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Thursday, 3 August 2017

Syrian groups complain that other countries are hijacking UN peace talks

Read the Guardian report by Patrick Wintour here.

Full letter below.

PDF version.

Mr. Staffan de Mistura
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
CC:
UN Secretary General
Members of the UN Security Council
Envoys of the International Syria Support Group
EU Ambassadors to the Political and Security Committee

2 August 2017


Your Excellency,
Following the seventh round of peace negotiations, we write to you on behalf of the undersigned Syrian civil society organisations who work every day under unbearable circumstances to improve the living conditions of millions of Syrians. We represent the voices from the ground and our work across the country in the fields of medical and humanitarian assistance, education, freedom of expression, youth and women empowerment, and accountability and justice proves again the fundamental role Syrian civil society plays as a champion for a democratic and inclusive Syria.

As a vital resource for the Syrian population trapped between a tyrannical regime and the brutality of extremism, Syrian civil society organisations strongly support any efforts to bring an end to the Syria conflict. This is why many of our representatives have participated in the intra-Syrian peace talks within the framework of the Civil Society Support Room and have been active in supporting the Geneva peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime.

Sadly, the Geneva process has delivered neither peace nor protection to the Syrian people who are increasingly disillusioned with a process that continues to fail them. We are keen to reverse this trend as without the support of Syrian civil society no political deal will be either sustainable or legitimate, and right now the current process is losing our support. Syrian civil society’s priority is to achieve an inclusive transition to a free and democratic Syria. We are all united around this outcome which defines the basis of the Geneva peace process as set out by UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and as reiterated in your mandate as UN Special Envoy for Syria.

We expect all parties in Geneva—including you—to work for this purpose and engage in serious negotiations. The time consumed on discussions around process and representation, at the expense of a credible and realistic political deal for transition towards democracy, is not only wasting precious time but it is also undermining the international community’s efforts to fight terrorism in Syria. Syrian civil society activities are essential in the fight against extremism. Moderate voices—as we represent—have the power to push back against the extremist forces and fill the vacuum on the ground. But to be able to do so, we need the international community to protect our ability to assist and serve our people. This is why we need the Geneva process to prioritise the protection of civilians and deliver meaningful negotiations that lead to peace for Syria.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

On the loss of Bassel Khartabil Safadi



By Families for Freedom

It’s with deep sorrow that we learned last night of the execution of Bassel Khartabil Safadi. Bassel was a hero to the members of our movement, to many communities around the world and to all Syrians. But we also knew him as someone else—Noura’s husband. He was the disappeared love of a co-founder of our movement. We watched her fight to free him, we listened to her talk about their deep love and the beautiful moments they shared. We stand in solidarity with you our dearest Noura. Noura your loss today is a loss for all Syria, for all mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and brothers and sisters. It’s a loss for every Syrian family.

Bassel was a free soul who worked to bring change to his country and we, along your side, will continue his journey. Bassel will remain a role model for our children and grandchildren. Like all of our missing loved ones, he was a believer in peace, education and innovation as the only means by which Syria can be rebuilt. Unfortunately, in Syria it is these very people that are the ones who are being taken away from us. We will carry their beliefs that change can only happen by these means, and through dialogue and peaceful activism and not through violence.

Last night was a difficult night for us and many other Syrian families with loved ones who are detained or disappeared. Fear and sadness gripped our hearts with your news and we felt as if our wounds had been reopened.

When we last met you said ‘We should not give up.’ Stay strong Noura. Continue to be Noura that we know, an advocate for the freedom of all detainees. Your positive spirit and laughs has kept us going at very difficult times and you are vital to our movement and to our cause. We were dreaming of the day when we could celebrate with you and Bassel and with all our loved ones around. Today we mourn with you. It’s our right to do so. Then we will continue.

First posted on the Families for Freedom Facebook page.

See also:
Families for Freedom campaign for the release of people detained in Syria, including their own family members:
We are Syrian families demanding freedom for all the country’s sons and daughters. These demands are not just for our own families, but for every Syrian family with a detainee. Our position is against enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention by the Syrian regime and all parties to the conflict. We want to mobilise the public to pressure all sides to comply with our demands. We will continue to expand our collective effort to include the largest number of families, regardless of their affiliations.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Airdrops for Raqqa: The UK has a responsibility to thousands of civilians trapped without food or water



Between 10,000 and 50,000 civilians are trapped in Raqqa without food or fresh water.

Food access in Raqqa is now at ‘a critical turning point,’ aid organisations said Monday.

The assault on the ISIS-held city is a joint operation by the International Coalition and their partners on the ground, the SDF.

The UK is a leading member of the Coalition. The Coalition, including the UK have a responsibility to do all they can to protect civilians caught in the fighting.

The UK should organise RAF airdrops of food and water to trapped civilians NOW.

On 23 July, Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, British deputy commander of the coalition, told reporters in Ain Issa north of Raqqa that ‘it is really important as Raqqa is liberated that all sides focus on the protection of civilians.’

Protecting civilians is both a moral imperative and also a strategic necessity in order to defeat extremist ideologyof ISIS and Al Qaeda.

On 11 January and again on 22 February, Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel told the House of Commons that the Government was ‘examining all options for getting aid into besieged areas in Syria,’ including the possibility of using drones to deliver aid directly.

In Raqqa the siege is being imposed by the Coalition, not Assad, and the UK’s responsibility to act is unquestionable.

Government ministers directly concerned with Syria such as Tobias Ellwood and Alistair Burt are proud of the UK’s record on Syria aid, amounting to a commitment of over £2.46 billion. In Raqqa however, the UK has a direct role in the circumstances of people’s suffering and has the capacity through airdrops to provide direct relief.

Will the Coalition and the UK Government in particular now live up to their responsibilities?

The choices they make now will be remembered by Syrians for a long time to come.

Background

The UN estimates 20,000 to 50,000 people remain inside Raqqa city.

REACH Initiative estimates between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians remain trapped.

Since the start of the International Coalition’s final assault on the ISIS-held city, many thousands have escaped, despite ISIS minefields and Coalition air attacks. Hundreds of civilians have been killed or wounded by artillery and air attacks.

According to REACH Initiative, the many thousands of civilians still trapped now rely entirely on whatever food stores they have saved. Refrigerators don’t work because there is little or no electricity. Bread is no longer available anywhere in Raqqa city.

Residents can no longer access water from the Euphrates River because of the tightening siege. Residents rely almost exclusively on neighbourhood boreholes, many of which have been dug recently. These produce limited amounts of water due to insufficient electricity to run boring machines and water pumps. The water produced is also reportedly not fit for drinking, according to REACH.

Médecins Sans Frontières report that ‘large numbers of sick and wounded people are trapped inside Raqqa city with little or no access to medical care and scant chance of escaping the city.’

According to REACH,  informal clinics set up by civilians and not staffed by professionals are reportedly operating in a very limited capacity in the central neighbourhoods of Raqqa. They  have only the most basic of medical supplies.

Airstrikes and reduction in critical supplies are the greatest threats to the safety and well-being of those remaining in Raqqa, REACH reports. Monitoring organisation Airwars estimates that at least 340 civilians in Raqqa were likely killed by Coalition strikes and artillery in June. As many as 119 children were among those killed since June 6th.