Crisis Group Report Unwittingly Asks EU to Legitimise Assad Regime Torture Prisons Instead of Seeking Justice for its Victims

 

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One of Caesar’s photos, the courageous military photographer, who defected from the Syrian regime and brought tens of thousands of images with him out of Syria exposing prisoners being tortured and starved to death in Assad’s prisons.

 

RONAN L TYNAN

Does the report of the Crisis Group entitled “Ways out of Europe’s Syria Reconstruction Conundrum” fail to grasp some fundamental realities about the nature of the Syrian regime and its continuing brutal repression?  We are all quite familiar at this stage with the Caesar photographs, tens of thousands of images revealing the most unspeakable torture and abuse of prisoners reminiscent of the Nazi holocaust, and smuggled out of Syria by a very courageous military photographer.  Frankly I am haunted by these images meeting many Syrian at the moment who were tortured in the regime’s prisons while making a new documentary about justice and accountability for warcrimes and crimes against humanity called BRINGING ASSAD TO JUSTICE.  What really upset me about the Crisis Group report is how it never delineated the scale of the crimes committed by the regime or sought to examine thoroughly their implications for Syrians, and the future of their country without justice and accountability, as part of their analysis.

Advocating any kind of reconstruction aid in any form for a regime that the report’s authors actual acknowledge is abusing UN humanitarian aid does not make sense?  Worse still to suggest that such engagement would help ultimately to make the return of refugees possible, not only fails to properly take account of why Syrians fled in the first instance, but also does not even reference the unambiguous statements by the most feared of Assad’s security chiefs, the head of Syria’s Airforce Intelligence Jamal al-Hassan who made it explicitly clear they do not want them back.

 Against that background it was also especially depressing the way in which the report considered Law Number 10, which is not a law in the terms by which we understand such instruments as democratically agreed statutes. Rather it is a decree which a very corrupt regime gave itself the right to expropriate the property of refugees and displaced persons. Already such grand larceny of homes and properties has been used to enrich some of Assad’s cronies and no doubt his own coffers. However, the critical point is if the regime wanted to encourage refugees to return would it steal their homes? 

But as noted the clearest expression of that policy came from Assad’s  Air Force Intelligence chief Jamal al-Hassan who said that in addition to a staggering list of three million Syrians in his possession who should be be pursued for punishment he declared “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals.” He was chairing a meeting of 33 senior officers when he made these statements. Given that he oversees prisons and detention facilities in which tens of thousands have been subjected to torture and other inhumane abuses (as well as where many die under torture) he must be taken at his word? Worse still speaking of displaced people in Syria and returning refugees he said the corrupted “sheep” will be filtered out, charged with terrorism: “After eight years, Syria will not accept the presence of cancerous cells and they will be removed completely.”

What the EU should be doing is building on the progress achieved by Syrians representing civil society through the independent justice systems in Germany and France in securing international arrest warrants against Jamal al-Hassan and others responsible for crimes against humanity in Syria. Only the restoration of the rule of law, with all war criminals and those responsible for crimes against humanity brought to trial will the basis for a viable future and a political settlement that will allow all Syrians to determine their own future be possible.

Therefore, recommending reconstruction aid of any kind that by definition will only serve to help the Assad regime to survive and gain legitimacy is not credible. Even more alarming by not focusing on justice and accountability as a basis for a future settlement only increases the risk of fomenting radicalisation and the perpetuation of ISIS and similar groups. In other words, far from addressing the terrorist threat it would help to make Syrians and indeed those of us living in the EU and the US more insecure by not addressing and acknowledging one of the key sources of radicalisation. 

Finally, the commitment of the Syrian people to freedom and democracy is beyond doubt as the regular mass protests in Idlib against HTS by people who are equally opposed to the Assad dictatorship. The spirit of the peaceful uprising in 2011 still exists and instead of seeking unwittingly to protect and assist the Assad regime to survive the Crisis Group should be focused on the human security of all Syrians by helping to advance justice and accountability, and the realisation of a political settlement that would allow them to determine their own destiny.

 

 

RONAN L TYNAN is co-founder of Esperanza Productions and Director and Co-Producer of SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION the award winning international feature documentary.  He is also making with ANNE DALY a new documentary on Syria about justice and accountability for warcrimes and crimes against humanity called BRINGING ASSAD TO JUSTICE. 

