This month, a French criminal court issued an international arrest warrant for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the August 2013 chemical weapons attacks in Eastern Ghouta. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) had previously invited Bashar al-Assad to the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP28), which is set to begin on November 30. This prompts consideration of the possibility of extraditing Assad to France while he is in the UAE. The UAE has long expressed its commitment to international judicial cooperation and to accountability for serious violations of international law. The UAE’s legal framework—exemplified in Federal Laws Number 39 of 2006 and Number 12 of 2017, as well as the 2007 bilateral France-UAE Extradition Treaty—would provide no legal grounds to reject an extradition request in this case. Therefore, given France’s commitments to the rule of law and to fighting impunity for serious international crimes, including the use of chemical weapons, France should seize this opportunity and seek to have Assad extradited so he may face prosecution for his regime’s heinous atrocities. The UAE should also cooperate with France's request and provisionally arrest and extradite Assad if he attends COP28.Read more
The protestors in Suwayda have reignited the peaceful movement in Syria demanding an end to the Assad regime and implementation of UNSCR 2254. Their requests of the diaspora and global community at large are clear: make sure our voices are heard. This week, we are launching the #Rise4Suwayda campaign to do just that.
We’re asking that lawmakers in both the House and Senate #Rise4Suwayda and show their solidarity with the people of Suwayda by issuing statements of support for the peaceful demonstrations on October 10th. It is important that the U.S. stands with the Syrian demonstrators who are demanding Bashar al-Assad step down from power, in Suwayda and all across Syria. Your voice can make a difference.
Thank you for your support.
As the Syrian people’s endeavor for freedom and dignity continues, their hopes for freedom and a better country for themselves and their children continue to be high. On August 17, protests re-erupted in southern Syria over frustration with rising fuel and food prices, and quickly grew into a popular movement against the long-lived grievances committed by the Assad regime.Read more
In Deir Ezzor, clashes have erupted between local Arab communities and the People’s Defense Unit (YPG), the group dominating governance and military institutions in NE Syria, due to long-standing grievances against the YPG, including exclusionary policy-making, abusive practices, civilian arrests, lack of protection against ISIS, and economic neglect, all conducted by the YPG.Read more
Demand Support for Syrian Earthquake Victims by Emailing and Calling Congress
With only one or five minutes, you can make a difference today!
Contact your local representative to ask that members of Congress co-sponsor draft legislation that calls for the immediate opening of all humanitarian access points in Syria to facilitate the swift delivery of aid to those who urgently need it in northwest Syria.
Do you have one minute? All you have to do is enter your information below.
Do you have five minutes? Call your local representative.
When you call let your Congressional office know that:
You call on them to signal their support for the Syrian people by co-sponsoring the current text of the resolution and calling for the immediate opening of all humanitarian access points on the Turkey and Syrian border. It also calls for a mechanism to ensure that the aid provided to Syria reaches all the people who need it, preventing aid from being stolen or misused.
The resolution will be introduced by Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) and has many bipartisan supporters. If their office would like to sign on, please direct them to contact [email protected] at Congressman Joe Wilson’s office.
The following are additional points you can relay to your representative and their staff:
- More than 37,000 people perished in the earthquake in one week across northern Syria and southern Turkey.
- It took five days for earthquake humanitarian assistance to trickle into northwest Syria. During this time, groups like the White Helmets worked on their own tirelessly to rescue as many people as possible, given their limited resources.
- For years, the regime has prevented aid from crossing from regime areas to the northwest. On top of that, they have worked with their Russian allies at the United Nations to systematically close the border crossings between northwest Syria and Turkey, preventing cross-border aid deliveries.
- A recent report by top international barristers and lawyers found that a United Nations Security Council Resolution is not needed for the lawful continuation of UN-coordinated cross-border aid into Syria.
- The resolution counters the history of the weaponization of aid by the Assad regime against Syrians outside of his regime’s control. Following the tragedy, the hardest hit areas of Syria are in the northwest, the last non-regime-held area of Syria.
Email us at [email protected] and let us know how your call went.
Linked is our Earthquake Crisis Response Center, where you can view additional information on the policy positions of the Syrian American Council following the earthquake.
U.S. Policy Priorities for NW Syria in the Aftermath of the Earthquakes
U.S. Policy Priorities for NW Syria in the Aftermath of the Earthquakes
In the early hours of February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks rocked the southern border of Türkiye, inflicting massive destruction in Syrian refugee communities in Türkiye and the opposition-held areas of NW Syria in what the WHO is calling the worst European natural disaster in a century. The death toll has surpassed 40,000 casualties across both countries, as of Feb. 14, as the true extent of the disaster is still not yet known. On-the-ground partners estimate that 152,500 people remain in need of food, water, medical supplies, cash assistance, winter clothes, shelter and heating fuel in sub-freezing temperatures in NW Syria as a result of the disaster; 40% of those survivors came from the Syrian villages of Salqin, Jandairis, and Atma alone.
