The Continued Tragedy of Syrian Civilians
By admin March 7, 2018

Source: The Daily Star (

The Syrian Civil War captured the attention of the international community, and by implication of the media, since its beginning in 2012. The first wave of attention on the war focused on its similarity to other movements in what became known as the “Arab Spring,” a group of socio-political movements in the Arab world that ended with the toppling of several dictatorships. However, the attention shifted towards the involvement of the Islamic State in the war, particularly its dramatic territorial, economic, and political growth in parts of Syria and Iraq. A third wave of attention took place in regard to the massive exodus of civilians escaping the prolonged brutality of the conflict, particularly as they take hazardous trips across the Mediterranean trying to get to Europe.

As the big global powers engaged against ISIS in Syria, the Assad regime – which was and continues to be one of the biggest violators of international law in the conflict – consolidated in power under the umbrella of Russia. What has become clear throughout this conflict and how it has been covered is that the Civil War is far from ending, that combatants in the field have changed dramatically, and that civilians continue to be existentially affected by this issue. This last point has gained recognition again thanks to a United Nations report investigating crimes committed in the conflict.

This week, the chairman of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria released its findings on the violations of the United States, Russia, the Assad regime, and ISIS, given the intensification of fighting in the past months, particularly in the areas of Idlib, Afrin, and Ghouta. In the report, composed after 500 interviews, there are significant violations against civilians which led the chairman, Paulo Pinheiro, to describe the current moment as a “very dark moment in this conflict.”

The first shocking finding of the report points at the civilian casualties created by the US and Russia’s bombing operations. In the case of the US-led coalition, the report found that strikes near a school in Raqqa in March of 2017 killed 150 civilians. The report also points that the Pentagon only admitted a dozen militant casualties in the operation, while disregarding civilian deaths. In fact, the report also found no evidence that there were ISIS militants in the school, highlighting the violation of international law by the US-led coalition given that it was known there were sheltered civilians in that school since 2012.

Another significant finding of the report was the indiscriminate attack perpetrated by Russian strikes in west Aleppo in November 2017. The panel found that a Russian fixed-wing aircraft used unguided weapons that hit a market in a de-escalation zone at Atareb, killing 84 civilians. While the report did not find whether the market was a planned target, the use of indiscriminate violence resulting in civilian casualties represents a violation of international law.

Beyond the civilian casualties perpetrated by Russia and the US, other actors like the Assad regime have also violated international law. The report found evidence indicating that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels in Ghouta again. The regime rejected the allegations saying it gave up its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2013. But since then, there have been many instances showing the continued used of these weapons, which at some point moved the US to target a Syrian air base in retaliation last year.

Ultimately, the report also found evidence of violations against civilians by ISIS militants. In the report, which covers investigations focusing on the six months preceding January 15, 2018, panelists argue that Islamic State fighters and other groups committed deadly attacks on civilians. The report points to ISIS’s use of civilians as human shields in moments of direct confrontation with other groups. Thus, the findings of the report show that while combatants continue with their own agendas, civilians are caught in the middle of the conflict without any hope of resolution in the near future. For a conflict spanning for seven years, affecting the homes of 11 million people, and with violence intensifying to this degree now, the only visible future for civilians is one of more turmoil.

For More Information:

U.N. investigators urge Russia, U.S. to probe deadly Syria air strikes

Russia, US air strikes caused mass civilian deaths in Syria: UN

US condemns Syria’s ‘contempt’ for UN as Ghouta attack continues

Russia and U.S. air strikes caused mass civilian deaths in Syria: U.N.





Thanks for sharing !

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