Omar, a refugee from Syria, was just 12 years old when he accidentally arrived alone in Sweden. It took months of tears and worry, emails and phone calls before his parents and big brother could join him. As Denmark proposes delaying family reunification for up to five years, their story shows why the right to a family life is worth fighting for.
“I slept in jeans, not pyjamas,” says Maha Khadour, Omar’s mother, recalling the summer of 2012 when bombs starting falling on their neighbourhood in Syria. “You just didn't know when you’d have to flee."
Despite being a veterinarian, not a doctor, her husband Mohannad gave medical help to injured neighbours who feared being arrested if they sought help at a public hospital. When rumours started circulating that the government was looking for Mohannad, he and Maha fled with their two sons, Ali, now aged 19, and Omar, now 14, to neighbouring Turkey.
Horrific images and stories are emerging from Syria. Amnesty International has spoken to residents in the besieged town of Madaya in the Damascus Countryside governorate, and gathered fresh accounts of conditions in al-Fouaa and Kefraya in the Idleb Countryside governorate. The starving residents described how families are surviving on little more that foraged leaves and boiled water. The villages are due to resume receiving aid following a deal involving the Syrian government, struck on 7 January 2016.
These harrowing accounts of hunger represent the mere tip of an iceberg. Syrians are suffering and dying across the country because starvation is being used as a weapon of war by both the Syrian government and armed groups. By continuing to impose sieges on civilian areas and only sporadically allowing in aid at their whim they are fuelling a humanitarian crisis and toying with the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
New testimony from residents living inside besieged Syrian villages gathered by Amnesty International, describing their desperate struggle to feed themselves through the winter months, highlights the crucial need to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to all civilians in need and lift all sieges on civilian populations across country.
The organization has spoken to residents in the besieged town of Medaya in the Damascus Countryside governorate, and gathered fresh accounts of conditions in al-Fouaa and Kefraya in the Idleb Countryside governorate. The starving residents described how families are surviving on little more that foraged leaves and boiled water. The villages are due to resume receiving aid following a deal involving the Syrian government, struck on 7 January 2016.
Russian air strikes in Syria have killed hundreds of civilians and caused massive destruction in residential areas, striking homes, a mosque and a busy market, as well as medical facilities, in a pattern of attacks that show evidence of violations of international humanitarian law, said Amnesty International in a new briefing published today.
‘Civilian objects were not damaged’: Russia’s statements on its attacks in Syria unmasked highlights the high price civilians have paid for suspected Russian attacks across the country. The report focuses on six out of more than 25 attacks reviewed by Amnesty International in which a total of at least 250 civilians and around a dozen fighters were killed. The briefing includes evidence suggesting that Russian authorities may have lied to cover up civilian damage to a mosque from one air strike and a field hospital in another. It also documents evidence suggesting Russia’s use of internationally banned cluster munitions and of unguided bombs in populated residential areas.
These four Kurdish Syrian family members are traveling on foot. This group of brothers and a slightly older uncle left the town of Amuda located in the Kurdish region of Syria 10 days ago. As ISIS fighting was closing in to only 30kms from Amuda, they decided to leave. After making their way to the Turkish border and meeting their smuggler contact, they each had to pay 350 USD to cross the Turkish border on foot, under the cover of night. They made their way to the coastal city of Izmir from which they embarked on an inflatable boat for a perilous 15 minutes journey to Mitilini, Greece. They all had to pay 1200 USD each for this part of the trip. Upon arrival in Greece, they registered as EU refugees and then took a ferry to the Greek mainland where they then travelled by bus to Serbia.
By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada
What is it like to be a refugee in Lebanon? The answer you'll get will be different depending on whether you speak to a women, girl, man, or boy.
Early marriage and street harassment are just a few of the serious issues uniquely faced by refugee women and girls in Lebanon. And because of legal restrictions imposed on Syrian refugees by the Lebanese government, many refugee women and girls feel unable to report threats, harassment, or violence to the police. Refugee women and girls living in Lebanon, especially those in women-led households, are at risk of experiencing human rights abuses.
As part of the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, Amnesty International is sharing the stories of two refugee women living in Lebanon.
Learn more and take action today!
Bassel Khartabil, a defender of freedom expression being held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance may be facing a death sentence, 30 local and international organizations said today. His wife has received unconfirmed reports that a Military Field Court has sentenced him to death. His whereabouts should be disclosed immediately, and he should be released unconditionally, the groups said.
Military Intelligence detained Bassel Khartabil on 15 March 2012. He was held in incommunicado detention for eight months and was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. He is facing Military Field Court proceedings for his peaceful activities in support of freedom of expression. A military judge interrogated Bassel Khartabil for a few minutes on 9 December 2012, but he had heard nothing further about his legal case, he told his family. In December 2012 he was moved to ‘Adra prison in Damascus, where he remained until 3 October 2015, when he was transferred to an undisclosed location and has not been heard of since.