In the first days after the earthquakes, no humanitarian aid was entering NW Syria, only the bodies of Syrian victims. It wasn’t until day five that the first UN convoy with emergency disaster relief reached NW Syria, the hardest-hit region with a population and area comparable to that of Lebanon. Survivors of more than a decade of the Assad regime’s brutality, barrel bombs, chemical weapons, Russian and Iranian intervention, and multiple displacements, once again found themselves with nowhere to go, abandoned by the world. The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, admitted that the United Nations failed the people of NW Syria and apologized to the head of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh. The WHO’s Director of Incident Response warned that the second humanitarian catastrophe of earthquake survivors in sub-freezing temperatures without food, water, shelter, functioning social infrastructure or access to international aid could be more harmful than the initial earthquakes.
Eight days into this tragedy, none of the heavy equipment necessary for clearing rubble has entered NW Syria; “bureaucracy” cost countless lives in NW Syria as the U.S. had 161 search and rescue team members, 12 canines & 170K+ lbs of specialized equipment on the ground in Türkiye within 48 hours and the Assad regime received more than 55 cargo planes of international aid from more than 10 countries and several UN agencies. While the World Bank announced a $1.8 billion aid package for Türkiye’s recovery & reconstruction and the Assad regime successfully campaigned to suspend Western sanctions and re-establish diplomatic ties, we fear that the 4.6 million people in NW Syria will be left behind once again.
Surge Emergency Assistance and Recovery Resources Equipment assistance into NW Syria.
The UN still has not bridged the gap on its response in NW Syria and the region remains largely isolated from international aid. The U.S. should increase direct humanitarian assistance to those affected and encourage other countries and aid organizations to do so as well. Support to credible Syrian rescue, medical, and humanitarian assistance organizations with a presence in the NW should be a priority, including via direct funding.
Search and rescue teams have suspended operations. However, groups such the White Helmets and local NGOs still need much support. The U.S. should focus on providing assistance in terms of shelters, heating fuel, food and water, and health care. At the same time the White Helmets are still in need of heavy equipment to clear the rubble. The U.S. should assist in meeting rehabilitating infrastructure needs, and cooperate with NGOs to help compensate victims who have lost everything for recovery purposes. The U.S. can provide the logistical means to address this tragic situation and save lives.
Use US Assets in NE Syria as Part of Emergency Response
The US government should mobilize a contingent of its troops and other assets currently deployed to NE Syria as a part of the emergency humanitarian response. The logistical might of the U.S. armed forces have played a critical role in saving lives in emergency situations from Afghanistan to New Orleans and the Florida Straits.
Expand the Number of Border Crossings into Syria and Utilize All Viable Crossings
The U.S. must take action to ensure that all viable crossings into Syria are utilized. Regrettably, Russia and the Assad regime have whittled the UN-authorized border-crossings over the years down to a single crossing, Bab Al-Hawa, which had its main connecting roads greatly damaged, complicated by the level of devastation in the Hatay province on the Turkish side. Eight days after the earthquake, the Assad regime ‘declared’ two additional crossings, Bab al-Salamah and al-Rai, reauthorized for three months only.
This cynical and calculated move is not a solution. The American Relief Coalition for Syria (ARCS) commissioned a study on cross-border aid and found multiple, strong legal arguments that UN cross-border aid does not require a Security Council resolution. Sixten eminent international jurists, the former judge of the International Court of Justice, and leading professors in the field including Judge Goldstone and Ambassador Stephen Rapp endorse this position. The U.S. should publicly declare its support for this position and support it at the United Nations.
Reprioritize Northwestern Syria for Stabilization Funding
The earthquakes have underscored that the U.S. policy of abandonment of northwest Syria, a region that is host to millions of the most vulnerable, is untenable. Over the past few years, ALL U.S. stabilization funding has gone exclusively to SDF-controlled areas, which has greatly stymied the response in NW Syria at a cost in the thousands of lives. This must change. U.S. stabilization funding must be expanded to include NW Syria, especially to housing, health, and educational sectors. Moreover, the U.S. should expand General License 22 that was issued in May 2022 to include all distressed areas in northern Syria. We cannot afford a generation of Syrian children missing school and becoming vulnerable to criminal and extremist groups.
The American Coalition for Syria (ACS) is a diverse group of ten U.S.-based organizations that support a principled U.S.-Syria policy based on democratic reform, human rights, and accountability.
Information current as of Feb 15, 2023.
