The Syrian Coalition’s Department of Foreign Affairs sent an urgent letter to the Syrian people’s friendly countries urging them to urgently respond to the needs of people being displaced from the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta. The letter warned of dangers surrounding the fate of civilians in Douma as the Assad regime and Russia forces threatened to assault the town.
The letter, which was sent to 20 States, included a report that was prepared by the Syrian Interim Government and Assistance Coordination Unit detailing the essential needs of the people who are being displaced from eastern Ghouta. The letter called for the provision of urgent relief aid to be distributed by the Syrian Interim Government and Assistance Coordination Unit.
The Coalition warned that “the fate of 26,006 Forcibly Displaced Persons (FDPs) and IDPs to Idlib governorate, hangs in the balance with increasing need of humanitarian aid and limited shelter capacity, according to the UN OCHA evacuations tracking report.
“The situation in Idlib governorate is of a deep concern, with displaced housed in overcrowded collective shelters, and due to the critical humanitarian needs, particularly in relation to protection, food, health, nutrition, NFIs (non-food items) and WASH (Water And Sanitation for Health).
The report also said that the people being displaced from eastern Ghouta were subjected to arrests, kidnappings, and summary executions. It said that videos and photos showed civilians being humiliated during the distribution of some life-saving items as they were forced to chant for Assad in return for drinking water.
“Indeed, the suffering of the Syrian people continues, and the situation on the ground is catastrophic due to the failure of the international community to stop the waves of mass forced displacements, to protect the civilians in their homes, and to implement the UNSC resolutions which endorsed the cessation of hostilities agreement and the unfettered aid access.”
The letter warned that “Idlib governorate hosts more than two million civilians. If any barbaric attack similar to the one that took place in Eastern Ghouta during the last two months occurs, there will be a genuine disastrous situation.” (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition denied receiving any notification from the sisterly State of Qatar to close down its embassy in the capital Doha, stressing that the embassy is open for day-to-day operational activities.
In a press release on Friday, the Coalition expressed its “deep appreciation for the support and facilitations our Qatari brethren are providing for the work of the Embassy and the Syrian community in the State of Qatar.” The Coalition also greatly appreciated “Qatar’s generous support for relief operations for the internally displaced people and Syrian refugees abroad.”
The Coalition opened an embassy in Qatar in 2013 as its first embassy in the world. The embassy comprises a number of offices, including an economic office, education office, office for follow-up on the affairs of the Syrian community in Qatar, and security and legal office.
The Embassy provides many services to members of the Syrian community in Qatar and provides them with facilitations with regard to their official and consular affairs in Qatar in cooperation with Qatari institutions. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Assad regime forces executed a number of civilians, including a woman in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta as heavy bombardment targeted the outskirts of the town of Douma.
Local activists said that pro-regime militants had executed four civilians, including a woman, and kidnapped women in the towns of Kafarbatna and Saqba following the withdrawal of rebel fighters to northern Syria.
President of the Syrian Coalition Abdulrahman Mustafa said that civilians who decided to stay in their destroyed areas than to be displaced are being subjected to revenge killings by the Assad regime’s militias.
Information coming from eastern Ghouta indicated that civilians who survived the brutal bombardment by the Assad regime and its allies are still in danger as Assad’s militias continue to commit war crimes in those areas, Mustafa said.
Mustafa called upon the UN Security Council and international organizations to force the Assad regime and its militias to respect international humanitarian law and to provide protection to civilians who chose to live amongst the rubble than to leave their homes.
Sectarian militias allied with the Assad regime carried out summary executions against 23 men and kidnapped five women in the town of Kafarbatna on Wednesday. Regime forces also detained 150 people in the town of Saqba, including head of Al-Bashaer relief aid group.
Eastern Ghouta has been the scene of the largest mass forced displacement and demographic change operations in Syria since 2011. These operations were preceded by large-scale war crimes against civilians by Assad regime and Russia forces who launched a ferocious onslaught on the area. Assad regime forces and their allies extensively used internationally banned weapons, such as chemical weapons, white phosphorus and napalm in blatant violation of international law.
The Syrian Civil Defense Corps said that 1,433 civilians were killed in eastern Ghouta as of March 24, adding that Assad regime forces, Russia and the Iranian militias used various types of weapons, including internationally banned ones in the assault on the besieged Damascus suburb. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Member of the Syrian Coalition George Sabra said that the Russia’s behavior in Syria has made it an enemy of the Syrian people, adding that Russia continues to flout all international resolutions.
In an interview with the Quds Press International news network, Sabra said that the Syrian people have long known that Russia has been an adversary of the Syrian people's demands. He pointed cited Russia’s actions in eastern Ghouta such as the mass killing and displacement of its residents.
