As the Covid-19 virus spread around the globe, the Syrian regime continued its propaganda effort to blame its failure to fight the pandemic on the international sanctions imposed on it for the ongoing atrocities and human rights violations. On the other side of the border, an already difficult situation of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon became exacerbated by the pandemic in a country heavily impacted by the economic crisis. These two situations shaped the focus of the Association’s advocacy in May.
On the 15th of May, SACD published a briefing “Impact of Covid-19 on Syrian Refugees in Lebanon” to capture the impact of the pandemic on Syrian refugees in Lebanon and present a possible scenario of what the future impact could be if the current situation continued and/or got worse. In the effort to relay the main findings of the briefing, Houda Atassi, a SACD trustee from Homs, explained the implications of the pandemic and economic crisis on the Syrian refugees in Lebanon and what needs to be done to protect them.
SACD’s Head of Media Relations, Haya Atassi, also appeared on Alarabiya TV to shed light on the deteriorating situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to send key messages to the UNHCR, donors and Lebanese government on how to improve the lives of refugees and protect them from an unsafe return.
Earlier, SACD joined 23 organizations in calling on the Lebanese government and UNHCR to take immediate measures to protect Syrian refugees in Lebanon from Covid-19.
Later in the month, SACD published a briefing paper, “Assad’s Model” of Fighting COVID19: Forget Syrian Lives, Use the Crisis to Annul Economic Sanctions”, which aimed to deconstruct the Syrian regime’s propaganda effort which claims that the EU and US sanctions hamper its effort to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mohamad Khattam from Aleppo, member of SACD, was a guest on Syria TV to explain how the Assad regime was exploiting the fight against Covid-19 to lift the sanctions imposed on it.
The Syrian regime forces did not only brutally bombard civilian areas and cause large population displacement, but its forces were seen frequently desecrating the graves of the dead and stealing property of the displaced people as in Khan al-Sabil. The Syrian regime did not only systematically target civilian populations and infrastructure, but also worked towards cementing the displacement and changing the demographic reality in the region
SACD also highlighted how the living conditions of the people currently displaced to makeshift camps in Idlib and elsewhere in Idlib are far below any acceptable level of a human, dignified life. Hence, SACD held meetings in northern Syria (Afrin & Idlib) with Activists and journalists (Association of Free Journalists) as well as, with Lawyers (Lawyers Union) discussing IDPs concerns, the hardship they face, and best ways to cooperate.
More importantly, an increase in discriminatory discourse and practices by some sectors of the Turkish society towards Syrian refugees in Turkey has been increasing simultaneously with attacks on Idlib’s towns and villages on the Turkish border. SACD published an analysis, A New Wave of Syrian Refugees May Head to Europe as Attacks on Idlib Escalate”, explaining how events on both sides of the border could mean that new waves of migration to Europe are looming, especially that Turkey has reached its capacity in receiving more refugees, and situation in Idlib becoming unbearable.
The Syrian regime’s crimes were not only limited to military attacks and bombing of civilians, but its criminal practices also continued in areas it captured and displaced its people. Hence, SACD published an analysis, “Demolitions in Harasta strip displaced Syrians of property, cement regime’s project of demographic change”, to shed light on developments in the city of Harasta, where it has been reported that units of the regime’s Fourth Division were using heavy machinery and bulldozers to demolish dozens of houses in the city of Harasta in Eastern Ghouta while denying the displaced people from returning back to their homes. This analysis revealed that Harasta was just an example of the regime’s obvious intention to prevent the return of displaced Syrians and thus leading to permanent demographic change in Syria.
Marwan Nazhan and Abdul Mouen Dandal, both members of SACD, engaged in a very important discussion about complicated environment in northeast Syria, particularly in Deir Ezzor, after multiple and continuous waves of displacement, while Maen Tallaa, a political researcher, was Mounir al-Fakir’s guest to discuss the reality of the displacement in Syria and its effects in a very complicated and changeable political and social environment.
The Syrian Association for Citizen’s Dignity commemorated several anniversaries during this month to remind the world of the atrocities that the Syrian people have been enduring since 2011, merely for having the courage to call for their freedom and dignity.
On the 5th anniversary of the displacement of the people from the old city of Homs, SACD published an analysis examining the reality in the areas that the regime claimed to have restored normal life, and whether those who were expelled from their city were able to return.
On the 8th anniversary of the Houla Massacre, SACD explained how it was one of the most horrific crimes committed by the Syrian regime, and its allies, since the beginning of the Syrian revolution and was part of a broader pattern of systematic use of massacres by the Syrian regime as a means of displacing the Syrian people and establish new demographic realities.
Lastly, SACD’ Mounir al-Fakir and Nader Othman, a member of the General Board of Trustees from Damascus city, engaged in a conversation to discuss how the Association presents a model for a civil rights popular movement trying to influence policy-making circles through its advocacy work on both the diplomatic and public opinion levels.