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Statement of the Syrian Civil Society Organizations “Save the afflicted Syria”

In light of the humanitarian catastrophe that afflicted the Syrian and Turkish peoples and claimed the lives of more than 44,000 victims, with Syrians having a great share of this tragedy with nearly 12,000 killed in various regions. In Northwestern Syria alone, more than 4,400 deaths and more than 12,400 injuries were recorded. The earthquake completely or partially destroyed 8,900 buildings and led to the displacement of 50,000 people in that region.

We, the civil society organizations working on the ground, extend our deepest condolences to the Syrian people and to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery for all the wounded, and hope for security and shelter for the displaced because of this painful catastrophe.

The devastating earthquake that hit northwest (NW) Syria and south Turkey was not only a humanitarian catastrophe, but it could potentially develop into a political cataclysm that will further exacerbate the calamities of the Syrian people in general. The absence of any international
emergency response towards Northwestern Syria, and the abject failure of the UN and its agencies to deliver any emergency aid have caused countless innocent lives to perish whom could have been saved if there was an early intervention.

The UN has been adamant about coordinating all aid efforts only with the regime, sending assistance to the Assad regime despite multiple reports (prior to the earthquake) and abundance of testimonies from regime-controlled areas (after the earthquake) about the corruption and
favoritism in the distribution of the aid, and that the Assad regime have distributed the aid only to confiscate it and give it to military militias affiliated with the Assad regime. 

The UN has accepted the regime’s blackmail in dealing with NW Syria also, agreeing to deliver aid only after the green light from Assad, and by that, wasting precious time in the respond process, causing unnecessary death, and suffering of thousands of Syrians, all that could have been avoidable.

All previously mentioned is just an indicator that the main threat that faces Syrians in the short term is the full normalization of the Syrian regime under the flawed notion that the Syrian regime is a legitimate government representing the Syrian people with all their segments.

We already saw that in the speech and action of the United Nations, various states and figures thanking Al Assad for allowing the crossing of aid through border crossings that are originally located in areas outside of his control, or calling for aid to be sent to the regime-affiliated agencies, without distinguishing between the Syrian people and the regime who has been weaponizing humanitarian aid against its own people, committing war crimes against them for more than a decade, including the use of chemical weapons. And that this regime is the cause of displacing more than half of the population.

The second, even more dangerous threat, is the forced return of displaced Syrians who lost their shelter and livelihood in Turkey and the NW, to regime-controlled areas. While Europe is not allowing these refugees to seek shelter there. So, some believe that the most expedient solution for all key states could be some arrangements with the regime for housing or building temporary camps inside regime-held parts of Syria itself.

This could align with the already floated ideas of “step for step”, “pilot projects” and “Area Based Return” supported by the UN, but on a grander scale. This is an existential threat to the Syrian people.

Accordingly, We – the Syrian Civil Society Organizations – blame the international community for “letting the Syrians down in northern Syria” by the approval of the United Nations Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, and we denounce the international flirtations of the Syrian regime
represented by thanking it for opening the border crossings for aid to enter northern Syria, which indicates the attempts of normalization with the Syrian regime.

With that said, we the undersigned demand the following:

     

      • Demand an independent international investigation for the unacceptable failure of the UN and its agencies in delivering any aid to earthquake victims in northwest Syria in the first 140 hours after the catastrophe.

      • End the Russian political blackmailing that has been going on for years with the complacency of the UN, regarding “cross-border aid” in northwest Syria، and start delivering humanitarian aid through all available border crossings using the abundant basis in international law for such action, and putting in place alternative aid mechanisms by the US, UK, EU and Turkiye.

      • Request from the key donors along with the UN to put an emergency response plan for the next 12 months for northwest Syria that includes compensating those affected by the earthquakes.

      • Request the delivery of all aid directly to Syrian organizations and volunteers already working in all the affected areas, especially in the north-west, and ask the key donors to develop the required mechanisms that does not depend on the regime in any shape or form.

      • Emphasizing that the targeted sanctions imposed on the Assad regime for the horrific crimes it committed against the Syrians and not against the Syrian people, whether it is the Caesar Act or the European Union sanctions. It is one of the main bulwarks against political and economic normalization with the regime, but at the same time it does not affect the delivery of humanitarian and earthquake-related aid.

      • Stop any normalization with the regime at humanitarian or political level under any false pretext. The regime has turned Syria into a narco-state and committed countless crimes against humanity against the Syrian people, that is why the biggest catastrophe that could damage the Syrians is the normalization and revival of the regime.

      • Reject any plans for the forced return of displaced Syrians who are without any shelter in Turkiye and northwest Syria to regime-controlled areas or any other destinations and focus on securing swift support and assistance to them in their current locations.

    In conclusion, we affirm our standing with our afflicted people in the areas under the control of the regime, and we support the provision of humanitarian aid to all those affected by the earthquake disaster, with a demand to prevent the security services from interfering with the distribution of aid, and to tighten control mechanisms to ensure transparency and not to steal or politicize aid as the regime apparatus used to do.

    We also commend the solidarity of the Syrian society considering this crisis, and in particular the initiative of our people in Deir Ezzor and northeastern Syria, which emphasized the cohesion of the Syrian people and their unity during the crisis. And we also encourage the Syrian community to continue with their initiatives on all levels, individual or collective, and ensure its effectiveness and impact in reducing this crisis.

    *More than 200 hundred Syrian organizations participated and signed this statement.

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