Sabra added that Russia is not only attacking the Syrian people, but also defying the international will and flouting the United Nations and its resolution 2401. "Therefore, there is not a single Syrian who considers Russia reliable or trustworthy."
"We in the Syrian opposition reject this situation which was created by Russia long time ago. But, unfortunately, noting is being done to enable the international will to prevail,” Sabra added.
Regarding the political process, Sabra said that the process is at an impasse now. He pointed out that "what is happening on the ground is an international struggle as the major actors are seeking the establishment of spheres of influence in Syria so that when the time comes for the political process, they will be in possession of leverage cards. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
The Syrian Coalition’s Department of Foreign Relations met with Niklas Kebbon, Special Representative of the Swedish Foreign Ministry for the Syria Crisis to discuss the dire humanitarian situation of the people being displaced from eastern Ghouta. Both sides also discussed the uncertain future surrounding residents of the town of Douma and the latest developments in the recently liberated Afrin area.
Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Abdul Ahad Steifo, said that the mass forced displacement taking place in eastern Ghouta must not go unpunished. He said this act constituted a war crime through which the Assad regime seeks to bring about a demographic change just as it already did in many areas across Syria.
Steifo noted that the United Nations and all its member states have an obligation to ensure protection for the remaining population in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, namely in the town of Douma as well as to put an end to the war crimes against civilians.
Steifo stressed that the Coalition is working on enabling all residents of Afrin to return to their towns and villages and participate in the management of their affairs. He noted that the Syrian Coalition has already formed a working group for this purpose. The group began its meetings in the Turkish city of Gaziantep on Tuesday in the presence of the Coalition of President Abdul Rahman Mustafa.
For his part, Kebbon said that the European Union is working to deliver humanitarian aid via the United Nations to civilians who are being displaced from eastern Ghouta. He stressed the need to implement international resolutions demanding ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The Syrian civil defense in Rural Damascus on Tuesday said that the ongoing onslaught on eastern Ghouta has claimed the lives of at least 1,433 civilians. It pointed out that regime forces, Iranian militias, and Russian forces are using various types of weapons, including internationally prohibited ones. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Nazir al-Hakim, Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition, called on the United Nations to turn its words into deeds and to achieve justice in Syria by holding Bashar al-Assad and all war criminals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable.
Hakim said that the latest remarks by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been repeated numerous times without taking any action to achieve tangible change or deter the war criminals. "We hope that these words will be turned into deeds and will not remain mere threats.”
Hakim stressed that the diplomatic approach has proved ineffective as the Assad regime continues to openly flout international law and international humanitarian law with Russian direct support. He stressed the need for the UN Security Council member states to unite against Russia and take serious measures towards the implementation of UN resolutions 2401. The resolution demanded a 30-day ceasefire, the lifting of the sieges on, the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need, the release of detainees, and the pushing of the political process ahead to establish a transitional governing body with full powers.
Hakim also underscored the need to activate Chapter VII of the UN Charter to implement international resolutions in Syria. He said that this is the only solution to save the lives of thousands of civilian victims and avert an uncertain future for children in light of the continued military campaigns by the Assad regime.
Hakim pointed out that the Coalition stands ready to cooperate with all United Nations bodies to provide all the necessary evidence for the prosecution of war criminals in Syria. He stressed that the international community should not remain silent about the repeated crimes against Syrian civilians. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
A delegation from the Syrian Coalition’s political committee, headed by Coalition President Abdul Rahman Mustafa, held an emergency meeting in the Turkish city of Gaziantep to discuss the situation in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta as well as the latest developments in the newly liberated Afrin region.
The meeting was attended by head of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) Jawad Abu Hatab, Head of the Coalition’s Assistance Coordination Unit (ACU) Mohammed Hassnu, the Coalition members in the eastern Ghouta’s crisis cell, and other concerned officials.
The meeting discussed the situation in eastern Ghouta as participants reaffirmed their support for the resilience of the residents of the town of Duma. They also stressed they are working on ensuring protection for civilians in Douma and stopping the brutal onslaught being launched by the Assad regime, Russia, and the Iranian militias on the Damascus suburb.
Tabled for discussion was also the status of the people who are being forcibly displaced from eastern Ghouta and who have arrived in Idlib and Hama provinces during the past few days. Abu Hatab submitted a report on the work of SIG’s emergency response committee headed by SIG’s Minister of Health Muhammad Firas Al-Jundi. The committee was formed to provide shelter for the people who are being forcibly displaced from eastern Ghouta by the Assad regime and Russia.
Abu Hatab pointed out that 7,000 people have already arrived in Idlib and Hama provinces coming from eastern Ghouta as he expected the figure to reach about 20,000 in the coming few days.
