2016-03-14 17:22:00

5th year of conflict worst year yet for Syrian civilians

(Vatican Radio) To coincide with the fifth anniversary of the conflict in Syria a major joint NGO report has been released.

Over 250,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the war five years ago; the encompassing report shows that in 2015 the situation hit an all time low.

It estimates that in 2015 alone at least 50,000 people were killed; 1.5 million more people found themselves in need of humanitarian aid; almost a million  were forced to flee their homes; the number of those living in beseiged areas doubled; an additional 400,000 children were out of school. 

Drawn up by some 30 Syrian and international humanitarian organisations, the report entitled “Fuelling the Fire” catalogues the deteriorating conditions in Syria and criticizes permanent UN Security Council members – the US, Britain, France and Russia – for having fanned the flames of war by undermining their own resolutions through inadequate pressure, political and military support to their allies or direct military action.

Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Daniel Gorevan, the Syria Crisis Campaigns and Policy Manager for Oxfam about the report that, he says, reveals that 2015 has been the worst year yet for the Syrian people.

Listen to the interview:

Gorevan says 2015 saw more people killed in Syria, aid increasingly blocked, an increase by more than twice of the number of people who are living under siege by armed groups.

But, he says, beyond that “what we found was that the permanent members of the Security Council were actively contributing to the conflict, whether through inadequate diplomatic pressure, supporting their allies on the ground militarily or politically, and also directly involving themselves in the conflict”.

The most notable example of this, he says, was the major Russian intervention in September last year which caused a great number of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

Gorevan also pointed to the US-led coalition against Security Council-listed terrorist groups.

“This combination of diplomatic inaction, providing military support (arms and ammunition to  allies on the ground) and actually engaging in the conflict themselves contributed to making it the worst year yet in the Syria crisis” he said.

Gorevan explains that the report was drawn up thanks to the collaboration of many NGOs, including Oxfam which is operational inside Syria.

“We worked with major humanitarian organizations and Syrian organizations to pool all our data and experiences, as well as reviewing all the documents that were produced by the United Nations over the course of the past year to give an accurate as possible picture of what is happening on the ground” he said.

He says they found that ‘protected’ civilians were subjected to a huge number of indiscriminate attacks including aerial bombardments, mortars, missiles. And, he said, the targeting of schools and hospitals got worse.

The report also looks at issues such as aid access, besiegement and local ceasefires which, Gorevan said, were continually flouted by the parties on the ground.

“One thing that is important to note is that in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a glimmer of hope with the cessation of hostilities, and I think that what that shows is that when the international community – particularly Russia and the US – put their mind to it they can actually make a difference on the ground. The question is: why has it taken them so long to do it?” he said.

Gorevan says the report also looks at the effects of the war on children who have been victims of violence or have been caught up in the violence and perhaps displaced; at the damage caused by the intentional targeting of schools.

He says all this means “there is a massive number of children who are unable to claim their right to an education; this is incredibly worrying and bodes ill for the future”.

Gorevan says that the authors of the report hope that it will provide a reminder if not a wake-up call for the permanent members of the Security Council.

“Their job is to ensure peace and security; their job is to ensure the protection of civilians” he said.

He says it seems that their claim to be fighting terrorism trumps the need to protect civilians and to find a resolution to the crisis.

“So we hope that this report be sent to them and they will take it as an indication that the status quo, their approach over the last year, is actually making things worse” he said.

Finally, Gorevan concludes that diplomatic action is needed immediately in Syria to ensure that aid can access besieged communities and that the systematic violation of international humanitarian law be halted.
“If we do that –and I think it’s quite a big if – then there is the possibility that there could be progress on political negotiations for the solution of the crisis” he said.     

The full report is available here.



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