Idlib, New York, 6 February 2020 – In advance of today’s emergency session of the UN Security Council on the situation in Idlib, more than 50 Syrian civil society organisations including the Syrian Association for Citizens Dignity, wrote to Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Angela Merkel, Emanuel Macron, Boris Johnson, Antonio Gutierres and Josep Borell to warn of the impending humanitarian catastrophe if indiscriminate attacks on civilians of Idlib by Russia and Assad’s regime are not stopped and urgent aid delivered to those already displaced.
The letter delivered today warns that since the onslaught on Idlib began in February 2019, more than one million people have been displaced towards the border with Turkey in an area already struggling with overpopulation due to displacement from other parts of Syria. Now, with Assad’s forces only kilometres from Idlib City and relentless bombardment of civilian areas by Russian aircraft, another wave of displacement is threatening to add up to and additional one million new displaced to that number.
For perspective, that would amount to more than the total number of refugees displaced by the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the total number of all – refugees and IDPs – displaced by the war in Kosovo.
“Russian and Assad’s strategy is to instil terror into civilians and empty the towns and cities of their inhabitants. Entire families are killed in their homes, or as they flee trying to escape the bombardment since the escape routes are being systematically and directly targeted. Virtually no inhabitants of these places want to stay under Assad’s rule, in mortal fear of the militias under his control who are known to have executed civilians they came across in the newly captured areas. They are certain to be targeted individually and collectively if they fall under the Russian and regime control,” says the letter.
A snap poll conducted by the Syrian Association for Citizens Dignity with 150 people who have fled the latest onslaught on Idlib has shown that 90.6% of those polled would not consider returning to Assad-held areas or entering reconciliation agreements under Russian guarantees. The poll was conducted in the border area – Atma village, Albab City, Afreen, Adana, Sarmada and I’zaz City – with people who fled Idlib City, Saraqeb, Ma’rat al-Numan, Ma’rat Shashma, kafruma, Mardebsa, Sarmeen, Talmanas, Khan al-Asaal, Orem, Jabal al-Zawiee and Marestshoreen.
They are desperate to cross into Turkey and continue towards Europe in search of safety for their children. The consequences on the region and Europe itself of this massive displacement are difficult to estimate.
The signatories issued a call for immediate action to address the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding due the onslaught by Russia and Assad’s forces:
- The United States, The United Kingdom, France, Germany, the EU and Turkey to use all possible and available measures – diplomatic, economic and military – to stop Russia and Assad’s forces’ onslaught and enforce a no-fly zone over Idlib and other areas where civilians are currently targeted;
- The United Nations and all its relevant agencies to urgently ensure delivery of tents (most urgent), food, blankets, medical supplies and basic infrastructure to the people displaced to the border areas by the Russian and Assad’s onslaught on Idlib;
- Turkey and the EU to open their borders to the people displaced by the Russian and Assad’s onslaught on Idlib and provide them with temporary shelter, aid and safety for their children;
- Turkey to use its monitoring points and military presence inside Syria to protect civilians and IDPs, and the United States to support such effort, and any effort to protect civilians.
- The UNHCR to end its silence and regularly and publicly report on the scale of displacement and the needs of the people displaced by the Russian and Assad’s onslaught on Idlib;
- The United States and the EU to urgently intensify the existing economic sanctions against Assad’s government as a tool of pressure to end the onslaught on Idlib and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
We have seen resolute action by the international community in cases of such indiscriminate terror directed at civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, in Kosovo and East Timor in 1999, among others. The international community surely does not need further evidence of the criminal nature of Russia’s and Assad’s strategy designed to indiscriminately target civilians, instil terror and cause massive displacement with far-reaching consequences for Syria, the region and beyond.
Turkey, the United States, the EU and the UN must act now to avert an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe threatening hundreds of thousands of Syrians, to prevent nihilism and radicalisation taking root among displaced Syrians, to demonstrate that the international political and legal system built after the World War II under the slogan “never again” is not as irreparably damaged as the League of Nations in the 1930s, ends the letter.
|– Ensarmazlumlar||– Independent Doctors Association|
|– Lawyers and doctors for Human Rights – LDHR||– La justice et le Developement durable.|
|– ABRAR||– Molham volunteering team|
|– Access Center for Human Rights – ACHR||– Maram Foundation|
|– Adaleh organization relief and development||– MATTAR FOR RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT|
|– AFKAR||– Medical Education Council|
|– Alihsan Local Organization||– Baraka Humanitarian Organization|
|– Alameen for Humanitarian Support||– Orient for human relief|
|– Albashear organization||– Syrian Expatriates MEDICAL Association (SEMA)|
|– Syrian Forum||– Physicians across continents PAC|
|– All together||– Salad humanitarian organization|
|– American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS)||– Space Of Peace|
|– Association of detainees and missing in Sednaya prison (ADMSP)||– SSRD|
|– Bader Humanitarian Organization||– Horan Foundation|
|– Balsam||– Syria Relief Organization|
|– The Day After||– Syrian American Council|
|– BEYAZ ELLER association||– Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity|
|– Butterfly effect||– Syrian British Council|
|– Center for Defending Civil Rights & Liberties||– Syrian Emergency Task Force|
|– Child Care and Protection of Woman||– Syrian Human Rights Committee|
|– Dawlaty||– Syrian women association “ishraqat”|
|– El bir insan yardim||– Union of medical Care and relief organizations|
|– Elaf for relaif and development||– Violet organization|
|– Ghiras Alkhaeer Humanitarian||– WOMAN SUPPORT ASSOCIAITION|
|– Hope Revival||– Humena for Human Rights and Civic Engagement|
|– Hope Volunteers team||– Irish Syria Solidarity Movement|
|– Humanitarian Restoration Hope
– المنظمة الدولية للإغاثة والتنمية
– الغد الخيرية
– جمعية سلسبيل الخيرية
|– Jana Watan
– منظمة كريمات
– ألفة للإغاثة الانسانية