More information on:  http://www.esperanza.ie

 

 

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This is still happening in Idlib in 2019 – ‘For Sama’ Chilling Reminder 1 Million Children Facing Another Aleppo – audio report

 

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Audience hold up posters STOP BOMBING HOSPITALS following discussion after screening of Waad al-Kateab’s compelling FOR SAMA in the IFI’s Cinema 1 (Sept.14, 2019). Filmmaker Anne Daly co-producer of the award winning SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION captured the very strong feelings in this audio report about the need to do something about Idlib – the next Aleppo but on a frighteningly bigger scale with three million including one million children already in the firing line.

 

I asked members of the audience to hold up signs reading STOP BOMBING HOSPITALS in Cinema 1 at the IFI after the discussion I chaired following the screening of FOR SAMA. Waad al-Kateab who made that compelling film had apparently done the same at a recent screening and it actually seemed the only authentic and valid protest one could make after watching her, Dr Hamza her husband and their baby daughter Sama being bombed relentlessly in a hospital by the Russian airforce and the Assad regime’s forces.

One expression of frustration from Waad on the sound track of her documentary ‘For Sama’ reminded me why Anne Daly and I made our film ‘Syria – The Impossible Revolution’. She mentioned the hundreds of thousands who would have seen her film reports on Channel 4 from Aleppo and wondered why they did not seem to make any difference. Meanwhile Anne and I got fed up with people telling us they did not understand what is going on in Syria so we made what we saw as a very ambitious historical style documentary about the rise of the Assad family, the peaceful uprising in 2011 and struggle for freedom up to the fall of Aleppo to help people understand what is going. ‘For Sama’ on the other hand allowed us to experience what it felt like day after day to be bombed while trying to save lives.  Remarkable they survived considering before the fall of Aleppo their hospitals was the last out of nine still functioning!

For Sama is so authentic it will qualify as prima facie evidence of crimes against humanity when eventually Assad and his henchmen face trial, though it may take a long time. A fact brought how repeatedly to us at the moment making a new documentary on that very theme: BRINGING ASSAD TO JUSTICE.

For us however what was truly traumatic about watching FOR SAMA was knowing the Russian airforce and the Syrian regime and its various militias with Iran are subjecting well over three million civilians in idlib to the same terror. Over a thousand civilians have been murdered recently including over three hundred children. Despite talk of cease fires the slaughter and the relentless bombing of hospitals continues.

Hopefully FOR SAMA will make more people wake up and feel the pain and terror facing defenceless families in Idlib. We know what is going on. We have no defence because silence equals complicity.

And if you want to find out more of the context please check out our ‘Syria – The Impossible Revolution’.

Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site: http://www.esperanza.ie
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Reply to Michael Jansen of the Irish Times offering support for Assad presenting “report” on Trade Fair in Damascus with no reference whatsoever to Syrian regime still engaged in warcrimes, torture, forcibly disappearing refugees and crimes against humanity in Idlib targeting civilians with Russia

Ronan L Tynan

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As the Assad regime holds a “Trade Fair” in Damascus the Syrian airforce continues to massacre its fellow citizens in Idlib with Russia bombing hospitals, schools, markets, levelling whole neighbourhood and attacking camps for internally displaced families. All of these targeted attacks on civilians are by definition crimes against humanity. Picture shows the White Helmets rescuing survivors after another airstrike.

The image of the Syrian capital Damascus presented by contributor Michael Jansen in the Irish Times on Friday (30 August, 2019) reporting on the “61st International Trade Fair” was a one dimensional picture from the perspective of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Bizarrely, no mention of one his most notorious torture prisons called Saydnaya which Amnesty International has called ‘a human slaughter house’ located not far from the opening of the “Fair” and where thousands have been tortured to death and many still held in appalling conditions with prisoners continuing to be murdered there. 

Even more incomprehensible, while Ms Jansen presented the “Fair” as a forward looking event there was no mention of the murder, torture and disappearance by the regime of refugees who have returned (also reported in the Irish Times not long ago!). Meanwhile, the Syrian Network for Human Rights which adopts a conservative approach in documenting atrocities reported that 638 returning refugees were forcibly disappeared by the regime and fifteen died under torture.  It is also important to underline that the regime’s torturers are notorious for their level of barbarity.

