On the first anniversary of the Khan Sheikhoun sarin gas attack, Syrian human rights defenders honour the victims of chemical weapons attacks in Syria and call for intensified action to protect Syrian civilians from the regime’s merciless onslaught. The Khan Sheikhoun atrocity – one of at least 211 chemical weapons attacks since 2011 – killed at least 91 civilians, a third of them children. No less than 520 others were injured in the attack. Though the US responded to the April 4 attacks with a retaliatory strike against a Syrian regime airbase, the absence of a comprehensive strategy to deter future indiscriminate attacks has enabled indiscriminate violence – including lethal chlorine attacks – to continue unabated, including most recently in Idlib, where the Khan Sheikhoun atrocities took place.
“One year ago today, Syrian civilians were killed in the most barbaric of ways by a vicious war criminal, who would rather gas his own people than permit freedom and democracy”, Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, said. “When the US administration chose to strike Assad’s airbase, many Syrians hoped we were witnessing a new US approach, with real US leadership. Finally, Assad’s genocide would be met with credible consequences. But the strikes were ultimately more symbol than substance. They were detached from any larger strategy and in contrast to what we had advocated for, they were one-off. Since Khan Sheikhoun there have been a further 11 documented chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime with total impunity, while the main cause of civilian death in Syria – indiscriminate airstrikes by Assad and Russia – have escalated.”