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Posts tagged ‘Syrian’

Call For Release

Syrian Religious Leaders Call For Release of Two Bishops
Religions for Peace
22 November 2013

At the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace, Muslim and Christian Leaders Call for Common Action Syrian religious leaders attending the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace called for the release of two abducted bishops in Syria. The Assembly, which serves as a venue for conflict transformation, brought more than 600 religious leaders representing all historic faith traditions and every region of the world to restore and build peace. Each Syrian religious leader sent a strong message of support to the abducted bishops, the demand for their release, and the hope for a peaceful resolution.

Bishops

The two Syrian bishops, Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, and Bishop Boulous Yazigi, a Greek Orthodox Bishop in Damascus, were kidnapped in Aleppo on 22 April 2013.

“These two bishops always worked for peace and a good life for all people,” H.E. Sheikh Dr. Mohamed Sohaib al-Chami, an Islamic scholar and a member of the Religions for Peace Interreligious Council of Syria, reflected. “They kidnaped our bishops but they also took our soul, our love, and our hope. We remember their big role and work. And we hope that happiness will return to the people of Syria.”

Father Samuel Gümüs, Special Representative of HB Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church, called for the immediate release of the two bishops. Father Gümüs implored, “I appeal to conscience, principles, morals and ethics of all peace lovers to spare no effort to bring about a safe and dignified release of Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulous Yazigi.”

Mrs. Asmaa Kiftaro, President of the Syrian Muslim Women’s Forum, shared a message of peace. Ms. Kiftaro declared, “Syria will rise again. The sons of Syria will serve their country. Peace, happiness, and smiles will come back to the people of Syria.”

Throughout the 9th World Assembly of Religions for Peace, delegates from different faiths around the world have sent prayers to express concern for those who are suffering in Syria. Plenary III, beginning the Assembly yesterday, opened with a moment of silence for Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Bishop Yazigi. Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General for Religions for Peace, said, “We stand in solidarity, our hands are in your hands, and we continue to pray.”

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Faces of Syrian Refugee Crisis

CARE President Dr. Helene D. Gayle Sees Faces of Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan: Leader of global humanitarian organization visits CARE’s work, meets Jordan’s Queen Rania and Prime Minister
From CARE.org

AMMAN (Oct. 2, 2013) – CARE President and CEO Helene D. Gayle visited Jordan this week to see firsthand the poverty-fighting organization’s work with Syrian refugees and meet senior national leaders and officials.

helene

Over half a million Syrians who fled their homeland now live in safe but difficult circumstances in Jordan. And while the public image of the crisis may be that of refugee camps, the vast majority of refugees — 75 percent in Jordan — live outside of camps, struggling to survive in poorer areas of cities. In these urban centers, CARE is helping refugees with emergency cash assistance for shelter, food, and medical care, provision of information on available services, case management and referral services.

“This is the world’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide, and yet, in a way, it’s almost invisible,” said Gayle. “But here in the poorest neighborhoods of Amman and other cities of Jordan, inside squalid apartments, seeing the faces of this crisis is unavoidable and shocking. More often than not, they are the faces of mothers and children in desperate living conditions.”

The refugee crisis began in spring 2011, when civil war broke out in Syria. As bombings and shootings escalated, more than 2 million people escaped to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. At least three-quarters of the refugees are women and children.

Gayle was particularly moved by Rawda, a Syrian widow who lost her husband in a bomb blast and now is struggling to care for five young children, including a seven-year-old son unable to walk after being injured by a bomb in Syria. “The situation of the people I’ve met is overwhelming. There are mothers and children who have witnessed their husbands or fathers dying in their arms,” Gayle said.

Soaring prices for food, electricity, and rent have swiftly impoverished hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Many refugees are not legally allowed to work in their host countries, so once their savings are gone, they face destitution.

Donor response, however, has not matched the scale of the humanitarian crisis. As of Oct. 2, the UN-led appeal of $4.4 billion is only at 49 percent funded. And CARE has secured less than 25 percent of the anticipated $50 million in funding needed for its life-saving response.

Nonetheless, CARE is scaling up. In Jordan, CARE’s cash grant program gives Syrian and Iraqi families emergency funds to meet urgent needs. CARE is providing life-saving services to Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and to people affected by the crisis in Syria. As the conflict escalates, CARE is also starting activities in Egypt and Yemen to help Syrian refugees there. CARE is impartial and neutral. Our support to families affected by the crisis in Syria is based on humanitarian needs alone, no matter people’s religion, political affiliation or ethnicity.

