Appeal to the World Regarding Coronavirus Effects on Syrians, Especially Detainees in Assad Prisons
Syrian Opposition Coalition - Syria
March 18, 2020
The Assad regime continues to deny the existence of any cases of the coronavirus pandemic in Syria. Given the fact that Assad opened Syria’s borders wide for sectarian militias coming from Iran, now a hotbed for the virus, it is hard to believe that these militias are not carrying the virus with them, especially in light of the collapse of the health system in Iran. Moreover, multiple reports indicated that pro-regime and Iranian militias are already showing symptoms of the disease.
The risks of the pandemic outbreak are not limited to civilians in the regime-held areas as tens of thousands of detainees in the prisons of the regime represent the most vulnerable group. The photos that Caesar smuggled out of Syria represent but the tip of the iceberg of the reality inside the regime’s detention facilities since at least 2012. The regime continues to deny detainees the necessary food and medical care, confining them in overcrowded cells and continue to violate their rights by various means.
In addition to torture and extrajudicial killings, the horrible conditions in the detention facilities cause dozens to die on a daily basis. If the pandemic finds its way into these overcrowded facilities, we will be in front of a terrible disaster that the regime might exploit to get rid of the detainees, which places direct responsibility on the relevant international organizations.
It is imperative that the international community exert real pressure on the regime to force it to give the International Committee of the Red Cross immediate, full access to its detention centers in order to ascertain the conditions of detainees.
The United Nations is also required to press for saving the lives of tens of thousands of detainee and ensure their immediate release.
People in the liberated areas, especially those living in IDP camps, need urgent international assistance, most importantly equipment for personal protection and protection gear for medical personnel.
The Syrian Interim Government is closely following the developments of the pandemic, directly and transparently. The movement of civilians through the internal crossing points with the regime-held areas has already been stopped. SIG also announced that it was closing these crossings for the next 15 days, including commercial traffic in both directions.
Humanitarian organizations, the United Nations agencies, the World Health Organization, and the International Committee of the Red Cross are required to carry out their duties with regards to the situation in Syria, including pressuring the regime to closely monitor the spread of the pandemic.
Medical institutions of the Syrian Interim Government need urgent international support to deal with the pandemic, including through the provision of quarantine rooms and temporary shelters for potential patients as well as medicines, sterilization and disinfection equipment.
It is imperative that the Syrian people across Syria deal with this pandemic with all seriousness, reduce their social activities to a minimum, and abide by medical advice and recommendations.
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