But trying to present a report, with no reference whatsoever to continuing warcrimes and crimes against humanity, which prevent refugees from returning frankly beggars belief? For example, in The Hill not long ago statements by Assad’s air force intelligence chief Jamil al-Hassan are very revealing in that regard. Speaking to a group of 33 senior officers he reportedly said: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals . . . After eight years, Syria will not accept the presence of cancerous cells and they will be removed completely.” Worse still he stated that three million Syrians are on his wanted lists and that anyone deemed a “hindrance” to the regime’s consolidation of power would be labelled a “terrorist” and dealt with accordingly. In Syria, a “wanted list” is usually a “death list.”

But worst of all by Ms Jansen as this “Trade Fair” went on in Damascus, there no reference whatsoever to Assad with Russia continuing to quite mercilessly bomb civilians in Idlib with systematic airstrikes on hospitals, school, markets and homes, as they level entire towns and villages creating not only horrific casualties with Save The Children reporting more children have been killed there in a four week period than in the whole of last year. Targeting civilians is a crimes against humanity and with almost 500,000 forced to flee towards the Turkish border which is closed and means many are living out in the open in conditions that for many are horrific beyond imagination. 

Three million live in Idlib the majority having fled from other parts of Syria to escape regime and Russian bombing with most having moved multiple times.  They are an incredibly vulnerable population mostly made up of families terrified to return to regime areas. 

Finally, the causes of the Syrian uprising in 2011 in the form of the brutal repression has intensified as the Syrian regime seeks to retake control everywhere. The only lesson Assad and his henchmen seem to have learned is that they were not brutal enough in maintaining control as reflected in comments by his Airforce intelligence chief. But with more that 500,000 dead, half the population forced to flee their homes; six million displaced inside the country and also the same number refugees outside the country, with no prospect of coming home, any suggestion that sanctions should be lifted amounts to complicity?

In other worlds, with no possibility of political reform or accountability any return to normal in dealing with Assad’s regime and resuming trade would amount to subsidising an unimaginably cruel dictatorship offering no hope for refugees returning or the population being able to determine their own destiny free from regime terror and brutality.

 

Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site: http://www.esperanza.ie
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Filmmaker turns Singer/Songwriter to Challenge Rock Star Roger Waters over ‘bizarre’ attacks on the White Helmets

 

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Song OH ROGER! written and performed by RONAN L TYNAN director of the award winning Syria – The Impossible Revolution. Just released the song was provoked by Rock Star Roger Waters being misled by Russian and Assad regime propaganda attacking the White Helmets, heroic first responders, who have saved almost 120,000 lives in Syria.

 

Song ‘Oh Roger!’ written and performed by RONAN L TYNAN the director of the award winning SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION just released.

LISTEN TO SONG HERE: https://ronanltynan.hearnow.com

 

Filmmaker RONAN L TYNAN was shocked to hear rock star ROGER WATERS attack the White Helmets whom he met making the film documentary SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION, which he directed and co-produced with ANNE DALY. Shocked at the former Pink Floyd frontman’s attacks describing them as ‘dangerous’ and ‘bizarre’ because RONAN claims they are based on no evidence only “conspiracy theories of a very perplexing and absurd nature.”

But how do you respond to a multi millionaire rock star seemingly immune to normal engagement with the facts blinded by Russian propaganda?  “The only way I felt I could challenge Roger is by writing and recording a song myself! To say having met the White Helmets I was shocked and utterly disillusioned by his totally fact free and completely unfounded attacks would be an under statement,” he said.

RONAN went on: “The White Helmets or The Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) is a search-and-rescue organisation based in opposition-held areas. They have not only saved nearly 120,000 lives but also have recorded some of the worst atrocities carried out in Syria and provided vital evidence of gross human rights abuses by the Syrian government and the Russian military. This explains why they have been targeted in a massive Russian disinformation campaign attempting to smear them as “terrorists,” with some pro-government supporters claiming they are “legitimate targets. Hard to believe Roger Waters swallowed these lies allowing himself as the song’s says to become one of “Putin’s useful fools.”

“I met the White Helmets making our film SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION, and I believe if Roger had the privilege of meeting them too he could not possibly have allowed himself unwittingly to become a de facto important asset in Putin’s disinformation war. If this song even gets a few people who may have been misled by him to wake up it would have been worth the not inconsiderable effort recording and producing it!” RONAN said.