Abu Hatab stressed that SIG and ACU are gathering information concerning the needs of the new arrivals. He noted that the Coalition was communicating with the European Union, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to secure urgent relief aid for the displaced people.
For his part, President Mustafa stressed the importance of expediting the assessment of the needs of the displaced people and providing them with adequate relief aid. Participants in the meeting spoke to Minister of Health Firas Al-Jundi via a video link to check up on the work of the emergency response committee.
Mustafa thanked the Turkish relief aid organizations for urgently responding to the needs of the people who are being displaced from eastern Ghouta.
The Coalition also held a separate meeting that was attended by the FSA’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Colonel Haitham Affisi, members of the Coalition’s political committee, and representatives of the civic and political bodies in Afrin. The meeting discussed the formation of local administration councils in Afrin comprising representatives of all the newly liberated towns and villages.
Member of the political committee Oqab Yahya said that these provincial councils would be tasked with the restoration of security and stability, the return of the displaced persons to their homes, and the laying out of the groundwork for the holding of elections of local councils under SIG’s supervision.
President Mustafa underscored that the Coalition is seeking to make Afrin an example of coexistence and security and stability. He reaffirmed the Coalition’s support for all efforts to enable the displaced people to safely return to their towns and villages. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
An official in the Syrian Coalition said that the mass forced displacement taking place in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta is a "war crime” as he condemned Russian’s major role in these crimes.
Secretary of the political committee Mohammed Yahya Maktabi said that regime forces, the Iranian militias, and Russian air force are killing civilians, targeting popular markets, residential areas and public facilities and bombing hospitals, medical centers, and rescue workers.
Maktabi pointed out the Assad regime’s onslaught on eastern Ghouta was clearly aimed at the mass forced displacement of its local residents to change the demographic landscape in the Damascus suburbs. "This is a full-fledged war crime. The international community must no longer condone it or let the perpetrators escape punishment.”
Maktabi stressed that Moscow bears primary responsibility for these crimes as it strengthened the culture of rebellion against international legitimacy and UN resolutions. Russia also refused to implement the recently adopted international resolution 2401 demanding a ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.
Maktabi warned that the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria will continue should the United Nations continue with its failure to assume its duty to protect civilians, hold war criminals accountable, chiefly among them Bashar al-Assad, and implement international resolutions. He underscored that the United Nations should take urgent action meeting the aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Salwa Aksoi called on the United Nations and international human rights organizations to document the mass forced displacement and demographic change taking place against residents of eastern Ghouta at the hands of the Assad regime, Iranian militias and Russia.
Aksoi stressed the need for the UN Human Rights Council to participate in the documentation process, adding that the atrocities taking place in eastern Ghouta constituted war crimes under international law and international humanitarian law. She reiterated calls for the referral of Syria to the International Criminal Court to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable, especially Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin.
Moscow bears primary responsibility for the mass forced of displacement of residents of eastern Ghouta, Aksoi added. She called on teams of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Damascus to meet the needs of the displaced and provide them with food and medical assistance instead of the provision of protection for Bashar al-Assad's while he was touring the devastated areas of eastern Ghouta.
Aksoi pointed out that the photos being circulated by media outlets showing how the Assad regime treat the people who were displaced from eastern Ghouta are a disgrace to humanity.
Aksoi stressed that what the atrocious crime the Assad regime is committing against civilians will only strengthen the determination of the Syrian people to carry on with the revolution until victory and the regaining of freedom and dignity as well as the overthrow the Assad regime with all its symbols and the establishment of a state respecting human rights. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
President of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Rahman Mustafa said that the Syrian revolution would continue to defend the values of freedom and dignity despite the wholesale crimes being committed by the Assad regime, the Iranian militias, and Russia against civilians aimed at forcing them to give their legitimate demands.
Mustafa said that the fight against tyranny and occupation is the only choice for all Syrians, stressing that continuing the struggle is the only way to bring tyranny and oppression to an end.
Mustafa called on the international community to step up support the Syrian revolution and help it achieve its demands. “The Syrian people, not the murderous Assad regime, are the true partner of all peoples and nations as the reign of Assad will eventually come to an end.”
The scaling down of political and military support for the Syrian Revolution risks perpetuating the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, Mustafa warned. He expressed regret over decision by friendly countries to stop the provision of support for the Free Syrian Army groups.
Mustafa said that the cessation of the support for the FSA groups have denied Syrian civilians protection from military attacks by the Assad regime, Iranian militias and Russian air forces. He cited the genocide taking place in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta and other areas as an example of the dangers arising from stopping support for the FSA.
Mustafa pointed out that the cessation of support for the FSA, coupled with the failure of the international community to shoulder its duty towards civilians, have led to the commission of more crimes and genocide against the civilian population. "The results were easily predictable, especially as backers of the Assad regime continue to support it." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)