The Syrian Solidarity Collective is a grassroots, collaborative effort among Syrians in the United States to raise awareness about the Syrian revolution. Earlier this week, the collective issued a statement addressing the lack of accountability for the Ghouta chemical attack, which happened nearly three years ago. On August 21, 2013, the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad deployed sarin bombs in Eastern Ghouta and killed over 1000 civilians. As Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a chemical weapons expert, wrote for Al Jazeera, the incident was “the worst chemical attack since the Halabja massacre of March 16, 1988.”
The Assad government’s actions came exactly one year after U.S. President Barack Obama claimed the use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians was a “red line” that would be answered with action. But, no action came. With approximately 1500 civilians killed by chemical weapons in Syria since 2011, the United States and the rest of the international community have failed to hold the Assad regime responsible for its war crimes. On top of this, since September 2014, the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign in Syria has yielded a death toll that is comparable to, if not much higher than, the Ghouta massacre.
The Syrian Solidarity Collective’s statement demands accountability for these war crimes:
This month marks three years since the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Ghouta, which killed an estimated 1,000 people, mostly women and children. This use of sarin marked the worst chemical attack since the Halabja massacre of March 16, 1988.
Though the Syrian regime had already killed and injured hundreds of thousands of Syrians with conventional weapons, this particular attack highlighted just how far it was willing to go to cling to power in the face of the people’s demands for freedom and dignity. The shameful lack of response by the international community to this attack also brought focus sharply to the general failure to protect the Syrian people since the start of the revolution in March 2011.
Three years later, the total lack of accountability for the attack has set a dangerous precedent for all parties, governments, and armed groups alike to commit war crimes at will, knowing there will be absolutely no consequences for the complete disregard for human life and basic principles of international humanitarian law.
Since the start of the revolution in March 2011, at least 400,000 Syrians have been killed and millions have become refugees as the Syrian regime has decided to cling to power at any cost with the support of its backers, Russia and Iran. Millions more have been injured, imprisoned, tortured, or internally displaced. Hospitals have been constantly bombed by the regime and Russia, which started its own airstrikes in September 2015. Large parts of Syria from Aleppo to Daraya to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk have suffered under complete siege by Syrian regime forces and, in some areas, by reactionary armed opposition groups too. The US-led coalition bombing of Syria, which began in September 2014, has killed at least 1,000 people, including at least 100 in the past few weeks in Manbij and surrounding areas as well.
(An airstrike in Syria killed entire families instead of ISIS fighters: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/21/an-airstrike-in-syria-killed-entire-families-instead-of-isis-fighters/).
As Syrians in the United States and others in solidarity with the revolution, it is incumbent for us to amplify the calls of the Syrian people as they continue their fight against the regime, as well as all other counterrevolutionary forces.
We demand an immediate investigation into the US-led coalition bombings that have killed both Syrian and Iraqi civilians and accountability for these war crimes. This investigation should be a first step to more concerted efforts to get accountability and justice for all victims of all war crimes in Syria, no matter the perpetrator; to prioritize civilian protection by all parties; and to pave the way for serious engagement by the international community to end the war in a manner that respects the demands of the Syrian people instead of the various parties pushing their own geopolitical and sectarian agendas.
The statement has already been endorsed by groups like George Mason University’s Students Against Israeli Apartheid and the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum. In order for this statement to have the desired impact, I urge all morally conscientious activists, scholars, political figures, and organizations to endorse it with haste and spread this message widely for others to see.
You can access and endorse the full statement here.