NEW DOCUMENTARY – “BRINGING ASSAD TO JUSTICE”

RONAN also announced he is working on a new documentary BRINGING ASSAD TO JUSTICE made even more urgent following Roger Waters outrageous attacks on the White Helmets “revealing a level of ignorance about Syria that is chilling,” he said. Describing the film as probably the most important he has ever attempted it will seek not only to show the mounting crimes against humanity committed in Syria but the valiant efforts by Syrians and others to seek to bring those responsible to justice.

“It may take a while before Assad ends up in the International Criminal Court or equivalent body to face trial for his crimes in Syria, but like many brutal tyrants before him he probably thinks he can avoid a reckoning but his day in court will come. Our new documentary casts a light on the many efforts and initiatives to bring that day closer. Roger Waters ignorant and unfounded attacks on the White Helmets makes this film urgent as we will also cast a light on the criminal state run propaganda campaign against them that in itself should also constitute a crime?” RONAN L TYNAN said.

DOWNLOAD SALES OF ‘OH ROGER!’ WILL FUND NEW DOCUMENTARY

Download sales of the song Oh Roger! will also help fund the new film BRINGING ASSAD TO JUSTICE. Tynan described it as “a variant on the theme of singing for one’s supper” and “takes the concept of crowd funding for documentary into a space as yet untravelled!” he said.

LISTEN TO ‘OH ROGER!’ HERE: https://ronanltynan.hearnow.com

Award Winning Feature Documentary SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION is available on AMAZON PRIME in the US and the UK, and on VIMEO ON DEMAND everywhere.

SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION was produced by ESPERANZA PRODUCTIONS the multi awarding documentary makers co-founded by RONAN L TYNAN and ANNE DALY.
CHECK OUT: esperanza.ie

SYRIA – THE IMPOSSIBLE REVOLUTION available here:

VIMEO-ON-DEMAND EVERYWHERE: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/140962

AMAZON PRIME IN US:
https://www.amazon.com/Syria-Impossible-Yassin-Al-Haj-Saleh/dp/B07BBZKCFS/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=SYRIA+-+THE+IMPOSSIBLE+REVOLUTION&qid=1566921704&s=movies-tv&sr=1-1

AMAZON PRIME IN UK:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Syria-Impossible-Yassin-Al-Haj-Saleh/dp/B07BDMLRWJ/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3RZVY0511IF3O&keywords=syria+-+the+impossible+revolution&qid=1566921851&s=instant-video&sprefix=SYRIA+THE+IM%2Caps%2C137&sr=1-1

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Massacre by Putin’s Airforce Today In Syria’s Idlib Raises Question Is Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Lobbying Russia For Seat on UN Security Council Normalising Crimes Against Humanity?

Massacre by Russian airforce bombing vegetable market in the centre of Maarat Al Numan in Syria’s Idlib murdering over 30 civilians: Image from BBC story today Monday, 22 July, 2019: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-49074091

RONAN L TYNAN

I wrote in a letter published yesterday in the Sunday Times (July 22, 2019) that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney let Ireland down in lobbying for a seat on the UN Security Council in Moscow promising Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov more trade and apparent silence on the country’s many international crimes from Ukraine to almost daily crimes against humanity in Syria bombing hospitals and targeting civilians in Idlib to keep the Syrian regime in power. But worse still in the same paper a headline under scored just how far Mr Coveney seems prepared to go to secure that seat – “Coveney avoids Uighur topic with Chinese dignitary” – referring to the fact that China has interned over a million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps and the “dignitary” in question was responsible for building these camps when head of Xinjiang province.

Russia and China do not respect human rights and their Presidents show contempt for democracy and the rule of law. Indeed, Putin recently went so far as to imply that liberal democracy and human rights were outdated concepts. Against that background how could Simon Coveney seriously lobby the support of these powers for a seat on the Security Council when the price clearly implies silence and complicity in their crimes against international law and none more egregious than Russia’s almost daily crimes against humanity in Syria?

A good illustration of just how dangerous this Russia China axis on the Security Council has become was well illustrated when President Putin’s ambassador, backed by his Chinese counter part, vetoed referring Syria to the International Criminal Court with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria describing the Assad regime as engaged in a policy of “extermination” against civilians, and Amnesty stated one of the regime’s most notorious torture prisons is ‘a human slaughter house.”

