On the 7th anniversary Syrians call world leaders to threaten World Cup boycott
Thursday 15th March 2018 12:44 PM
Dear President of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump
Dear Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ms. Theresa May
Dear President of the Republic of France, Mr. Emmanuel Macron
Dear Federal Chancellor of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel
Anniversaries can be happy occasions for people.
They celebrate beginnings. Marriages, births, accomplishments.
They are celebrated at parties and gatherings and with laughter.
And yet, what does an anniversary represent to us as Syrians?
It's also a beginning. The beginning of a proud and happy time – it marks the time we overcame our fear, taking to the streets to demand our rights and to take back our dignity.
But it is also seven years today that our happiness was turned to the beginning of a war that has taken the lives of more than 400, 000 people and made more than 5 million nationless.
These numbers may be statistics for the majority, mere digits they have seen before with little meaning. But to Syrians the numbers tell difficult stories.
Those numbers mean seeing your family slowly turn into rail-thin ghosts of themselves as they die of starvation while the siege tightens around your city.
They mean holding your children tightly, shielding their bodies as the bombs rain down on your home.
The numbers tell the story of families traveling between police stations in Syrian cities looking for their sons, hoping they are not dead on the floor of some detention center.
To Syrians these mere statistics represent drowning in cold waters off the shores of Greece.
They mean being shot at by racist police at European borders and world leaders informing us we are not welcome in their safe countries.
The numbers mean living in crammed tents in displacement camps, riddled with disease, poor hygiene and medical care, while planes drop bombs from the skies above us.
This year again, there will be no cake or music or confetti to mark this anniversary. There will be more tears and mothers in black.
There will be no cards or gifts. There will only be more difficult memories triggered by strafing planes and refugee camps.
We have been living under absolute horror for seven years as the world keeps watching on. Last year Aleppo fell to regime hands in the most brutal way possible displacing hundreds of thousands and putting thousands more at risk of detention. Families broke apart as some ran into Turkey and others to refugee camps in Idlib. And now that province is waiting for its fate as bombs continue to fall on homes and hospitals and schools. Just a few weeks ago, the Syrian regime and its allies began ferociously shelling eastern Ghouta where almost 400,000 civilians have been besieged since 2013 and where urgent humanitarian aid has been prevented from reaching civilians and left them facing acute hunger. After Aleppo we were told that it would never happen again – your countries would not be complicit in watching their fellow humans in Syria die unnecessarily. And yet it continues. And you continue to watch.
And so, for the 7th year, we, the undersigned, find ourselves having to remind you once again of your responsibility to protect civilians from indiscriminate bombardment, mass slaughter and brutal collective punishment by siege warfare. The international humanitarian law exists to prevent the infliction of mass suffering and death on civilians to fulfill military or political objectives. The annihilation of civilians in Syria, and the dissolution of international norms it represents, is perhaps the defining moral and political failure of our time. It is happening on your watch.
And that is why we are calling on you as a political leader to threaten to boycott the 2018 FIFA World Cup in June hosted by Russia to send a clear message to the country that they will face serious consequences unless they use their leverage immediately with Bashar al-Assad to make the bombings stop. We want an immediate and genuine nationwide ceasefire under the United Nations' supervision. We want a break in sieges especially around Eastern Ghouta to allow food and medicine in. We want Syrians to keep living in their homes, neighborhoods and cities safely without fear of forced displacement. We want our political detainees to be released from prisons and detention centers in regime and opposition-held areas. And we want a negotiated peace agreement that does not undermine a truly democratic political transition with a new constitution and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Anything less than this will be a crime against us and a burden on your shoulders that you will continue to bear.
Our message to you is clear: make March 15th the last anniversary we must mark. Do not just watch us die in basements or on boats in the Mediterranean; listen to us, work with us, because we want to make this the final anniversary of war, and go back to celebrating the hard work we did to build a better future for our country.
List of signatories
1. Alkawakibi Organization for Human Rights
2. Baytna Syria
3. Binaa Organization for Development*
5. Ghiras Al Nahda*
6. Human development
7. Humans Of Syria
8. Ihsan for Relief and Development – IRD*
9. Independent Doctors Association (IDA)
10. Insan charity
11. International Supporting Woman Association
13. NABAD for Relief and Humanitarian Development***
14. Physician Across Continents – PAC Turkey*
16. Syria for Charity
17. Syria Relief*
18. Syrian American Medical Society – SAMS*
19. Syrian Expatriate Medical Association – SEMA*
20. Syrian General Union
21. Takaful Al Sham Charity Organization*
22. The Syria Establishment for Human Care and Enhancement – Masarrat*
23. Violations Documentation Center VDC**
24. Violet Organisation for Relief and Development*
25. Sabeq Foundation for Charity and Development
*member of the Syrian NGO Alliance, a coalition of non-governmental Syrian organizations supporting and leading humanitarian activities inside Syria and neighbouring countries.
*member of We Exist, an advocacy alliance of Syrian civil society organizations that aims to provide a platform for Syrian civil society working in life-saving humanitarian efforts as well as promoting human rights, dignity, justice and accountability.
***member of the Syria Relief Network, an umbrella of Syrian humanitarian NGOs working inside Syria and in neighbouring countries to provide relief to Syrians
Photo credit: Syrian American Medical Society