Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Save a school in Aleppo

Friends of mine in Syria Solidarity UK have been directly involved in putting together the following emergency appeal. We know the people running the school in Aleppo and the people fundraising in the UK.

We have been in ongoing contact with people in Aleppo over several months. Even as they face the horror of constant bombing and the anxiety of increased food shortages, one of our key contacts has been working on funding for this school.

Established funders we have been speaking to won’t take it on because Aleppo is high risk and therefore falls outside their guidelines for funding. Being in besieged east Aleppo there is of course no safe school option for these children, but they still need an education as well as protection from bombs and food to eat.

Please support and share.

From the Just Giving page:

We at Human Care Syria have been approached with this urgent request from a school in East Aleppo. The school has run out of funds to continue operating and we have decided to take on the challenge of running the school and raising the funds necessary because we understand how critical the situation is.

Since the start of the Syrian crisis four million Syrian children are out of school and not receiving their basic human right to an education.

What does this mean for the community around East Aleppo?

This school is the only school in the area, serving 900 students (aged 5-14) in the community. If it shuts down the children will face the risk of traveling to another school, and traveling inside Aleppo is very dangerous at this present time! This will inevitably make parents keep their children at home. It will also mean a loss of jobs for teachers and maintenance staff.

One year’s running cost is £49,000 (covering 28 classrooms for a double shift school).

Please give here:

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The legacy of Syria


Cross-posted from Syria Solidarity UK

David Cameron now has little time to right a shared legacy of failure on Syria.

Reasons for the UK’s narrow vote to leave the EU are many. One is Syria: Both the Leave campaign and UKIP connected fears over immigration to the Syrian crisis. Assad’s war against Syria’s population has created the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

In or out of the EU, we have a duty to care for refugees. We also need to understand that this refugee crisis is not caused by EU rules on free movement; it’s caused by the failure of world leaders, including Britain’s leaders, to stop Assad.

Inaction has consequences. At every point when world leaders failed to act against Assad, the impact of the Syrian crisis on the world increased. The failure of British Government and Opposition leaders on the EU vote is in part a consequence of their failure on Syria, but this story doesn’t end with today’s result. Without action, Syria’s crisis will continue to impact on us all.

Leaders failed to act in October 2011 when Syrians took to the streets calling for a no-fly zone.

By the end of 2011 there were 8,000 Syrian refugees in the region.

Leaders failed to act in 2012 when journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were killed reporting from the horror of besieged Homs.

By the end of 2012, there were nearly half a million Syrian refugees.

Leaders failed to act in 2013 when the Assad regime massacred as many as 1,700 civilians in one morning with chemical weapons. That August, there were 1.8 million registered Syrian refugees.

Also in 2013, the UK failed to act when the Free Syrian Army faced attacks by ISIS forces infiltrating from Iraq. Instead of strengthening the FSA to withstand this new threat, UK MPs denied moderate forces the means to defend themselves.

By the end of 2013, there were 2.3 million registered Syrian refugees.

Leaders failed to act in 2014 as the Assad regime ignored UN resolutions on barrel bombing, on torturing and besieging civilians. Diplomacy without military pressure only emboldened Assad to continue the slaughter.

By the end of 2014, there were 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

Leaders failed to act in 2015 as Russia joined Assad in bombing hospitals, humanitarian aid convoys, and rescue workers, and Syrians were denied any means to defend themselves.

By the end of 2015, there were over 4.5 million Syrian refugees.

Now the UK Government is failing to act as Assad breaks ceasefire agreements and breaks deadlines on letting aid into besieged communities. The UK has failed to deliver on airdrops. The UK has failed to apply serious pressure to stop Assad’s bombs.

There are now 4.8 million Syrian refugees in the region. There are many millions more displaced inside Syria. Just over a million Syrians have applied for asylum in Europe, but that is a fraction of the total who have fled their homes.

The refugee crisis is just one impact of Assad’s war on Syrians. Voting to leave the European Union won’t insulate Britain from further effects of Syria’s man-made disaster. This crisis can’t be contained and must be brought to an end, and it can only end with the end of Assad.

Act now. Break the sieges. Stop the bombs. Stop the torture. Stop Assad.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Jo Cox, humanitarian


Humanity lost a champion when Jo Cox was stolen from us. We are deeply saddened by the loss. We extend our most sincere condolences to Jo’s family and friends, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Syrian groups in Britain learned of her last year as a new MP prepared to speak up on Syria after two years of near-silence in the UK Parliament. Her view of the crisis was both moral and realistic, rigorous in seeking to understand what was happening, and clear in seeing what could and should be done.

The Syrian war is not just a humanitarian crisis; it is a crime against humanity. Jo Cox was not content to settle for helping the victims, she demanded action to end the crime.

Her focus was civilian protection: achieve that, and the rest follows; fail on that and no lasting good can come of our actions. She advocated action by the UK and allies to stop Assad’s deliberate bombing of civilian areas as the single greatest threat to civilians. She advocated humanitarian airdrops by the UK to besieged civilians to force an end to Assad’s deliberate use of starvation as a weapon.

Jo Cox abstained on the December 2015 vote on extending anti-ISIS airstrikes into Syria. She was deeply unhappy that the proposed intervention offered no relief to civilians. She refused to cast her vote either for isolationism or for a narrow counterterrorist policy that failed to deal with the ultimate cause of Syria’s horror, the Assad regime’s campaign of mass murder.

