H.E. Mr. Cristián Barros Melet
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations
President of the UN Security Council
26 January 2015
On behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, it is my grave responsibility to draw your attention to the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria and the growing violence perpetrated by Syrian regime forces and foreign terrorist groups.
Since I last wrote to the Security Council in December 2014, conditions in Syria and the region have declined precipitously. A bitter winter, consisting of freezing temperatures and brutal snowstorms, has taken a major toll on Syria’s 10.8 million displaced people, causing dozens of deaths inside Syria as well as in neighboring countries.
The situation of Syria’s 3.2 million refugees is particularly dire. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian families living in refuge are now residing in unsafe living quarters such as tents, unfinished buildings and other informal dwellings that lack heating, reliable electricity or functional toilets. In some countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, as many as two-thirds of Syrians are now living below the national poverty line and lack the resources needed to cope with worsening winter conditions. Tragically, the harsh winter weather has only compounded the suffering of civilians inside Syria, who continue to bear the overwhelming burden of the Assad regime’s brutality as detailed in Annex I.
Since the start of the new year, Syrian regime forces have deliberately intensified their aerial assaults on civilian areas, launching thousands of airstrikes that have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. On 21 January 2015 alone, at least 43 civilians were killed and 150 wounded during regime aerial attacks in Syria’s al-Hasakeh province. Between January 21 through January 24, regime warplanes and helicopters launched more than 504 air strikes in residential neighborhoods across rif Damascus, Homs, Lattakia, Aleppo, Hama, Quneitra, Deir-Ezzor, Idlib and Daraa, killing 157 civilians, including 16 children and 13 women, and wounding 500 more.
In Syria’s northeast, regime forces have deliberately used the cover of US-led airstrikes on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a means to target and kill those civilians who demand a democratic and inclusive future for their country. These actions violate international humanitarian and international human rights law, including the Additional Protocols I and II of the Geneva Conventions, which explicitly prohibit indiscriminate attacks on civilian objects.
As regime forces have heightened their brutality throughout the harsh winter conditions, so too have they continued their denial of civilian access to food, water and medical care. In direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2139, 2165 and 2191, the Syrian regime has maintained its sieges of Eastern Ghouta, Darayya, Al-Waer, Hajr al Aswad, Tadamun and Yarmouk, where over 400,000 people remain trapped without access to food, water and medical care, and continued to thwart humanitarian aid agencies’ access to hard-to-reach and cross-border areas. As a result of regime intransigence, millions of Syrians along the northern border with Turkey and southern border with Jordan remain without access to urgently needed aid and care.
The terror and despair generated by Assad’s forces have turned much of Syria’s territory into a playing ground for foreign extremist groups. Since the start of 2015, terrorist groups like ISIL have exploited the distress and insecurity created by the Assad regime’s violence to torment and kill innocent civilians in Syria’s northeast. They have capitalised on the regime’s sectarianism to terrorize Syria’s ethnic and religious minority communities, raping, torturing and killing those who do not align with its violent and hateful ideology. In so doing, foreign extremist groups like ISIL have emerged as the chief beneficiaries of the regime’s violence.
As the situation in Syria deteriorates, it is critical that members of the Security Council move rapidly to protect innocent civilians from harm. This requires a comprehensive approach that simultaneously tackles foreign terrorist groups and the insecurity that breeds them: the Assad dictatorship, while also laying the basis for moderate, stable and inclusive governance that can serve as a long-term alternative both to the Assad regime’s tyranny and to ISIL’s terror. An exclusive focus on terrorist groups—rather than the sectarian tyranny that foments them—will at best temporarily degrade ISIL’s capacities. It will not succeed in destroying ISIL on the long-term.
The Syrian National Coalition therefore urges the UN Security Council to act without delay to:
- adopt a comprehensive approach to the crisis in Syria by recognising the symbiotic relationship shared by ISIL and Assad and supporting the ability of moderate opposition groups to meet the needs of the Syrian people;
- protect Syrians in need by supporting the establishment of a safe zone capable of stopping the Syrian regime’s illegal aerial attacks on civilian-occupied areas;
- enforce the mandate of UN Security Council resolution 2191 by pressing UN agencies to upscale their assistance across Syria’s border with Turkey and Jordan;
- increase humanitarian commitments to the Syrian people so that the millions of Syrians living inside of Syria and neighboring countries currently suffering from a brutal winter, do not suffer needless for want of electricity, clothing, food and water.
As we approach the fifth year since Syrians rose up demanding freedom and democracy, the international humanitarian response to Syrians’ suffering has not kept pace with our people’s growing needs. To the contrary, as the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis has increased, resources dedicated to Syrians have decreased. Throughout the past several months, humanitarian agencies and we, the Syrian National Coalition, have found it increasingly difficult to mobilise the funds needed to provide sufficient food and material assistance to Syrian refugees. The World Food Programme, for example, is still struggling to keep its financial assistance available to refugees beyond January 2015.
Despite such obstacles, the Syrian National Coalition has worked hard to deliver humanitarian relief to hundreds of thousands of Syrians. In the past several weeks, our Assistance Coordination Unit and our Interim Government have implemented "A Warm Touch" program, devoting $1 Million to support over 28,000 families in need of heat during the winter months in Syrian camps and the refugee camps in Lebanon. However, such programs will not be fully successful without greater international support and the generosity of allies.
Your Excellency, as we work to redress the humanitarian situation in Syria, we must not forget that the only way to stop the suffering of the Syrian people on the long-term is to end the conflict in Syria. That is why we, the Syrian National Coalition, continue to engage constructively with the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Syria. Over the past several weeks, we have worked to revive and further develop our transition plans in accordance with the framework laid out in the Geneva Communiqué. Most recently, our political committee approved a 13-item document laying out a road map for a political solution in Syria and the parameters to resume the negotiation process that stalled in the Geneva II conference. We are confident that the Security Council remains committed to this goal, and we look forward to working closely to establish the conditions needed to achieve it.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Dr. Najib Ghadbian
Special Representative of the Syrian National Coalition to the United Nations