For immediate release
For more information or interview requests please contact: Bissan Fakih
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Release: If Ignored, Daraya Will Be the Next Madaya
30th March 2016
Spokespeople from Daraya available for interview
The small town of Daraya, just miles from UN headquarters in Damascus, is on the verge of becoming the next Madaya as residents have resorted to eating grass to survive. Civilians are warning of deaths if humanitarian aid is not delivered urgently.
Daraya has been under siege for 1,233 days. The 8,000 residents in Daraya have to survive on what little food they can grow locally since no food or international aid has been allowed into the area since 2012. Until a few months ago there was also a smuggling route to the adjacent neighbourhood of Moadamiyah but this was cut off in February leading to a rapid deterioration in conditions.
Daraya was the site of some of the earliest protests against the Syrian government and remains of symbolic importance for the opposition movement. Daraya is run by a democratically elected council which controls the activities of the FSA. Local residents think this, along with the town’s proximity to the capital and Mazzeh Military Airport, is the reason why Daraya is not being granted reprieve. Locals have taken to the streets to protest the siege: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWcu6WX1RM4
Ibrahim Kholany of Daraya Council said:
“We are being punished for daring to rise up peacefully for our freedom and dignity. There are no extremists like Isis here, or Nusra. Those defending our neighbourhoods are all locals, protecting the streets from a government that has tortured, gassed and bombed us and our families.
What scares the regime is the strength and legitimacy of our community. Our democratically-elected council is a threat to Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship.”
Despite the terms of the cessation of the hostilities stating that humanitarian access be granted to all areas immediately, Syria’s government has refused to give permission for U.N. aid convoys to enter six areas under siege by its forces, including Daraya. Civilians and the FSA in Daraya have not violated the ceasefire whilst the Syrian government has continued to attack the area. [See notes]
On Thursday UN humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland said that countries backing the Syrian peace talks had given the Syrian government seven days to answer a U.N. request to deliver aid to Daraya: “It is in violation of international law to prevent us from going.” This deadline expires tomorrow.
The United Nations does not need permission from the Syrian government to enter the area. Under Security Resolutions 2165, 2191 and 2258 they should be giving the Syrian government notification of their movements and are authorised to enter the area with life saving aid.
Bissan Fakih from The Syria Campaign, an independent advocacy group, said:
“If we don’t act now, once again we will have images of starving children beamed across the world like Madaya. It’s inconceivable that the UN with the support of the world’s most powerful countries, US and Russia, can’t get milk to malnourished children a 20 minute drive from Damascus.
Russia, the US and its allies cannot keep letting the regime of Bashar Al-Assad pick and choose what parts of the ceasefire agreement it wants. Delivery of emergency to starving children who have seen no aid for years is a non-negotiable under the ceasefire — or at any time — it’s a war crime.
There are no terrorists in Daraya and the Syrian regime has continued to attack the area despite the ceasefire. The UN, US and Russia must stop bowing to Assad’s demands and greenlight aid trucks to go into the town immediately.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
– Violations of the ceasefire in Daraya: http://www.syriaceasefiremonitor.org/
– Map of Daraya can be found here: https://diary.thesyriacampaign.org/daraya-the-town-that-shames-the-world/
– The full transcript of Jan Egeland ‘s comments, the Chair of the Humanitarian Task Force, can be found here: http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/transcript-stakeout-special-advisor-united-nations-special-envoy-syria
– 1.1 million people live under siege in Syria (source:http://siegewatch.org) 99% of access is blocked by the Syrian government
– The Syria Campaign was established in 2014 as an independent advocacy group to focus on the protection of civilians in Syria. To maintain its impartiality, The Syria Campaign accepts no funding from governments or any group involved in the conflict https://thesyriacampaign.org