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Syria

    June 20, 2014
    By Anna Shea, Legal Adviser on Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International.

    What struck me most when I met Zeinah (not her real name), a 29-year-old Syrian refugee in Turkey, were her warm personality and marvelous smile. But her past and present experiences give her precious little to smile about.

    Zeinah arrived in Turkey four months ago, having fled her native Syria.

    Like other Syrians I met in Istanbul, Zeinah had experienced horrors in her country of origin, and was desperate to start a new life. A teacher by profession, she was jailed by the Bashar al-Assad regime for allegedly providing assistance to opposition groups. She said she was raped and beaten multiple times over the several months she spent in prison and was eventually released due to lack of evidence.

    The abuse she suffered in jail has left her with injuries to her spine – and serious psychological trauma – which remain untreated.

    June 19, 2014
    Maran and Gloria stand up for refugee rights
    By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner

    Maran was a journalist and owned his own media company in a country riddled with conflict. Believing that the media was a tool that he could use, he wanted to tell the story of his people to the world.  Telling these stories was a way to protect his people and bring peace to his country.  He faced horrible obstacles.  His land became a place of massacre.  At a certain point, he became helpless and lost the power to speak the truth and fight for freedom.  He had few choices - die, surrender to the Government and become a journalist of propaganda, or flee.  After his family was threatened because of his work, Maran fled.

    Leaving his family, he paid a smuggler who promised to take him to a country where he would be safe. He had no choice about the country, only a small hope that he would eventually be safe.

    June 05, 2014

    Amnesty International has obtained details of a horrific raid in which 15 civilians, including seven children, were summarily killed on 29 May in a village in northern Syria raising fears of further attacks against residents in the area. 

    The killings in the village of al-Tleiliye in al Hassake governorate are believed to have been carried out by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Arab farming families were targeted, apparently for their perceived support of a Kurdish armed group, the YPG (People’s Protection Unit) or because they were mistaken for Yezidi Kurds. 

    The killings took place shortly after clashes escalated between ISIS and YPG forces in the nearby villages of Tal Khanzeer and al-Rawiya.

    “These cold-blooded killings serve as a bitter reminder of how complete impunity for the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria is fuelling brutality and inhumanity,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

    May 20, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs BST  21 May 2014

    A severe shortfall in international support has left many Syrian refugees in Lebanon unable to access crucial medical care, according to a new report by Amnesty International. The situation is so desperate that in some cases refugees have resorted to returning to Syria to receive the treatment they need.

    The report, Agonizing Choices: Syrian refugees in need of health care in Lebanon, identifies some serious gaps in the level of medical services available to refugees. In some cases Syrian refugees, including those requiring emergency treatment, have been turned away from hospitals.

    “Hospital treatment and more specialized care for Syrian refugees in Lebanon is woefully insufficient, with the situation exacerbated by a massive shortage of international funding. Syrian refugees in Lebanon are suffering as a direct result of the international community’s shameful failure to fully fund the UN relief programme in Lebanon,” said Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Thematic Issues at Amnesty International.

    April 30, 2014

    The UN Security Council must take concrete action, including threatening targeted sanctions, against parties in Syria that are brazenly flouting the terms of a unanimous UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian access and an end to human rights abuses, said Amnesty International.

    The Council is due to discuss Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second report on the implementation of the UN resolution today.

    “The humanitarian situation in Syria is beyond catastrophic. More than two months after a UN resolution to alleviate the suffering of civilians and end war crimes was adopted, the situation there has only worsened,” said José Luis Díaz, head of Amnesty International's UN office in New York.

    “If the Security Council is to salvage what credibility it has left on Syria it has to ensure its unanimous decision is respected, including by making good on its intention to take further steps to get the different parties to comply. Additional measures, including sanctions, must be taken against those responsible for violating the terms of the resolution.”

    March 13, 2014

    •        Thousands of people to attend vigils held in more than 40 countries
    •        Banksy creates a #WithSyria reworking of his iconic “girl with a red balloon” image
    •        Nelson’s Column, the Lincoln Memorial and Eiffel Tower to be lit up in message of hope at the vigils
    •        115 humanitarian and human rights groups join prominent names and Syrian voices in demanding immediate action to ensure Syrians in need – including civilians in areas under siege, can access aid
    •        Stunning #WithSyria animation released with exclusive music from Elbow, who have given their song “The Blanket of Night” as the soundtrack

    Across the world from Moscow to Washington thousands of people will mark the 3rd anniversary of the crisis in Syria on Thursday with candlelit vigils, the lighting up of iconic locations and the release of Banksy inspired red balloons carrying messages of hope to Syrians.

    March 09, 2014

    Posted at 0001 GMT 10 March 2014

    A new report by Amnesty International reveals that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been carried out on Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus, which is under brutal siege by Syrian government forces.

    The report, Squeezing the life out of Yarmouk: War crimes against besieged civilians, published ahead of the third anniversary of the crisis in Syria, highlights the deaths of nearly 200 individuals since the siege was tightened in July 2013 and access to crucial food and medical supplies was cut off. According to Amnesty International’s research, 128 of those who have died starved to death in the catastrophic humanitarian crisis that has emerged.

    “Life in Yarmouk has grown increasingly unbearable for desperate civilians who find themselves starving and trapped in a downward cycle of suffering with no means of escape,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “Civilians of Yarmouk are being treated like pawns in a deadly game in which they have no control.”