Gayle met with Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis as well as the long-term women’s empowerment programs that CARE runs in Jordan. Gayle recognized the generosity of Jordan in hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees. She repeated that message in a separate meeting with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, where discussions focused on how groups such as CARE can best help in a coordinated refugee response.

For all the challenges, Dr. Gayle said she was also left with a sense of hope while talking to refugees. “I see so much strength in women like Rawda. Even as she struggles to feed her own children, she managed to find a way to enroll them in school. I was truly moved by her resilience and determination.”

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Last year CARE worked in 84 countries and reached more than 83 million people around the world. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

We Can Help Syrians

Dear Gabriel,

W1304EDMNA1As the bloodshed in Syria escalates, desperate refugees are trying to escape the violence.

In response, Amnesty is increasing our efforts to advocate on behalf of refugees seeking safety in neighboring countries.

Please make an urgent monthly donation to Amnesty so we can continue to advocate for families fleeing human rights violations in Syria and around the world.

More than 1.3 million Syrian refugees are trying to escape the ongoing bloodshed by fleeing to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Many refugees attempting to cross into neighboring Turkey have been stopped, leaving people stranded inside Syria in terrible conditions. Credible reports have also emerged of refugees being forced to return to Syria.

In the face of this mounting crisis, Amnesty is pressuring the international community to provide badly needed financial assistance to support the efforts made by Syria’s neighboring countries.

We are also documenting the abuses experienced by civilians who remain in Syria. Our team of researchers on the ground found evidence that government forces bombed entire neighborhoods and targeted residential areas with long-range surface-to-surface missiles.

Amnesty has a strong track record of using our on-the-ground findings to pressure governments and the United Nations Security Council to hold those responsible for the slaughter of civilians accountable.

But we can’t do it without your support. We accept no money from governments for our research or advocacy — as it would compromise our efforts. Will you make a monthly donation to strengthen our work to help end the crisis and take action for the people of Syria? It’s a convenient, effective way to stand up for human rights each and every day of the year. Donate now.

Sincerely,

Sunjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa
Amnesty International USA

Syrian Children

Dear Gabriel,

By the time Syrian children have reached Jordan, they’ve seen more than any child should ever have to.

Their country has been swallowed by brutal, unspeakable violence. They arrive in the camps with fear in their hearts. Their lives have been upended and their family members killed by a violent war they can barely understand.

These children – and children just like them around the world – need our help during this time of crisis, and Gabriel, we’re depending on you and other CARE supporters to make it possible for all of these children to know comfort, safety, and hope.

We’re raising $100,000 by Friday to help children and families in Jordan and those suffering around the world. Please make your gift today.

“People are dying like flies.” Ahmad loves his beautiful homeland, but he knew he had no choice but to leave it to keep his family safe.

In the Za’atari camp, Ahmad’s family is packed in with many thousands of others, growing poorer and poorer as the refugee crisis drags on. “I have nine children and my wife. One of the children is only three months old.” It is difficult for him to continue telling us his story. “At home I could take responsibility for all of them. I was working, I earned money to support my family. Now I cannot do anything.”

If only Ahmad’s story was unusual – but it’s not. Tens of thousands of refugees have ones just like it.

Heartbreakingly, the majority of the people living in the camp in Jordan today are innocent children like Ahmad’s – children who have lived through extreme heartbreak, violence, and terror. Their families need emergency assistance just so they’ll have enough food to eat and clothes to keep them warm as winter approaches.

Once their basic needs are taken care of, these Syrian children need psychosocial support. The longer you leave kids alone with their trauma, the more it gets inside of them. CARE is ramping up our support of not only emergency financial assistance, but aid and comfort for children and other vulnerable groups who have already endured too much.

None of the work we do for families living in crisis or squalid poverty is possible without the support of people like you. We desperately need your help today.

We’re raising $100,000 for families living with hunger and poverty in Jordan and around the world by Friday. Please, will you help us meet our goal?

Families are depending on us, and I know we won’t let them down. Thank you so much for everything you do.