Some estimates suggest as many as six hundred thousands have been killed in Syria since the peaceful uprising in 2011; more than half the population have been forced to flee their homes with six million internally displaced and almost the same number are refugees outside the country.  Meanwhile, the Assad regime so terrifies most refugees they will not go home, not least with reports that some returnees have been tortured, imprisoned or forcibly disappeared and some dying under torture. At the same time the regime has confiscated the property of many refugees enriching some of its major supporters underlining its quite brutal and unscrupulous crony capitalist nature. And most significantly the regime is responsible for over 92% of civilian casualties with many accusing Assad of using ISIS atrocities as a cover for its own industrial level of depravity on a vast scale that making it by far the biggest and worst human rights abuser in Syria.

Does Simon Coveney’s campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council imply normalising the reign of terror by Russia in Syria and China in Xinjiang?  Indeed, to say the Minister has “let Ireland down” which I wrote in the Sunday Times seems like an understatement? The real crime in lobbying despotic regimes is to send a clear message that egregious abuses and unimaginable depravities need not upset our relationship implying so ‘normal’ unworthy of outrage! 

Please Minister Coveney do not seek to normalise crimes against humanity in my name.

Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site: http://www.esperanza.ie
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Why is largescale corruption and misappropriation of humanitarian aid by the Assad regime in Syria being tolerated by the UN and the EU?

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Open Letter to HE Secretary General Antonio Guterres of the United Nations and
HE Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Maria Mogherini

Dear Mr Secretary General and Madam Vice President

I write to express my alarm, which I know is shared by many, that there was no acknowledgement at the Brussels Conference on Syria recently of the large-scale misappropriation of humanitarian aid by the Syrian regime or any announcement that this grand larceny and high level corruption at the expense of the most vulnerable would be investigated. Therefore, in securing a further $3.3 billion for Syria, you must be aware given past form it is almost certain much of it will be misappropriated and further embolden a brutal dictatorship to continue its war against civilians which is characterised by a stream of crimes against humanity, so many documented in reports since 2011 by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria established by the UN’s Human Rights Council. What hope for transitional justice and a democratic future for the people of Syria if the regime is allowed to sustain itself stealing humanitarian aid?

The leading humanitarian Dr Annie Sparrow, who helped save thousands of children’s lives in Syria, exposed the Syrian humanitarian aid scandal in a number of articles, and most recently in the prestigious international relations journal Foreign Affairs showing how UN agencies effectively helped the Syrian regime evade the impact of sanctions in allowing as she put it ‘the Assad regime to take control of the $30 billion international humanitarian response, using donor funds to skirt sanctions and subsidise the government’s war effort.’ Indeed, to underline the importance of aid to Assad, Dr Sparrow quoted an unpublished report from the Syrian Centre for Policy Research which showed that total humanitarian expenditures in Syria, including both UN and non-UN sources of funding, made up 35% of the war ravaged country’s GDP.

Dr Sparrow also showed the quite shameless way in the which the Syrian ministry of defence and various branches of the intelligence agencies took direct control of aid through the regime’s establishment of the Higher Relief Committee (HRC) which handles all requests for UN humanitarian access. She presented prima facie evidence in the form of an HRC facilitation letter she obtained from a source within the Syrian aid community, authorising a Red Crescent aid delivery signed by the minister for health and officers from air force and military intelligence services, exposing the long suspected role of these agencies in directing humanitarian aid. In other words, the Ministry of Health, and the heads of the air force and military intelligence all sanctioned by the US, UK and the EU are “managing” humanitarian aid!

However, as Dr Sparrow pointed out the Assad regime does not only control humanitarian aid it also siphons off large portions to pay for its “war” and to line the pockets of its key figures. This siphoning process extends from levying a tax on the salaries of up to 20% on all relief staff to insisting that all international humanitarian aid organisations must only operate through “local partners” who can only be selected from a list from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has also been sanctioned by the US. These “local partners” can better be described as fronts for the regime’s explicit theft of humanitarian aid as Dr Sparrow explains that these

“….regime-controlled entities, such as Syria Trust (founded and chaired by Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad), or shell companies disguised as charities, such as Al-Bustan, owned by Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf. Both Asma al-Assad and Makhlouf are subject to international sanctions, as is Walid Moallem, the minister of foreign affairs. In May 2017, the U.S. Treasury added Al-Bustan to its list of sanctioned entities. Yet since the UN does not require its partner organisations to disclose their own subcontracting partners, National NGOs such as Syria Trust can still subcontract Al-Bustan and similar entities, channeling UN funds to regime insiders.”

