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Syria

    March 17, 2015

    Eyewitnesses to an alleged chlorine gas attack last night in Idlib, northern Syria, have told Amnesty International about the horrific death of an entire family, including three children younger than three years of age.

    Scores of other civilians were exposed to toxic chlorine gas in two apparent chemical weapons attacks allegedly carried out by government forces in and around the town of Sermine, Idlib, last night, eyewitnesses said.

    “These horrific attacks that resulted in civilians, including small children, suffering excruciating deaths, are yet more evidence that the Syrian government forces are committing war crimes with impunity. The situation in Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court as a matter of urgency,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    March 16, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 17 March 2015

    A new report by Amnesty International provides damning evidence that Syrian government forces unlawfully killed scores of civilians in a series of aerial attacks on the city of al-Raqqa in November 2014 which violated international humanitarian law. Some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.

    Al-Raqqa under attack: Syrian air force strikes against civilians documents a series of airstrikes between 11 and 29 November that led to the deaths of up to 115 civilians, among them 14 children. They included attacks on a mosque and a busy market crammed full of civilians and other buildings not being used for military purposes.

    “Syrian government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war in these ruthless airstrikes. Some of these attacks give every indication of being war crimes,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    March 11, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 12 March 2015

    Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organizations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.

    Analyzing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.

    February 12, 2015

    The Free Syrian Voices (www.free-syrian-voices.org) coalition today announced its “Hearts in Our Hands” Campaign to call for the release of peaceful Syrian activists held both by the Syrian government and armed groups. The coalition was formed to coordinate the efforts of six international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Frontline Defenders detained Syrian human rights defenders and activists.

    The campaign’s timing, over the Valentine’s Day weekend and through 17 February 2015, marks the 3rd anniversary, on 16 February, of the arrest and detention of Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and two staff members, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani. They remain in Syrian government jails solely for their human rights work, along with hundreds of other human rights, media, legal and humanitarian workers detained since the peaceful protest movement in Syria started in 2011.

    February 09, 2015

    By Geoffrey Mock, orginally published on Amnesty USA blog

    What happens when a crisis so prolongs that the world tires of it?

    You get 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

    You get stories like the one told by this woman living in a refugee camps. She has been in a Lebanese camp for three years with her two sons, one of whom is autistic. She has necessities, but little else; what she dreams of is that her children get an education.

    “We don’t go to anyone, we don’t visit anyone because dealing with him is so difficult,” the woman told Amnesty International researchers. “People stay away because they are afraid he will hurt their children. This little room is our bedroom, it is our living room, it is our everything. Our financial situation doesn’t allow us to register him in such [specialist] schools… That is why we need to resettle in another country, to get help for our child. This will make it better for him and for us.”

    February 04, 2015

    A new report from Amnesty International throws the spotlight on the human face of Syria’s refugee crisis, through the stories of eight people and families who have fled the conflict and are struggling to survive in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

    Hardship, Hope and Resettlement: Refugees from Syria tell their stories highlights the life-changing opportunity that international resettlement can offer to some of the most vulnerable refugees. Its publication marks the launch of Amnesty International’s #OpenToSyria campaign.

    The campaign aims to put pressure on wealthy countries, through public support, to accept a greater numbers of vulnerable refugees from Syria through resettlement and other humanitarian admission programmes. So far, the international response to the crisis has been pitiful and some of the richest countries have done very little.

    “With close to 4 million refugees, the scale of the crisis is overwhelming. This report tells the stories of the real people behind the numbers, in their own words,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights.

    December 08, 2014

    Over 30 international organisations are calling on governments meeting in Geneva tomorrow to commit to offering sanctuary to at least 5 per cent of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria currently in neighbouring countries - 180,000 people - by the end of 2015.
    The governments convened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will be making pledges to resettle or provide other forms of humanitarian admission to Syrian refugees. Up to 3.59 million people are projected to have fled the conflict into countries neighbouring Syria by the end of this year. To date the international community has pledged to resettle less than 2 per cent of this number over an unclear timeframe. 

    December 05, 2014

    World leaders are failing to offer protection to Syria’s most vulnerable refugees with catastrophic consequences, Amnesty International has warned in a new briefing ahead of a UN pledging conference in Geneva on 9 December.

    Left Out in the Cold: Syrian refugees abandoned by the international community  highlights the pitiful numbers of resettlement places offered by the international community. Around 3.8 million refugees from are being hosted in five main countries within the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Only 1.7 per cent of this number have been offered sanctuary by the rest of the world since the crisis began more than three years ago.

    November 09, 2014

    By Noor Al-Bazzaz of Amnesty International’s Syria team

    Five months to the day after being abducted and held hostage by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), a group of 25 students from Kobani were unexpectedly set free on 29 October.

    They were the last remaining captives from a group of around 150 schoolchildren from the embattled Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria who were returning from their final year examinations in Aleppo in May when IS members stopped their school bus at a checkpoint and abducted them all. In the months that followed, they were sporadically released. Those we spoke to had horror stories to tell about life in IS captivity.

