Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Genocide in Syria and the need to end impunity

On the twenty-fifth of last November, Syrian regime forces committed a heinous act, killing 10 civilians, including seven children and one woman, who were picking olives in the Idlib countryside. They were all from the same family, sharing one ethnic nationality, one religion, one region, and one family. As we examine this tragedy, it becomes pertinent to question why such atrocities, occurring daily since late 2011 and intensifying in 2015 with the involvement of the Russian Air Force and Iranian militias, are not unequivocally labeled as acts of genocide.

“what is happening in Syria constitutes genocide aligns with experiences of the majority of Syrians in exile and refugee camps”

As a survivor of the Syrian regime’s crimes against humanity, I bear witness to what I consider genocide. My perspective, rooted in personal experiences as a writer, journalist, and former detainee, sheds light on the systematic nature of these crimes against civilians.

Our assertion that what is happening in Syria constitutes genocide aligns with experiences of the majority of Syrians in exile and refugee camps. The evidence supporting this characterization is compelling and includes:

Organized Crimes: The atrocities are executed according to military plans by Syrian and Russian armed forces.

Mass Killing and Destruction: Entire residential areas, cities, and villages are targeted, leading to civilian casualties.

Siege and Deprivation: Cities and villages are besieged, preventing access to essential resources like food, water, and medicine.

Destruction of Infrastructure: Asylum centers, camps, schools, and hospitals are intentionally destroyed.

Property Confiscation: The regime seizes the property of detainees, disappeared persons, and victims, exacerbating the plight of civilians.

Security Measures: The regime stifles civil activism, restricts freedom of expression, and imposes censorship on political, cultural, and human rights activities.

Arbitrary Arrests: Tens of thousands are detained due to peaceful opposition to the Syrian regime.

Evidence and Testimonies: Abundant evidence, confessions, and testimonies corroborate the crimes committed by the Syrian regime.

“the international community has failed to halt the Syrian regime’s crimes, resulting in a tenfold increase in the number of victims”

These points are reinforced by reports from reputable international organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, and the Syrian Center for Freedom of Expression and Media.

Ten years ago, the UN’s Special Adviser on Genocide, Francis Dieng, stated that crimes against humanity were being committed in Syria, urging an immediate end to violence against civilians. Unfortunately, the international community has failed to halt the Syrian regime’s crimes, resulting in a tenfold increase in the number of victims.

As of September 2023, the grim statistics stand as follows:

Hundreds of thousands dead, including 30,127 children and 15,301 who died under torture.

More than 112,300 forcibly disappeared and 155,604 arbitrarily detained, including 5,213 children and 10,176 women.

About 12 million Syrians displaced, equivalent to 50% of the population in 2012, with 4 million in areas outside the regime’s control.

In light of the regime’s arrogant continuation of its criminal activity two critical issues demand attention:

“Justice and accountability are paramount. Achieving this requires an international agreement to refer the Syrian file to the International Criminal Court”

Definition of Genocide: The narrow definition in the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide should be revisited to accurately reflect the reality in Syria.

Impunity: Despite ongoing trials, political and military leaders responsible for mass atrocities continue to evade justice. International efforts, such as Canada and the Netherlands’ case at the International Court of Justice, signal progress but demand broader action.

In conclusion, the international community must act decisively to end the massacres in Syria, whether labeled as war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. Justice and accountability are paramount. Achieving this requires an international agreement to refer the Syrian file to the International Criminal Court. As a survivor, I implore for justice and an end to the reign of fear and impunity that has plagued Syria for far too long.

Abdulrahman Matar
Abdulrahman Matar
Syrian-Canadian writer and journalist; Interested in human rights, civil society, culture and literature; Managing Editor of literary magazine Awraq

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