Tolerating this level of corruption against a background where the former UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has described the Assad regime’s war efforts as a ‘monstrous campaign of annihilation’ of civilians is not only reinforcing the climate of impunity but also allowing the diversion of humanitarian aid to fund crimes against humanity? Potential crimes against humanity that were again being committed during the Brussels conference, and still continue with the Syrian regime bombing civilians in Idlib, albeit on a smaller scale than usual only because they have not yet launched a full scale offensive against these defenceless civilians. Meanwhile, as you are aware the UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs has warned that if Assad and his allies do attack that region deploying their usual scorched earth tactics against the three millions civilians including one million children living there, most of whom were forcibly displaced by his regime from other parts of Syria, it will result in the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the whole history of the conflict.

The case for an urgent investigation into corruption and the misappropriation of humanitarian aid in Syria is beyond dispute. However, if you fail to insist on that you will continue to make us complicit in the crimes against humanity being committed there by helping to fund these crimes and sustaining an egregious climate of impunity.

Yours respectfully and sincerely

RONAN L TYNAN
Director
‘Syria – The Impossible Revolution’

25 March, 2019.

Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site: http://www.esperanza.ie
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Why the silence about one of the biggest mass rape campaigns of recent times on International Women’s Day? #IWD

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RONAN L TYNAN:

“I screamed, but no one came,” a chilling line from the testimony of a woman raped in Dara’a, Syria quoted in a recent UN report, and reflects the almost invisible nature of one of the biggest mass rape campaigns of recent times by President Bashar al-Assad to suppress the 2011 peaceful uprising against his dictatorship.

This has troubled me since we made our documentary ‘Syria – The Impossible Revolution’ because of the number of times reference was made to the Assad regime’s rape campaign and yet that is not reflected in coverage of the Syrian conflict.

(In this article I deliberately avoided describing explicitly the nature of these crimes which many might find too difficult to read.)

But why has this potential crime or crimes against humanity received virtually no publicity as more and more evidence surfaces not least with the publication of the report by the UN Commission of Inquiry – ‘ “I lost my dignity”: Sexual and gender-based violence in the Syrian Arab Republic’. The report underlined the scale of these crimes and horrific abuses suffered by of Syrian women and young girls, some as young as ten years old. And while the UN extensively reported on the egregious nature of the Islamic State’s horrific campaign against Yazidi women which used rape and sexual violence as a form of genocide the latter may also explain why Assad’s systematic mass rape campaign received little or no attention. However, the latest report also noted that while armed groups were responsible for similar crimes they were ‘considerably less common than rape by Syrian Government forces and associated militias.’

On International Women’s Day one still must ask why have the tens of thousands of victims of rape and sexual violence at the hands of the Syrian regime and its associated militias been ignored for so long? However, as a rising tide of evidence about their systematic rape and sexual violence comes to light it is clear that the day of reckoning for these crimes is approaching? More so because Syrian women themselves are starting to raise their voices and demand justice? Women like Zahira (not her real name) interviewed in the UK ‘Independent’ which described her story as ‘not easy to read’ and what she went through as ‘beyond the imagination of most of us.’

Very important to point out, as all reports on Assad’s rape campaign note, that men and boys were also subjected to rape and sexual torture but on a much smaller scale than women and girls.

A Grave Humiliation

The relative delay in these mass rapes and sexual crimes coming to light is partly explained by a great irony. Rape and sexual violence are perceived as a grave humiliation in Syrian culture with considerable social stigma and shame attaching to the victims. In our own society women and girls who are victims of rape also find it difficult to come forward and seek to ensure those who rape them are brought to justice. In Syrian society as London School of Economics researcher Marie Forestier explained in her report ‘“You Want Freedom? This is your freedom”: Rape as a tactic of the Assad Regime’ women and girls are even less likely to come forward as they face being rejected by their husbands or families even though they are victim of the most egregious of crimes.