    In Suruç, a town in Turkey merely 10km from Kobani, refugees from the besieged city told me how the students’ harrowing experience was typical of the many abductions by IS in the year and a half since the armed group besieged their city.

    One of the released students, a 15-year-old boy who chose to remain unnamed, described the four months he spent in the hands of IS, detailing the armed group’s use of torture against students who broke the rigid rules, or attempted to escape.

    November 04, 2014

    Neil Sammonds, Amnesty's Syria Researcher, blogs from Kobani on the Turkey-Syria border

    A dust cloud from the US air strike drifts across the border from Kobani and blurs our view from the overlooking Turkish hilltop. Most if not all of those watching – all Kurds, it seems, from both Syria and Turkey – agree that the damage caused to the city by air strikes is a price worth paying. Many believe the city’s defence, led by Syrian Kurdish fighters, would have collapsed without them.

    “My home may get destroyed but if it forces out Da’esh”, as the armed group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS) is usually referred to locally, “then I am happy,” says one.

    Fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) lead the city’s defence against the armed group widely loathed by Kurds.  

    Residents of the scores of villages outside Kobani, and then the city itself, fled ahead of the rapid IS advance, well aware of the atrocities committed by the group against Iraqi Kurds in Sinjar and elsewhere. Some 200,000 fled into Turkey, two-thirds of them in just four days in September this year.

    September 23, 2014

    Any further intervention in the Middle East must include plans to address the suffering of Syrian civilians, a global coalition of 39 leading human rights and humanitarian organizations said today.

    Ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, the #WithSyria coalition, comprised of Save the Children, Amnesty International and others, is urging world leaders, whoever they support in the conflict, to make clear that they are on the side of civilians. This means by using their power to ensure that international law is respected and attacks on civilians including schools, hospitals, and shelters are stopped. According to the UN, direct, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks by groups on all sides are responsible for the majority of civilian deaths, as well as making it impossible in some areas for humanitarian agencies to reach those in desperate need.

    September 12, 2014

    By Shappal Ibrahim, a Syrian Kurdish rights activist.

    When Shappal Ibrahim, a peaceful activist with the Union of Young Kurds, was approached by a Syrian government official claiming to be a fellow supporter of the country’s “revolution”, he did not realize it was part of a ploy to detain him for his human rights activities. After agreeing to meet the official on 22 September 2011, he was driven away and detained in the city of Qamishli, his hometown. He was held in secret for nearly two years, one of Syria’s many “disappeared” before he was released as part of a presidential amnesty on 29 May 2013. It was only then he learned that on 5 September 2012 a court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Here, he tells his story of how he was treated in some of Syria’s many detention centres.

    August 29, 2014
    Peaceful activist Mohamed Bachir Arab has been missing since 2 November 2011© Private

    The last time Rania (not her real name) spoke to her friend Mohamed Bachir Arab, was on 1 November 2011. As a hard working doctor and committed political activist, Mohamed had been living in hiding for six months, trying to evade the ever present tentacles of the Syrian intelligence forces, who routinely detain peaceful activists like him.

    The following day her worst fears were realized. A strap line on the evening news announced he had been arrested. None of his relatives knew where he had been taken.

    Mohamed was a marked man. He had been a student leader at his university in the city of Aleppo, in north-west Syria. Over the years, he had organized a number of protests against government policies, which had landed him in trouble with the authorities. Between 2004 and 2005 he was detained for several months before being released.

    But this time, his relatives and colleagues feared it was different. Since the crisis in Syria began in March 2011, the number of individuals who have been detained in secret by the state – or forcibly disappeared – has spiralled out of control.

    August 29, 2014

    “Nasser, every minute of our day is spent in pain and agony since you were detained. We have lost any joy and fear has become our companion…The children's fear over your fate is robbing them of their childhood.”  Farizah Jahjah Bondek, wife of Nasser Saber Bondek.

    On the evening of February 17, 2014, members of the Syrian security forces believed to be part of Military Intelligence, arrested at least four people from Sahnaya (a suburb of Damascus) including Nasser Saber Bondek. He has not been seen since.

    While the official reasons for his arrest are unknown, it is believed that it could be related to his humanitarian assistance activities. His wife Farizaqh is a peaceful political activist, known for attending demonstrations. Fearing arrest, she fled Syria with their children before her husband was taken by the authorities.

    August 28, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 29 August 2014

    Enforced disappearances in Syria are continuing more than half a year after the UN demanded that Syria put an end to this abhorrent practice, Amnesty International said ahead of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on 30 August. 

    “People in Syria are hauled off into the abyss of secret detention on a regular basis, providing clear evidence of the authorities’ systematic use of enforced disappearance as a tool to crush dissent,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program. 

    “Despite the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution in February demanding an end to enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses, countless perceived opponents of the Syrian government – including activists, journalists, medics and lawyers – are routinely plucked off the streets or seized from their homes only to disappear into virtual black holes.” 

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