Photo courtesy of the CanDo campaign to Save Syria’s Schools
Dear Members and Supporters of UAI,
This month’s Newsletter focuses on Syria. (Next month we will feature the situation in Tigray, Ethiopia.)
March 2021 offered heart-breaking reminders of the war in Syria. Exactly ten years after the first peaceful demonstrations were met with brutal force by the Syrian government, the sense of disbelief is overwhelming. How could a country of 21 million people (in 2010) on the Mediterranean coast have suffered half a million dead, more than 6.6 million refugees, 6.7 million displaced within the country, and 200,000 detained or disappeared? And how could the government of Syria and its allies have been allowed to pursue a strategy of deliberate war crimes, bombing hospitals, schools, markets, and people’s homes, all with apparent impunity?
And there is no halt to these atrocities. On Sunday 21 March, the Al-Atareb Hospital in Aleppo was deliberately targeted. This came just one day after the BBC aired a report showing interviews with survivors of an attack on a school in 2013 who had been rushed to this same hospital for emergency treatment.
And, in the UN Security Council, the government of the Russian Federation is already threatening to veto the continued use of the one remaining border crossing point between Turkey and northern Syria for the shipment of humanitarian supplies, when the Council’s resolution comes up for renewal in July. This would put the continued delivery of essential aid entirely under the control of the Syrian Government, whose record of starving opponents into submission is well known to everyone.
Two moving events were organised in the last week of March to draw attention to the fate of the detained and disappeared, and to recall the most basic demands of the Syrian people for Freedom, Dignity and Political Change. Below are links to these events and also a link to the latest news from the CanDo campaign to Save Syria’s Schools
9 April 2021
1. Truth and Justice in Syria
On 24 March, a moving event was organised by Impunity Watch on behalf of five Syrian groups campaigning for justice and information about people detained or disappeared in Syria’s jails. The 5 organisations are: the Association of Detainees and Missing Persons in Sednaya Prison, the Caesar Families Association, the Coalition of Families of Persons Kidnapped by ISIS (Massar), Families for Freedom and the Ta’afi Initiative.
Harrowing testimony was given by survivors. It was announced that Canada has joined the Netherlands in opening a case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the Syrian Government for breaches of the Convention Against Torture. The five organisations have issued a Truth and Justice Charter for Syria, which has wide support from governments and Human Rights groups.
Click on the link below to access the Truth and Justice Charter for Syria
Use the link below to watch the Webinar of 24 March 2021
2. Demanding Freedom, Dignity and Political Change
On 25 March, the Syrian Network on Human Rights also hosted a webinar to mark 10 years of war in Syria. In emotional testimony, Syrian activists and representatives of governments that have supported their work documenting atrocities committed by all sides in this terrible conflict, renewed their demands for justice for the victims of the war and called passionately for genuine efforts to promote political change.
The representative of the French Government reported that French prosecutors are working on 40 cases of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Please note that the webinar was conducted in English and Arabic and that two of the participants are Arabic speakers. At the conference, simultaneous translation was provided but this is not available in the following recording.
3. Update on the CanDo campaign to protect schools in Syria
UAI in the UK is partnering with CanDo in its campaign to raise funds to protect schools from the threat of aerial bombardment, by installing warning systems to allow children and teachers time to evacuate before an air strike. To read more about the initiative and to check on the progress of the campaign, please click on the link below.
Atrocities in Tigray
Alarming reports from Ethiopia tell of horrendous crimes against civilians in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. We will focus on this situation in our next newsletter.
UAI supporters wishing to bring to our attention materials that could be featured are invited to send them to no later than 1 May.