The Syria American Council has joined with a coalition of advocacy, human rights, faith-based, and civic organizations to issue a letter to the Trump Administration, that calls on the United States to work with Turkey and the international community to establish a safe zone in the remaining opposition-held portions of northwestern Syria.
Read the full letter and list of signatories below.
Dear Mr. President,
In brazen defiance of previous agreements and the laws of war, the Assad regime and its Russian allies have waged a brutal military campaign against the 3.5 million civilians in Idlib, Syria. Turkey has been left as the only defender of the more than one million civilians who have fled the bombardment to the Turkish border, sixty percent of whom are children who risk death in freezing winter conditions. Today, we ask that you take a stand in the face of the greatest humanitarian disaster this century, and work with our NATO ally, Turkey and the international community to establish and enforce a safe zone in opposition-held portions of Idlib. A safe zone will protect civilians in Idlib from both ground-based and aerial attacks.
The United States has warned the Assad regime and its malign backers that targeted strikes on civilians and key infrastructure would not be tolerated. Assad has defied these calls and bombed schools, hospitals, and even fleeing families. These actions have caused a massive humanitarian crisis including large-scale displacement that threatens to overwhelm Turkey and ultimately Europe. The military operation by Bashar al-Assad also threatens to undermine United States interests in the region, including the campaign to prevent a resurgence of ISIS and further regional instability.
Turkey recently secured a ceasefire agreement with Russia, after Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield following the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers by pro-Assad forces in Idlib. Turkey, with the support of the United States and NATO, can strengthen its leverage to change the trajectory of events and ensure that civilians in Idlib are protected. The recent military actions by Turkey and subsequent ceasefire demonstrate the effectiveness of leveraging military power in pursuit of de-escalation on the ground. We fully support calls by members of Congress and NATO who have called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Idlib, to bolster Turkey’s efforts to provide civilian protection from attacks that the United Nations has said amount to war crimes. While a no-fly zone protects civilians from aerial attacks, a safe zone is critical to protect civilians from ground-based attacks. The time is now to lock-in what Turkey has achieved on its own.
We agree that a political solution is ultimately how the conflict in Syria should end. However, no such outcome is possible without credibly deterring Assad from further harming his people. This can be done by working with Turkey to deploy radar jamming systems and surface-to-air missile batteries on the Turkish side of the border to create an umbrella of aerial safety in Idlib. The United States can also provide political and material support to Turkey to target regime forces inside Idlib, should the regime violate the ceasefire. These actions would effectively enforce a safe-zone, which is essential to stemming an already massive humanitarian crisis.
The United States, along with the United Nations and the international community should take concrete steps to alleviate the suffering in Idlib. The additional humanitarian aid that was recently announced by the Department of State is a welcome first step in addressing this crisis. At the same time, the United States, with our allies, must continue to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia, which seeks to close the two U.N. border crossings between Turkey and Syria allowing humanitarian aid into Idlib.
The United States must hold steadfast to the principles of civilian protection and support measures that are necessary to supporting eventual political negotiation and transition. The United States must assert its role as a global leader to halt what is happening in Syria and finally begin to alleviate the suffering that the Syrian people have endured for too long.
Americans for a Free Syria
Free Syria PAC
Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees
Syria Faith Initiative: A coalition of 40 diverse U.S. faith leaders
Syria Institute for Progress
Syrian American Council
Syrian Christians for Peace
Syrian Emergency Task Force
Syrian Forum USA
United Macedonian Diaspora
U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations: AHED International, American Muslim Alliance, American Muslims For Palestine, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, Emgage, Helping Hand For Relief and Development, ICNA Relief, Islamic Association Of North America, Islamic Center Of Detroit, Islamic Center Of Naperville, Islamic Center Of Wheaton, Islamic Community Center of Illinois, Islamic Council Of Oklahoma, Islamic Leadership Council Of Metropolitan New York, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Islamic Society Of Boston Cultural Center, Mercy Without Limits, Muslim Forum Of the Pacific Northwest, Muslim Legal Fund of America, Muslim Ummah of North America, North American Imams Federation, The Burmese Rohingya Association of North America, The Council of Islamic Organizations Of Greater Chicago, The International Institute Of Islamic Thought, The Mosque Cares, The Mosque Federation, Together We Serve, United Hands Relief, United Muslim Relief
CC: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
CC: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper