212 chemical weapons attacks have occurred in Syria killing thousands of people, including young children
- One day before the five-year anniversary of the Ghouta chemical massacre, witnesses remember what happened.
- “It is unthinkable that Assad is allowed to govern Syria when he has committed such grievous violations of international law. He must be held to account for what he has done.”
“On 21 August 2013, someone banged at my door, telling me there had been an attack in Ghouta and I was needed at the underground hospital. I told them I was only a pharmacist, how could I help? An hour later, they came again and said I had to go, there had been a chemical weapons attack on Ghouta. In the streets, people burned rubbish to dissipate the gas, but it didn’t help. At 4:30 am, I reached the hospital where 80 dead bodies were already laid out. Volunteers and medics helped wash the bodies of the affected but by the time I left, more than two hours later, many of these people had died or were close to death.”—Abdulsattar Sharaf, a former resident of Ghouta.
Tomorrow, August 21, marks the five-year anniversary of Syria’s most devastating chemical weapons attack. In the early hours of August 21, 2013, the Assad regime dropped rockets on eastern and western Ghouta filled with sarin gas. Banned under international law, the gas affected 7,000 people of which 1,300 died.
In total, there have been 212 chemical weapons attacks in Syria since 2012, according to the Syrian Archive, which has documented them all. The Islamic State has been responsible for some of the attacks, but it is Assad who has committed by far the most.
Various UN bodies have tried to stop the use of chemical weapons in Syria, from the Security Council ordering Assad to destroy his stockpiles in 2013 (something he agreed to but failed to do) to the Joint Investigation Mechanism directly assigning blame to Assad for several attacks before Russia vetoed the renewal of its mandate.
The UN, the US, the European Union and the Arab League have all documented cases of chemical weapons use in Syria and found the Assad regime to be responsible. Yet despite their efforts and those of the Fact-Finding Mission of the OPCW and the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, the regime continues to use chemical weapons to this day. The most recent attack came on 7 April when chemical weapons were dropped on Douma, killing more than 40 people.
“The Ghouta attack five years ago should serve as yet another stark reminder that Assad is using every weapon at his disposal to kill his own people. The international community is failing every single man, woman and child who has been killed when it does not act to take legal action against this most horrific of crimes,” says Bissan Faikh, Campaign Director of the Syria Campaign. “It is unthinkable that Assad is allowed to govern Syria when he has committed such grievous violations of international law. He must be held to account for what he has done.”