Posted at 0001hrs BST 5 November 2015
The vast scale and chillingly orchestrated nature of tens of thousands of enforced disappearances by the Syrian government over the past four years is exposed in a new report by Amnesty International published today.
Between prison and the grave: Enforced disappearances in Syria reveals that the state is profiting from widespread and systematic enforced disappearances amounting to crimes against humanity, through an insidious black market in which family members desperate to find out the fates of their disappeared relatives are ruthlessly exploited for cash.
“The government’s enforced disappearances are part of a coldly calculated, widespread attack against the civilian population. These are crimes against humanity, part of a carefully orchestrated campaign designed to spread terror and quash the slightest sign of dissent across the country,” said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
Released 00:01 BST Tuesday 13 October 2015
A fact-finding mission to northern Syria has uncovered a wave of forced displacement and home demolitions amounting to war crimes carried out by the Autonomous Administration led by the Syrian Kurdish political party Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat (PYD) controlling the area, said Amnesty International in a report published today. The Autonomous Administration is a key ally, on the ground, of the US-led coalition fighting against the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
‘We had nowhere else to go’: Forced displacement and demolitions in northern Syria reveals evidence of alarming abuses, including eyewitness accounts and satellite images, detailing the deliberate displacement of thousands of civilians and the razing of entire villages in areas under the control of the Autonomous Administration, often in retaliation for residents’ perceived sympathies with, or ties to, members of IS or other armed groups.
By Diana Semaan, Syria campaigner at Amnesty's International Secretraiat.
With reports in the news of a new push for negotiations to end the conflict in Syria, and Western countries contemplating the future of Syria and Bashar al-Assad as Russia engages in combat, a crucially important goal—accountability for countless war crimes and other violations committed by all sides in this conflict—appears to be slipping off the agenda.
Despite an international outcry over the killing of civilians by the Syrian government, in reality most of the world—including Western governments—have turned a blind eye to events in the country, utterly failing to agree on effective measures to protect civilians from the brutality of the Syrian government.
Their main priority appears to be combating the armed group calling itself the Islamic State and keeping refugees from reaching their borders. Any pursuit of accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity has taken a back seat.
Three years after her father’s disappearance, 24-year-old Raneem Ma’touq tells her family’s story.
Raneem Ma'touq is the daughter of Khalil Ma’touq, a human rights lawyer and the director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research, who disappeared on 2 October 2012, along with a colleague, while they were on their way to work in Damascus. It is believed he was arrested after being detained at a government checkpoint, and has been held in conditions amounting to an enforced disappearance ever since. Today marks three years since he was arrested.
When Raneem Ma’touq’s father disappeared nearly three years ago, she was 21 years old. She and her family felt as if their whole world had fallen apart.
“[His disappearance] left a huge hole in our lives. For a young woman in our neighborhood, it was like hell living without him,” she said.
As a human rights lawyer defending political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Syria, her father, Khalil Ma’touq, was no stranger to threats, harassment and intimidation by the Syrian authorities. Even before the Syrian conflict began, he was subjected to a travel ban.
With pressure on the federal government mounting, from Canadians from all walks of life and all corners of the country looking for Canada to do much more to assist Syrian refugees, twelve organizations have today released a comprehensive set of recommendations that should form the basis of Canada’s response to the crisis.
The organizations have decades of wide-ranging experience in refugee resettlement, protection and advocacy, and include the Syrian Canadian Council which has been at the forefront of highlighting the pressing needs of Syrian refugees in Canada and abroad.
More than 4 million refugees from Syria (95%) are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt:Lebanon hosts approximately 1.2 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country Jordan hosts about 650,000 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population Turkey hosts 1.9 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide Iraq where 3 million people have been internally displaced in the last 18 months hosts 249,463 refugees from Syria Egypt hosts 132,375 refugees from Syria The UN humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees is just 40% funded.
Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive just $13.50 per month or less than half a dollar a day for food assistance.
More than 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan living below the local poverty line.Conflict in Syria
Around 220,000 people have been killed and 12.8 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria
The Democratic Union Party (PYD)-led autonomous administration in northern Syria is using a crackdown against terrorism and the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) as a pretext to unlawfully detain and unfairly try peaceful critics and civilians believed to be sympathizers or members of alleged terror groups, said Amnesty International.
Researchers interviewed 10 detainees at two prisons run by the PYD-led autonomous administration, during a fact-finding mission to northern Syria.
Some had been arbitrarily detained for periods of up to a year without charge or trial. Those who did face trials said they suffered from lengthy pre-trial detention and that proceedings were blatantly unfair. They were denied basic rights including the right to defend themselves, to see the evidence against them, and access to a lawyer and their family.
“The PYD-led autonomous administration cannot use their fight against terrorism as an excuse to violate the rights of individuals in areas under their control,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.