Forestier revealed how she was told by one defector: ‘There is nothing worse in our culture’ as if to underline that when Assad resorted to a rape campaign its potential and objective were clear. As one activist explained to her: ‘By extension, the humiliation of women spills over to her family, and her community. ‘In Syria, honour is associated with women. So, in order to humiliate a community, the regime targeted women’.’ Her report showed that anywhere regime forces engaged with the population which was perceived to be part of the opposition women and girls were raped whether as check points, at home or in detention centres. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of that attempt to break communities was the way in which women were raped in front of their families with wives and mothers for example raped in front of husbands and children like the case of Fawziya in Al Houla.

However, if Forestier’s report was shocking the UN Commission of Inquiry Report was even more disturbing because of its revelations about both the scale and nature of the use of rape as tactic by Assad in attempting to break the opposition. The report also showed how the use of rape mirrored the conflict on the ground. For example, in the early phase when the Syrian regime prioritised ground operations and house raids most women and young girls were raped at home, often in front of their families. However, as conflict developed from 2012 ‘Government forces began to prioritise the use of airstrikes, thus decreasing the interaction between Government troops and the wider population. As the conflict progressed, most sexual and gender-based violations by Government forces therefore occurred at checkpoints or in detention.’ In other words, rape remained a key part of Assad’s strategy but women and girls were more likely to be raped at check points and in prison than at home.

This is but a very short summary about one of the most egregious crimes committed by the Syrian regime against its own people. But as more and more women find the courage against incredible pressure to provide evidence, prosecutions that must include Assad himself are inevitable?

Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site: http://www.esperanza.ie
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Illegal Cluster Bombs Killing Children in Idlib, Syria – Ireland where convention to ban cluster bombs first adopted must lead in demanding Assad stop these crimes against humanity

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Ronan L Tynan:

More reports from Idlib provide clear evidence Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, is using illegal cluster bombs against civilians which exact a heavy toll, a threat that also lingers long after the initial bomb attack as so many unexploded lethal bomblets are left strewn across a wide area. Ireland where convention to ban cluster munitions was first agreed at an international diplomatic conference in Dublin should lead in demanding an end to civilian slaughter with these egregious weapons.

The latest report from citizen journalist and photographer FARED (@Fared60350386 on Twitter) shows video of the remains of a cluster rocket one of many fired by the Assad regime on Ma’arat al-Nu’man in the southern Idlib countryside yesterday (Saturday, March 2, 2019).

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In using illegal cluster munitions Assad with Russia and Iran are potentially not only implicated in warcrimes but crimes against humanity because these lethal munitions are directed at civilians. The terrible toll these weapons exact on civilians in the first instance is amplified over time because so many are killed or suffer horrific injuries especially children when they encounter unexploded bomblets.

Given the support for the Syrian people in Ireland as exemplified by the internationally recognised Irish Syria Solidarity Movement the Irish government should raise its voice to demand adherence to the convention in Idlib to halt the use of cluster bombs and save civilians.

The international Convention on Cluster Munitions was agreed in Dublin in May, 2008 and has now been ratified by almost 110 states and prohibits the use, transfer and stockpiling of these egregious weapons. Leading Irish diplomat Daithi O’Ceallaigh then Ambassador to the UN in Geneva who chaired the conference played a decisive role in securing the adoption of the convention.

Ronan L Tynan is Director of the multi award winning ‘Syrian – The Impossible Revolution’ and co-founder with Anne Daly of Esperanza Productions:
Web site: http://www.esperanza.ie
Twitter: @RonanLTynan

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Courageous Citizen Journalist & Photographer under fire in Idlib – like Marie Colvin and Paul Conroy rolled into one – paints a terrible picture of civilians slaughter

FARED or @FARED60350386 on Twitter is a young citizen journalist and photographer in Idlib who hour by hour has been fearlessly reporting on the relentless attacks on civilians and where children in particular are paying a terrible price. He asks “why has the world abandoned us” and where is our commitment to “human rights and children’s rights?” His reports on Twitter make him a compelling witness to warcrimes and crimes against humanity and a shocking reminder of our abysmal failure to stop mind numbing slaughter in a area of Syria where three million civilians including one million children are at grave risk if these relentless and merciless attacks continue by the Assad regime.

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It is hard not to see the attacks on Idlib right now as a naked campaign against civilians with so many images of dead and wounded children. This slaughter underlines there is absolutely no respect for human rights or the rights of children and no attempt to stop these latest egregious attacks by the Syrian regime backed by Russia and Iran they will continue without an urgent demand by the international community that they stop the body count will continue to mount.