For further information, please email [email protected]
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Thank you for your ongoing support as we work together to support the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria. If you wish to reach out to your local media, we want to help you do so! Our main points that we wish to convey to the larger public are the need for increased humanitarian assistance to organizations on the ground in northwest Syria and our concerns about growing anti-sanction rhetoric. Please use our template below to email your local paper. We have also attached talking points to help guide your discussion. The media especially wants to hear from you if you are Syrian American or Turkish American and are collecting stories about those who have families and friends that have been directly affected in Turkey and Syria. If you have any questions, reach out to Jenny at [email protected]
Key Points for Media
Right now, the priority is search and rescue operations. We need emergency aid, equipment, and personnel delivered to victims in northwestern Syria through any available avenues. We ask that the United States government increase its support for the White Helmets’ operations, including the delivery of fuel and spare parts for frontline rescue.
The tragedy will be long-lasting, and many are now without shelter. We ask that the United States and any available international partners help coordinate the delivery of shelter assistance, winterization kits, and medical assistance to those who have lost their homes.
- Areas in northwestern Syria have long been a target of military and aerial bombardment campaigns by the Assad regime. The Assad regime and Russia have also isolated the NW from international aid. Many have suggested that lifting sanctions on the Assad regime would help. This is a false narrative. For years, the regime has weaponized aid, blocking the delivery of crucial assistance to these populations. This has led to a decimated civilian and medical infrastructure that is ill-equipped to respond to the hardest hit areas from the earthquake. Rewarding the regime for years of war crimes will not help earthquake victims.
Hi [first name],
My name is [your name], and I am [Syrian American, Turkish American, ally of the cause] and a supporter of the American Coalition for Syria (ACS). I’m reaching out to see if you’d be interested in running a story about how the Syrian/Turkish American community and allies are responding to the earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. [if you have family in Syria or Turkey, please write about it here].
The two main priorities are getting aid into the northwest of Syria and responding to the calls to lift sanctions on Syria after the earthquake. You can read more about why anti-sanction rhetoric promotes a false narrative in the recent press release. Please visit the ACS website for a comprehensive summary of their response to the crisis.
I’d love to connect to tell you more about my experience with [explain how you are related to the topic] and the current priorities of the American Coalition for Syria. Let me know if this is of interest.
Position on Syria Sanctions in the Aftermath of the Turkiye-Syria Earthquake
Early February 6, 2023, a series of earthquakes as strong as 7.8 in magnitude hit southern Turkiye with shockwaves that radiated into northern Syria, collapsing buildings and killing more than 21,000 people. The death toll is expected to rise dramatically as the window for a successful search and rescue narrows, and the disaster is anticipated to need a long-term humanitarian aid response. Northwestern Syria, the last opposition-held area, was already decimated by years of bombings by the Assad regime and Russia and is host to millions of internally displaced Syrians, many of whom have once again lost their homes.
In response to the catastrophic situation, there have been calls by organizations and prominent figures on social media to lift sanctions on the Assad regime. This is misguided at best and malicious at worst. The American Coalition for Syria (ACS) strongly opposes lifting sanctions on the Assad regime and believes that calls to do so distract from the immediate needs and realities on the ground. As representatives of 11 Syrian American and Syria-focused organizations, we care deeply about the Syrian people, and our mission is to advocate on their behalf. We are closest to the pain and have many family members and friends in Turkiye and Syria who have been displaced, injured, or killed in the last 48 hours.
Sanctions against Assad and his cronies do not apply to any humanitarian assistance and have not hindered the delivery of such assistance, even to regime-held areas. Since the conflict began, international aid has primarily been channeled through the United Nations, which coordinates with the Syrian regime. Nonetheless, on February 9, 2023, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a Syria General License 23 which "authorizes for 180 days all transactions related to earthquake relief that would be otherwise prohibited by the Syrian Sanctions Regulations." This license renders any discussion about sanctions lifting moot as it waives sanctions altogether for 6 months. On the other hand, the Assad regime weaponizes aid by prohibiting it from reaching those who do not live in areas under its control and it has starved cities that refuse to surrender. We would like to clarify that the suffering of the Syrian people was not caused by sanctions that were put in place to limit Assad’s ability to finance his killing machine, but rather, it was caused by the regime itself.
For 12 years, the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Iran and Russia have inflicted devastating suffering and pain upon the Syrian people. Many of the voices now calling for the lifting of sanctions never stood up for the rights of the Syrian people and often excused or ignored the crimes of their tormentors. Generous people of the world, including in the United States, have supported humanitarian efforts to alleviate this suffering, knowing that such suffering could not possibly be stopped as long as this murderous regime and its backers were allowed to carry on their atrocities with impunity.
Those seeking to be true allies of the Syrian people should direct support to the localities in northern Syria that are conducting round-the-clock recovery efforts. A list of such organizations can be found here. Heroic groups such as the Syrian Civil Defence organization known as the White Helmets are digging victims out despite being targeted by Assad and Russia throughout the conflict. Calling for the lifting of sanctions on a regime that is the primary culprit for the destruction of Syria is an insult to its victims and will not make a difference in the lives of the people who urgently need our support today.