Syrian government forces are bombing and starving out hundreds of thousands of Syrians in Eastern Ghouta in what may quickly become the next Aleppo. Nearly 420,000 people are suffering from severe shortages of food and medical supplies, and are unable to move about freely due to the bombing.
The latest quarterly update of Siege Watch, published today by PAX and The Syria Institute, shows how the Assad government is implementing a strategy of “surrender or die” in Eastern Ghouta and other besieged communities.
“We saw how bad things were in Aleppo. In Eastern Ghouta, there are more than 400,000 people under direct threat of suffering the same fate. Community after community is forced to surrender after a campaign of war crimes,” says Marjolein Wijninckx, PAX programme leader.
Syrian government forces have been emboldened by the success of the “surrender or die” strategy. More and more communities under siege are being forced to surrender. After surrendering, some people are forcibly moved, becoming refugees in their own country. Those who remain are vulnerable to fresh human rights abuses. In all of the besieged and “Watchlist” areas that surrendered to the Syrian government in in the last few months, local governance institutions have been dismantled, and civilians remaining have been afraid to share information for fear of retribution. This silence from post-surrender communities should raise alarm bells for human rights monitors and those concerned with civilian protection in Syria.
“The systematic forcible transfer of civilians as we see in Syria is a crime against humanity, and ceasefire agreements have done nothing to stop them. If anything, the scorched earth campaign has gotten worse. The international community should not be fooled by the illusions of de-escalation zones or so-called ´reconciliation´ which is in fact forced surrender,” says Wijninckx.
879,320 people under siege
This Siege Watch report focuses on developments from February to April 2017. Data collected during the quarter from an extensive network of contacts on the ground found that an estimated 879,320 people remain trapped in at least 35 besieged communities across the country and more than 1.3 million additional Syrians live in “Watchlist” areas, under threat of intensified siege and abuse.
This is the sixth quarterly report. Siege Watch is a joint initiative of PAX and The Syria Institute that aims to provide the international community with timely and accurate information on conditions in Syria’s besieged communities (see previous reports here).
See also siegewatch.org