An Urgent Distress Call for Nearly 700,000 People Recently Forcibly Displaced Due to Attacks by Russian-Iranian-Syrian Alliance Forces on Northwest Syria
BY: Anas ALmaarawi
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reveals in its latest report released today that it has documented the deaths of 167 Syrian citizens, including 77 children, who have died due to the cold in Syria since March 2011, appealing for relief for nearly 700,000 recently forcibly displaced persons due to the attacks by Russian-Iranian-Syrian alliance on northwest Syria in light of the cold wave hitting the region.
The five-page report states that nearly 689,000 persons have been displaced in northwest Syria in the last month due to military operations launched by the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance on several cities and towns there, even as a wave of severe cold afflicts the region, with the temperature in Syria in the past two days reaching minus 8 degrees. The report stresses that the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance have specifically targeted the civilian population for attack and subjected it to barbaric indiscriminate shelling with various types of weapons. The report also notes that this indiscriminate bombardment, along with the arrests and killings of civilians by regime, Russian and Iranian forces in areas previously under rebel control, was the main reason that the cities’ residents were forced to flee, with more than 95 percent heading towards areas not controlled by the Syrian regime and its allies.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“The issue of deaths and injuries due to the cold is closely related to the issue of forced displacement, and we are making a distress call to save hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in tents, and to create international pressure through calling an urgent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to stop the military attack and provide a humanitarian truce to make arrangements for the conditions of the displaced, so that the truce may continue at least for a period exceeding the current severe cold ravaging the region. We are absolutely certain that the Syrian regime and its allies do not care about the lives and suffering of these displaced persons, but rather are the main reason for this suffering; the rest of the world’s states should pay attention to this urgent humanitarian catastrophe, which threatens the lives of dozens of newborn babies, as well as the sick and the elderly.”
Between March 2011 and January 31, 2020, the report documents the deaths of 167 civilians due to the cold in Syria, including 77 children and 18 women (adult female). The report includes the distribution of the death toll according to the practices of the parties that caused these people’s death, with 146 of these people dying at the hands of Syrian Regime forces, including 25 who died in the regime’s prisons also as a result of the cold, with the report also attributing responsibility for the death of 11 civilians due to cold to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, and five more deaths as a result of cold to ISIS, while five others died of cold while migrating to Europe.
The report attributes deaths due to cold to three main reasons, primarily displacement, particularly the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, who are thus forced to live in the open air or in rudimentary makeshift tents with a lack of suitable clothing or heating materials, being the primary cause of deaths. The report adds that siege was also a cause of death due to cold, with people dying of cold inside their homes after being left without any means of heating due to the long sieges imposed on them by Syrian Regime forces, or in al Hawl Camp in the suburbs of Hasaka, and in Ein Eisa Camp in Raqqa suburbs, both of which were besieged by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
As the report states, torture is also another cause of death due to cold, with exposure to extreme cold being one of the methods of torture used against detainees inside the Syrian regime’s detention centers, where regime personnel deliberately withhold the necessary amount of pillows, blankets and clothes, as well as denying detainees access to appropriate clothing and often leaving them only with underwear, due to their clothing being reduced to soiled unwearable rags, torn during the torture process, or forcibly removed by regime personnel during prison inspections; all of these practices further expose detainees to severe cold in the winter, when temperatures plummet to around freezing, in addition to the detention centers lacking any adequate heating at all. The report documents the deaths of 25 civilians due to cold in the Syrian regime’s detention centers.
The report warns that the catastrophic situation facing IDPs from Idlib region threatens a very real risk of further deaths caused by the freezing weather, noting that at the beginning of December 2019, Syrian-Russian alliance forces escalated their attacks on the southern and eastern suburbs of Idlib, with these attacks accompanied by a massive and ongoing wave of displacement, the worst on the humanitarian level since the beginning of the popular uprising in Syria. The report adds that at least 689,000 displaced persons have been forced to leave their homes and land as a result of the military operations seen in the Idlib region since December 1, 2019, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The report notes that hundreds of thousands of displaced persons are now living in different areas in the region; some of these people have spread along the area on the Syrian-Turkish border, where hundreds of small camps have sprung up, while others have fled towards the mountainous areas in the northern suburbs of Idlib, with these people hardly finding any shelter in light of the subzero temperatures that have reached minus 8 degrees in the past days.
The report states that Syrian-Russian alliance forces have practiced the crime of displacement in a systematic, widespread and organized manner against the civilian population, which constitutes a war crime in non-international armed conflicts when committed as part of a deliberate or widespread attack against the civilian population (Articles 8 (2) (b) (7) and 8 (2) (e) (8) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court), and may also be considered crimes against humanity (Article 7 (1) (d) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court). According to the report, no measures recorded taken by these forces to provide shelter, health care or food to the displaced civilians.
The report further calls on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution concerning some seven million internally displaced persons in Syria that addresses forced displacement, to ensure that this does not become a long-term crisis, and to put pressure on the Syrian regime to end displacements, and enact laws aimed at preventing the plunder of displaced persons’ properties and possessions.
The report also calls on the UN Security Council to pass a resolution in order to establish a truce and to create a safe area for the fleeing IDPs, which will constitute a relatively stable zone for them, ensuring that they won’t be displaced again.
The report also calls on the UN General Assembly to hold an emergency meeting to address the conditions of nearly 700,000 suffering IDPs in the midst of a terrible cold wave, and to devise solutions to protect these people from future displacements by creating a safe zone protected from all forms of bombardment.
The report also presents a set of recommendations to the UN Secretary-General and UN OCHA, as well as calling on the international community to take action at the national and regional levels to form alliances to support the Syrian people that can protect them from the daily killings and siege and to increase support for relief efforts.