Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power
Department of State
Dear Ambassador Power,
I write you on behalf of the Syrian American community to express our outrage and distress at the plight of civilians inside Madaya, Syria. For the past seven months, Assad regime and Hezbollah forces have been besieging over 40,000 civilians in Madaya, a town northwest of the capital Damascus. As the coldest months of winter descend on the town, food supplies are running out and civilians are beginning to starve to death. We ask you to call for an urgent United Nations Security Council session to highlight the plight of these civilians before the death toll spirals upward.
The siege of Madaya began following a U.N.-supported ceasefire negotiated between Iran and Syrian rebel forces in the nearby Zabadani town in September. Under the terms of the deal, rebel fighters were required to leave Zabadani town, but civilians in Zabadani were supposed to be allowed to stay if they wished. The ceasefire also explicitly stipulated that humanitarian access to Madaya was to remain open. Hezbollah forces promptly violated the ceasefire terms almost as soon as they entered Zabadani. First, they engaged in the forced sectarian displacement of nearly 20,000 civilians from Zabadani to Madaya, which doubled the population of Madaya. Then, they closed humanitarian access to Madaya. A victim of the displacement reports being told: "Go to Madaya. There you will die, from starvation."
That ominous warning has begun to come true. Madaya's 40,000 residents have been reduced to eating grass, leaves, and stray animals to survive. Food prices have skyrocketed; a pound of sugar or rice now costs $37, a pound of flour $47, and a pound of milk as much as $52. An estimated 300 children are now sick from starvation, and 1200 people are sick with chronic illnesses and with no access to medical supplies. Hezbollah and Assad forces have also ringed the town with land mines and snipers. In the past month alone, at least 31 residents have died from starvation or in attempts to escape the siege.
Ambassador Power, we know that you are committed to stopping crimes against humanity. A crime against humanity is now taking place in Madaya. If President Obama diverted just one plane from the ISIS fight to airdrop food supplies to Madaya's starving civilians -- as was done for Yazidis on Mount Sinjar -- it would save hundreds of lives. Please lobby strongly within the Administration for such an airdrop, and please use your influence at the United Nations to demand an urgent Security Council meeting on Madaya. From the reports we are hearing, civilians there do not have much time.
President, Syrian American Council