    February 22, 2014

    The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimous vote to adopt a resolution addressing humanitarian aid and human rights abuses in Syria is a significant step towards alleviating the suffering in Syria, said Amnesty International. 

    “The resolution adopted today is long overdue but it throws a lifeline to more than a quarter of a million people living under siege in Syria and 9.3 million civilians in need of humanitarian aid, by offering a tangible sign of hope for an end to their suffering,” said Jose Luis Diaz, Head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.  

    “This is the first resolution to address the abysmal humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country in the nearly there years since the uprising there began. While some sections of the resolution could and should have been much stronger, especially surrounding the issues of accountability and ending impunity, its adoption is an important step.”

    February 13, 2014

    As many as a quarter of a million civilians in areas under siege around Syria need the UN Security Council to push for unfettered humanitarian access to alleviate their suffering, Amnesty International said today, as the world body considers a draft resolution submitted by Australia, Luxembourg and Jordan.

    In one location alone – the Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees south of Damascus, in which Syrian nationals also live – the organization has received the names of more than 100 men, women and children who have died during a siege imposed by the Syrian armed forces last July following clashes with armed opposition groups. Starvation, lack of adequate medical care and sniper fire have been the main causes of death.

    “The situation for civilians trapped and under siege in a number of locations around Syria is truly dire, with vital food and medical supplies either in short supply or completely lacking,” said José Luis Díaz, Head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.

    February 10, 2014
    Like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal

    By Khairunissa Dhala, Refugee Researcher at Amnesty International

    When Khalil, 26, entered Lebanon having escaped the conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, he thought his life would finally improve.

    But one night, he was lured into a meeting with two men. He says they raped him, stole money from his wallet and his mobile phone.

    Khalil never reported the alleged rape to the police. He is a refugee, and he is also gay. He feared he would be penalized, and that no one would care about what had happened to him.

    Since then, he has tried to commit suicide – a friend found him and took him to hospital.

    Although Lebanon is often perceived as more tolerant than most countries in the region, like in Syria the Lebanese Penal Code considers ‘homosexual acts’ illegal. The country’s lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) community is growing in prominence but the issue is still a taboo.

    As one of the nearly one million refugees from Syria in Lebanon, Khalil claims to suffer daily discrimination on the basis of his nationality. But as a gay man he faces further hardship.

    January 21, 2014
    Thousands are held in Syria’s state-run detention centres ©APGraphicsBank

    Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, comments on a recent report on Syria by three former war crimes prosecutors

    Beaten, burned, bruised, strangled bodies lying on a dirty floor. Some show signs of starvation, others are missing their eyes, a number of them appear to have been electrocuted. The horror is nearly impossible to describe… but it is hardly surprising.

    The thousands of photographs, part of a report published today, provide evidence of the torture and killing of around 11,000 individuals detained in Syria between the start of the uprising in 2011 and August last year.

    While we cannot authenticate the images, the allegations are consistent with aspects of Amnesty International’s own research into the widespread use of torture and enforced disappearance by the Syrian authorities, as well as deaths in custody.

    The extensive experience and reputation of the international lawyers and forensic experts in charge of the investigation also contribute to its credibility.

    January 21, 2014

    World leaders at the Geneva II peace conference on Syria must demand full access to investigate allegations that 11,000 people have been tortured and killed while in detention in the country and monitor conditions in detention, said Amnesty International.

    A report by former war crimes prosecutors and forensic experts is based on documents and thousands of still images of what appear to be the bodies of dead prisoners. The material was smuggled out of the country by a defected military police photographer. The photographs cover the period from the start of the uprising in 2011 until August 2013.

    “The Geneva II peace conference must treat this as an absolute priority. Concrete steps must be taken to respond to the scale of the horrific human rights situation in detention centres and the country in general,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “World leaders must demand that the Commission of Inquiry and other human rights bodies be granted immediate access to all places of detention – formal and informal – in Syria.

    January 16, 2014

    The Geneva II peace conference on Syria must aim to urgently end government sieges imposed on opposition-held towns where civilians are starving to death, said Amnesty International. 

    The organization is urging government and opposition groups to commit to granting unfettered access to humanitarian organizations operating throughout Syria during the UN-backed talks which begin on 22 January in Switzerland. 

    January 13, 2014

    The international community must act now to end the suffering of millions of Syrian civilians, many of whom are at risk of starvation and face severe shortages of medical care and adequate shelter, said Amnesty International ahead of a UN donor conference in Kuwait this week.

    “The world’s response to the Syria crisis so far has been woefully inadequate. At the end of 2013 the UN humanitarian appeal - the largest in the organization’s history - was just 70 per cent funded. This meant that vital aid was cut off to some of the most vulnerable victims of Syria’s brutal conflict who were left to face the bitter winter months with minimal resources,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.
     
    Although some countries have made generous financial contributions, others including the United Arab Emirates, one of the wealthiest countries within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made promises on aid that failed to fully materialize. Russia, which has shown significant political interest in the Syrian crisis, has only made minimal contributions to the humanitarian effort.

    December 18, 2013

    Posted at 0001 GMT 19 December 2013

    Torture, flogging, and summary killings are rife in secret prisons run by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed group that controls large areas of northern Syria, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

    ISIS, which claims to apply strict Shari’a (Islamic law) in areas it controls, has ruthlessly flouted the rights of local people. In the 18-page briefing, entitled Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria, Amnesty International identifies seven detention facilities that ISIS uses in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo.

    “Those abducted and detained by ISIS include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

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