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FARED tweets vividly tell the story of civilians under extreme fire as the world appears to have turned its back. Day after day children women and men are killed as the Assad regime break the cease fire and maintain withering fire on defenceless people whose only crime is to have fled to Idlib from other other parts of Syria to escape regime savagery.

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What is remarkable about FARED reports is that he is continuing to maintain them as only recently a rocket landed only fifty metres from where he was taking shelter in the midst of an attack. But what is really shocking is the nature of his eye witness testimony of what is being done to civilians by Assad with no international media focus on Idlib.

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FARED is almost like war correspondent Marie Colvin and her working partner photojournalist Paul Conroy rolled into one. Many people will be familiar with their extraordinarily courageous work in Homs where under relentless bombing by Assad they continued to report and she paid her life and Paul was critically wounded. FARED much younger but with equal courage is now under similar fire in Idlib already narrowly escaping death.

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One citizen journalist working alone under fire using Twitter as his only outlet is up against it trying to alert the world to the slaughter of civilians in Idlib. We can help him by asking our national and international media to join him in reporting on the plight of his fellow Syrians – children, women and men – who are killed and wounded now around the clock because they peacefully protested against the Assad regime in the Syrian uprising in 2011 and are still paying a very heavy price.

RONAN L TYNAN

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IDLIB – Open Letter to UN Syria Envoy Staffen de Mistura re proposal about “safe corridors” that would put civilians at risk of arrest, torture and death

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Dear Mr de Mistura

I was shocked and frankly appalled that you could seriously propose sending hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians in Idlib, many extremely vulnerable families with over one million children, back to the government controlled areas from where they fled through allegedly “safe corridors”. Worse still you cannot but be aware that such a suggestion gives encouragement to the Assad regime, Russia and Iran to launch an attack on a region that has become if anything one of the world’s largest de facto refugee camps, albeit for internally displaced people  Indeed, so many there have already been forced to flee multiple times already to escape slaughter by the regime and its allies before reaching Idlib. But you know all that! Therefore, how could you even make such a suggestion when you also know about the warcrimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian regime and its allies against civilians, and documented by various UN agencies? 

Your job is to help to protect civilians and in making your “safe corridors” suggestions you give the impression you are feigning ignorance of what happened in Syria over the last seven years? Indeed, reflecting on the recent statements by Assad’s Air Force Intelligence chief Jamil al-Hassan, you will be well aware that the Syrian regime has already begun building an even more repressive state. Speaking to a group of 33 senior officers he reportedly said: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals. … After eight years, Syria will not accept the presence of cancerous cells and they will be removed completely.”  He also said that there are three million Syrians on his wanted lists and that judicial cases have been prepared against them, and that anyone deemed a ‘hindrance’ to the regime’s consolidation of power would be labeled a ‘terrorist’ and dealt with accordingly.  In Syria, as you know, a “wanted list” is usually a “death list.”

Germany has issued an international arrest warrant for Jamil al-Hassan, a welcome move by the European country that has welcomed the largest number of Syrian refugees. Indeed, al-Hassan’s comments about refugees were especially disturbing (and even more chilling from the perspective of civilians in Idlib) describing those planning to return as ‘sheep’ saying the corrupted ones would be filtered out and the ‘good ones’ would be used. But what does that mean? A recent investigation by the Irish Times showed that returning Syrian refugees faced threats, arrests and even death. For example, of four who were killed, three died in regime custody between two and four months after returning.

Surely people forced to flee multiple times in Syria have suffered enough at the hands of the regime and its allies  because the latter have chosen to fight their “war” primarily against civilians using scorched earth/ethnic cleansing which explains why Idlib now has a population of up to four million people. Those who made it to Idlib have lost everything. Meanwhile, tens of thousands remain ‘forcibly disappeared’ by the regime; over five hundred thousand are probably dead; more than half the population of Syria have been forced to flee their homes; millions are wounded physically and mentally including a majority of the country’s children, and 92% of civilians casualties are blamed on Assad and his allies.

If your “peace making efforts” in Syria are based on sacrificing potentially millions of civilians you should resign because you have apparently chosen not to confront all of those responsible for warcrimes and crimes against humanity?

Yours sincerely

Ronan Tynan

Producer/Director

‘Syria – The Impossible Revolution’

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