from spices to stave off hunger. They ask for an immediate lifting of the regime siege, and the provision of basic necessities: food, medicine, drinking water, clothes.

The UN has Security Council backing to deliver aid without regime permission, but they insist on awaiting permission from the regime. When world powers agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria, the parties agreed to “accelerate and expand the delivery of humanitarian aid beginning immediately.” But after an increase of aid convoys to besieged Syrian areas in February, the UN Security Council heard during a closed-door meeting last week that UN aid had reached fewer starving Syrians in March: only 21 percent of the total.

The UN recently relieved an ISIS siege of Deir Ezzor using Russian contractors for airdrops. The UK’s military has more experience and expertise in airdrops. For example, it dropped food to the Yazidi people in Northern Iraq in August 2014, using its airbases in Cyprus.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/service-personnel-in-cyprus-assist-in-aid-air-drops

If the UK were to drop food and medical supplies on Daraya and other besieged towns, this would offer immediate salvation from starvation, as well as encourage the UN to be bolder in managing its own relief operations.

We demand an end to the weaponisation of food in war, and call on the UK Government to:

  • Immediately drop food and humanitarian supplies to Daraya,
  • Call on the UN to provide food and humanitarian aid to all besieged areas in Syria, with or without the permission of the regime or other combatants.


Signatories:
Rebecca Johnson, Women in Black
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters
Professor Cynthia Cockburn, City University London, University of Warwick

And the following supporters of Women4Syria:
Heba Ajami
Razan Alaakra
Clara Connolly
Mary Connolly
Ewa Jasiewicz
Jill Nicholls
Sarah Parker
Annie Power
Sheena Gleason
Julia Igaz

And the following British Syrian organisations:
Yasmine Nahlawi, Rethink Rebuild, Manchester
Reem Assil, Syrian Platform for Peace
Dr Sharif Kaf Al Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire
Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria
Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society
Dr Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice for Syria

You can sign a petition calling on the UK Government to drop aid to besieged civilians here.


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Syrian Ceasefire in Danger as Syrian Civilians Appeal for Protection



As Syria’s fragile Cessation of Hostilities enters its second month, Syrians on the ground are confronting a dangerous intensification of Syrian regime airstrikes.  On Thursday 31 March, at least 33 civilians were killed and dozens of others injured after Syrian regime forces launched a series of barrel bomb and missile attacks on schools, hospitals and homes in the outskirts of Damascus.  Among those killed were several children, as well as a brave rescue worker from the Syrian Civil Defence.

“Assad’s attacks are a reminder that the real terrorist in Syria is Assad.  If the world does not take action soon, his killing will destroy the ceasefire agreement, and extinguish any hopes we Syrians have of reaching a political solution to the crisis,” said Mu’taz Al-Jabawi, Chairman of the Board of the Union of Syrian Civil Society Organizations. “If the international community wants to guarantee Syria’s ceasefire, it needs to protect Syrian civilians.”

Syrians on the ground are deeply worried that recent attacks signal a growing escalation of the violence in Syria, and a weakening of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement.  In the first month of the ceasefire, close to 900 violations were recorded, with new violations emerging every day.  In addition to the recent intensification of airstrikes in Syria, regime forces have redoubled their siege tactics—deliberately denying medical aid to innocent men, women and children in desperate need of medical attention.  The situation is particularly horrific in places like Darayya, East Harasta and Douma, where regime forces are systematically denying innocent civilians access to clean water, medical supplies, electricity, gas or basic food supplies—despite the month old Cessation of Hostilities agreement, which requires all parties to the conflict to allow humanitarian aid agencies rapid, unhindered and sustained access throughout areas under their control.

“Time is running out to save Syria’s ceasefire.  There must be consequences for violations of the agreement - otherwise Assad will get the message that he can persist with ever more egregious violations,” said Dr. Haytham Alhamwi of Rethink Rebuild Society.  “We need the world to act now to guarantee the protection of civilians, break the sieges - including through airdrops if necessary - and ensure the delivery of aid.

Signatories

Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets) · Jasmine Dream · Alaa Basatnah · Union of Syrian Civil Society Organizations · Rafif Jouejati, FREE Syria · Rami Jarrah, ANA press · Independent Doctors Association · Mayday · Rethink Rebuild Society · Palestinian League for Human Rights - Syria · Syrian Platform for Peace · Syria Solidarity UK · Zaytoon · Zaad · Syrian Women's Network · Syrian Nonviolence Movement

Save Our Syria (SOS) is a coalition of Syrian civil society and humanitarian groups from inside and outside Syria.   We seek to ensure Syrian-led solutions to the Syrian crisis.