Sincerely,

Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH
President and CEO, CARE

Syrian Refugees Survival

Dear Gabriel,

I recently returned from 6 weeks in Jordan, now home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. My stay included time in Za’atari, the camp for Syrian refugees, not far from the border to the war-torn country. What I saw and what I learned in conversations with the families who have escaped from the brutal violence of the Syrian war was shocking.

The camp was started at the end of July. When I first visited, there were only maybe 3,000 refugees. By the end of August, there were 40,000.

Even though there is an effort underway to double the camp’s capacity before the end of the year, it’s not nearly enough space for the families fleeing their own country, where war and terror and violence are raging.

Check out more information about the dire and worsening conditions in Jordan, including my interview on Al Jazeera.

In the camp, wind is blowing constantly, and fine-grained sand is everywhere. The camp is a safe place, but of course, it’s not a home. It’s not anywhere close. Nearly every refugee I’ve talked to says if the war ended, they’d go back immediately. They want to rebuild their destroyed homes, to secure a future for their children, and get them back in school.

So far, that doesn’t look likely to happen soon. Instead, thousands more exhausted families stream in every day. A lot of times they refuse to be registered by the Jordanian government. They fear retribution and sometimes the Syrian government has taken their passports, making a return to their homes even more difficult. UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, is expecting 250,000 refugees in Jordan by the end of the year. The Jordanian government estimates an even higher number – 350,000 or so.

Everyone on the ground, including UNHCR, has been working like mad and doing everything they can to step in, especially before the frigid Jordanian winters make tent living truly hazardous. At CARE, we’re scaling up our response to help distribute emergency support so that refugees have basics like food and medicine, and also psychological support to help bring healing to those traumatized – especially children – by the brutal, horrifying events they’ve endured.

Things are changing rapidly here, so we’re prepared to be flexible. Even at the end of September, the needs were 300% higher than we’d expected 2 months before. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the refugee crisis as it progresses.

Sincerely,

Thomas Schwarz
Director International Communications, CARE

Eyes On Syria

Gabriel,

Amnesty International just completed a mission in Syria, where we met with residents caught in the bitter battle for control of Aleppo – the country’s economic capital and largest city.

Amnesty Crisis Adviser Donatella Rovera shot alarming video footage of families who are living amidst the bombings, executions and other atrocities being committed by government forces and militias working alongside the Syrian military.

We are working to get this damning footage into the hands of journalists around the world. Support our work and help ensure that our first-hand video is seen by influential members of the media.

Government forces are attacking densely populated urban areas where the opposition is believed to be based, conducting air and artillery strikes that have injured and killed many civilians. One man told Donatella that he returned from work to find his home flattened:

“When I went to work, I never thought that it was the last time I would see my family. I lost all that was dearest to me – my children, my wife, my brother, my cousins – everybody.”

The civilian deaths Donatella witnessed are clear violations of international humanitarian law.

Amnesty International goes fearlessly into conflict areas to document abuses and report them to the international community. Help Amnesty International shout “Wake Up, World!” with breaking reports, images and video.

The findings of Donatella’s latest mission build on satellite images Amnesty International released last week showing the extent of likely artillery bombardment near Aleppo. The images, obtained by commercial satellites from July 23-August 1, show more than 600 craters – many near residential areas.

Donatella’s footage captures the faces of the families who took shelter from those bombings.

I know you can sense the urgency with which I write this message. We must keep our eyes on Syria and continue to call on the international community to stop the killing once and for all.

Sincerely,

Sanjeev Bery
Advocacy Director, Middle East North Africa
Amnesty International USA

P.S. Watch clips from Amnesty’s investigations in Syria.

Non-violence In Syria

From Nation of Change and Yes! Magazine
by Michael Nagler
31 July 2012

Syria: Lamp in the Storm

During the climactic “Quit India” campaign launched by Gandhi in 1942, there were outbreaks of violence. Earlier, in 1922, similar outbreaks had led him to suspend the non-cooperation movement. This time, however, he said, “let our lamp stay lit in the midst of this hurricane.”

This is very much the precarious situation of nonviolence in Syria today. A bit of background:

In the Quranic version of Cain and Abel, Abel says to his jealous brother,: “If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee, for I do fear God, the cherisher of the worlds.” (Quran 5:28) In other words, the first murder is accompanied by the first act of nonviolence, a refusal to kill, even in self-defense, through mindfulness of a God who stands far above partisan conflict.

