WASHINGTON D.C., February 22, 2019–TheSyrian American Councilcalls upon the United States government and the international community to act quickly in response to continued regime war crimes in Idlib Province. Although a ceasefire for Idlib with a demilitarized buffer zone was agreed upon by Russia and Turkey five months ago, the Assad regime is increasing its attacks on Idlib, killing more than 30 civilians and leaving nearly 80 wounded in the past two weeks of shelling.
Russia, the Assad regime’s main supporter, has justified this violence by referring to Idlib as a “hotbed of terrorists” after recent gains by extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Yet regime attacks in the buffer zone have targeted not terrorists, but densely populated civilian areas, many of which are fast transforming into ghost towns due to shelling. The ascent of HTS is itself the bitter fruit of years of world neglect toward Syria, in general, and Idlib in particular – a state of affairs that will only further worsen if the world leaves more than 3 million residents and refugees in Idlib to the mercies of Assad regime assaults.
A recent report by the Global Public Policy Institutefinds that the Assad regime has launched 336 chemical weapons attacks since 2012, while fully integrating such attacks into its broader military strategy. The report further concludes that to prevent regime chemical weapons usage – a recognized international policy goal – will require broader efforts to stop Assad's general assault on civilians that relies on more conventional weapons. Idlib is the right location for the world community to begin undertaking this urgent work.
Michelle R. Taylor