Britain’s failure to act in 2013 came in part because politicians allowed the massacres in Syria to become the subject of UK party politics. In all of her work on Syria, Labour MP Jo Cox reached out across party lines, working with Conservatives on the need to stop the bombing, and with Liberal Democrats on the need for action to break the sieges. In the last fortnight of her life she had the satisfaction of seeing MPs from across the House of Commons stand to speak in favour of humanitarian air drops.

Failure to act to protect civilians inside Syria has now become failure to protect civilians fleeing Syria. Victims of the murderous dictatorship are now used as a propaganda tool by the UK’s own inhumane far right. We have tolerated organised thuggery in Syria; now the thuggishness has entered our own politics.

Humanitarianism is caring for others, and through that we nurture our own humanity. British politics sacrificed its own humanity in its response to the Syria crisis. Jo Cox did her best to redeem it.

We will miss her deeply.

Batool Abdulkareem, Heba Ajami, Muzna Al-Naib, Mark Boothroyd, Clara Connolly, Amr Salahi, Kellie Strom, Syria Solidarity UK

Yasmine Nahlawi, Rethink Rebuild Society

Dr Sharif Kaf Al-Ghazal, Syrian Association of Yorkshire

Dr Mohammad Tammo, Kurds House

Reem Assil, Syrian Platform for Peace

Rouba Mhaissen, SAWA for development and aid

Mazen Ejbaei, Help 4 Syria UK

Dr Amer Masri, Scotland4Syria

Dr Mohammad Alhadj Ali, Syrian Welsh Society

Dr Abdullah Hanoun, Syrian Community of the South West

Dr Fadel Moghrabi, Peace and Justice for Syria

Talal Al-Mayhani, Centre for Thought and Public Affairs

Amjad Selo, Syrian Society in Nottinghamshire

Jonathan Brown, Saleyha Ahsan, Ben Midgley, Liberal Democrats for Syrian Freedom, Peace & Reconstruction

Yara Bader, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression

Mazen Darwish, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression

Yara Tlass, Watanili

Rafif Jouejati, FREE-Syria

Moataz Aljbawi, Union of Syria Civil Society Organizations

Bassam al-Kuwlati, RMTeam

Violations Documentation Centre

Assaad al Achi, Baytna

Aref Alkrez

Alaa Basatneh

Majd Chourbaji, Basamat for Development

Salim Salamah, Palestinian League for Human Rights

Syria Civil Defence, ‘The White Helmets’

Emissa for Development

Majd Chourbaji, Basamat for development

Fadel Abdul Ghany, Syrian Network for Human Rights

Friday, 29 April 2016

Springtime for Corbyn

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Navigating with my own map.

I am here again.

(Seen earlier here, or was it here?)

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Humanitarian Impact of Russia’s Intervention

The same day as the House of Commons debated airstrikes, elsewhere in Westminster the APPG for Syria was hosting a briefing by GOAL, an Irish NGO working inside northern Syria. The briefing was led by CEO Barry Andrews.

GOAL’s programme began in 2012, and is now reaching over a million people in rebel–held or contested areas. They distribute food to nearly 500,000 people. They supply flour to over 50 bakeries providing bread at stabilised prices to nearly one million people.

GOAL also supports water and hygiene services for over half a million people. In 2016 they plan expanding water systems and rural sanitation.

On livelihoods, GOAL supports farming families with pesticides, and plans on supporting related businesses and market systems, and developing small business groups accessible to women.
When GOAL first set up projects inside Syria, it was in the expectation that the war would end more quickly, and that the effort would support post–war transition and reconstruction. As things are, their work has helped temper the flow of refugees, making it possible for many to stay inside Syria. Their North Syria Response Fund is reaching over 200,000 internally displaced people, many from Aleppo and Homs.

Now the violence of Russia’s intervention has thrown the future of all this in doubt.

Russia is seen as carrying on Assad’s work, choosing to hit non-ISIS forces and infrastructure. There are fewer of Assad’s barrel bombs now, but the Russian weapons have far greater intensity. Buildings are gone in a single strike. They are targeting areas that were previously relatively safe, targeting border areas, hitting humanitarian convoys as well as commercial traffic.

People who before were prepared to stay now lack confidence that it is tenable, and there is a danger that pressure on Aleppo and Homs could displace as many as a million more.

While they see some grounds for hope in negotiations, GOAL are concerned not just by the bombing of civilians, but also at the bombing of FSA forces “holding the line against ISIS.”

While some have questioned the existence of moderate Syrian forces to fight ISIS, GOAL’s experience is that where there is extremism it’s amongst foreign fighters, whereas Syrian fighters are nationalists and “can be reasoned with.”

Where once there was talk of humanitarian intervention, now the focus has shifted to security threats and funding for aid has reduced even as the humanitarian crisis has worsened.

There is both a humanitarian and a political reason to continue aid work inside Syria, Barry Andrews argued; if you want forces of moderation to resist extremism, they need to be able to live and survive.

With thanks to the APPG for Syria Chair Roger Godsiff MP and his staff.

First published in Syria Notes.

Related at EA WorldView: Russia’s Aerial Victory—80% Aid Cut, 260,000 Displaced, Infrastructure Damaged.