Islamic scholar Sheik Jawdat Said based his book, The Doctrine Of The First Son Of Adam, apparently the first book in modern Arabic to proffer nonviolent solutions to the region’s problems, on this verse. Said’s ideas were well received in some intellectual circles in Syria but did not lead visibly to any appreciable change the political or social environment. The wave of agitations touched off by the Iranian revolution (though it itself had, and still has, some nonviolent character)—Egypt, Saudi Arabia, to a limited extent Syria itself—were in one way or another nationalistic but not particularly nonviolent. But a group of young men (shebab) who had fallen under the influence of an open-minded teacher at a school that was soon closed by the regime were receptive to the ideas of the distinguished sheik. With the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2001 they began to take some modest actions that were, particularly in one case, provocative to the regime. They began to clean up the streets of their respective neighborhoods. This may not seem very revolutionary to us, but in Syria people did not feel that they owned their country. Inside they lived in clean, orderly houses, but the public streets belonged to the state—which did nothing about them. In other words, while it’s doubtful any of them knew this, it was a perfect example of a Gandhian “Constructive Programme:” taking matters into your own hands in a way that puts the regime in a bad light if, as often, they interfere. Which they did. There were arrests. The regime knew these shebab were giving the people back ownership of their country.

Then came Arab Spring. Protests began in Syria in late January of 2011. In the early months Opposition forces were creating defections among military and government—critical for the success of non-violent insurrections—but many of the defectors and others turned to armed struggle in the face of the repression. According to Erica Chenoweth, the author, with Maria Stefan, of the highly influential study, Why Civil Resistance Works, such movements usually require two and a half to three years to take hold. There have been cases of nonviolent campaigns persisting in the midst of armed elements on both sides, and sometimes even rising to capture the legitimacy of the opposition from those armed elements, usually with some international recognition behind them, and going on to win the struggle: South Africa, the Philippines, and at some point (inshallah) maybe Palestine. This is crucial because, as Chenoweth and Stefan point out, nonviolent insurrections are twice as likely to succeed and vastly more likely to lead to conditions of real liberty (yet to happen in Egypt). In Syria, however, the fledgling movement was rather quickly overwhelmed. Extreme violence creates mobilization challenges that fledgling movements may find difficult to overcome. Some movements manage to maintain—or even increase—participation in the face of extreme violence (the Pashtun Khudai Kidmatgars in 1931, Iran in 1977-9), whereas others find themselves in disarray.” As Bsher Said (Jawdat’s son) informed me, when people are arrested and questioned they generally tell their captors what they want to hear—“Oh, yes, it was armed gangs that did the killing.” It has prompted Bsher to comment, pointedly, that “If we could stop the lying we wouldn’t need a revolution.” So far the wall of fear has not cracked, so we are lacking the sine qua non of successful insurrection—or successful almost anything.

Yet, as Donatella Rivera posts in her recent blog, “The young people I met—including those who had been injured—said they have no intention of stopping their protests.” And while the state actors of the “international community,” even if they resolve their differences, feel that they can do nothing, or worse, global civil society is not so inhibited. There is more going on than I am free to describe here, unfortunately, because of security concerns and the delicacy of some issues, but nonviolence training, badly needed visioning of a future for Syria, reconciliation work, and weekly discussion groups across borders are all going forward. As for higher level operations, we all know that the UN has sent in some 300 monitors, the so-called “blue berets” (joined by a smaller number from the Arab League). But this is the main point.

Summing up the failure of the nonviolent movement of Syria so far, Bsher succinctly says, “we were not ready.” Well, neither were we—the watching world. Three hundred monitors? When it comes to blue helmets the UN is ready to field 16,000. These unarmed monitors are a great step in the right direction, but they should have been at least ten times more numerous and ‘armed’ with a more robust mandate. As Mel Duncan, founding director of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, shared, they must be ready to protect Alawites as well as Sunnis: anyone under threat. They should set up cross-sectarian teams who can call in international help to forestall retaliatory violence when the transition takes place. Duncan should know. Nonviolent Peaceforce and other Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping groups have been doing this successfully, and with almost no casualties to speak of, around the world since the 1980s, and have recently made highly successful contacts with offices of the UN.

Read entire Op-Ed at Nation of Change or Yes! Magazine.

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