Syria exhibits a massive and terrible breakdown of human decency and respect. There are millions of innocent victims and many individual acts of heroism, but amongst the powerful we see an appalling degree of violence, hypocrisy and corruption. Tens of thousands have died, millions have been displaced, and nearly the entire population of 23 million lives in fear. The international community has stated and we confirm that the Syrian tragedy is possibly the worst since World War II.
States, political organizations and combatants are the primary causes of the misery, which they pursue for their own advantage, sewing terror and manipulating the suffering to reflect badly on their opponents while all too often refusing to compromise or even talk to each other.
These are the findings of our delegation, consisting of 16 human rights advocates from seven countries. Over the course of nine days we visited refugee camps, affected communities, religious leaders, combatants, government representatives and many others – perpetrators and victims – in Syria and Lebanon.
We were already horrified by what we knew before coming, but what we have learned as a delegation brings shame to almost everyone involved.
We call on the international community to protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to respect the fundamental rights of Syria as a sovereign State. We deplore any intent to breach the integrity of Syria’s frontiers or to damage the unity and rich diversity of the Syrian people.
We recognize the legitimacy of the aspirations of the Syrian citizens for change, reforms, the eradication of State corruption and the implementation of a democratic life that respects and protects the fundamental rights of all citizens and minorities but we believe that effective and lasting reforms can only be achieved through non-violent means.
Our primary appeal is that all countries stop their interference in Syrian affairs – more specifically, that they halt the supply of arms and foreign combatants to both sides of the conflict. If foreign countries agree to eliminate the influx of arms and fighters, we are confident that Syrians can find their own solutions to their problems and achieve reconciliation.
We unequivocally oppose all aggression and foreign intervention against Syria under any justification. At the same time we appeal to all parties, including the government, to show restraint in response to the provocations that aim to escalate the violence and broaden the conflict.
We consider it beyond debate that the Syrian people have the right to determine their own government and their own future. Foreign interference is currently preventing the Syrian people from exercising their right to self-determination. We are concerned that such pernicious intervention is tearing apart the fabric of the country itself, with long-term consequences that can only be imagined.
The cautionary example of Iraq serves to remind us of the dire consequences of such international folly. This humanitarian crisis is already spilling into neighboring countries. A collapse of Syrian society though will destabilize the entire region. We appeal to the international community to show that it can learn from history and make better choices in the case of Syria, which will spare further tragedy for the courageous Syrian people.
Secondly, we appeal to the international media to stop the flow of misinformation regarding the Syrian conflict. We believe that every Syrian, both in and outside the country, should be given the right to be heard and we do not see this reflected in the international coverage of this crisis.
Thirdly, while we entirely support the embargo on arms, we ask the international community to review and reconsider the crippling sanctions that are taking such a heavy toll on ordinary Syrian people.
Fourthly, we urge the international community to take seriously the vast number of refugees and persons who have been internally displaced by this conflict.
We look towards to the cessation of all violence when these people might be allowed to return to their homes. In the meantime, however, humanitarian aid efforts must be expanded to meet the basic needs of such persons.
Our earlier report, Declaration of the Mussalaha Delegation to Syria on the Refugee Situation in Lebanon, outlines the inadequacies of current refugee programmes. We appreciate that various government authorities have attempted to respond to the refugee crisis. We recognize though that the International Committee of the Red Cross and its affiliates, as well other humanitarian agencies, must be allowed to set up centers inside Syria to care for internally displaced persons, so as to prevent these displaced persons from fleeing to foreign countries.
This work requires immediate and significant funding by the international community. While this will be a costly undertaking, we believe that the costs will in fact be only a fraction of the amount currently being spent on destroying Syria.
Finally, we appeal all parties involved to put an end to all forms of violence and human rights violations – actions that target and terrorize innocent civilians and prisoners, indiscriminate terrorist attacks on the civilian population, the unjustified systematic targeting of vital state infrastructures, civilian installations, industrial zones, factories, communication facilities, agriculture reserves, health centers and hospitals, schools and universities, and religious and cultural landmarks – all of which results in the transformation of the residential areas in war zones, resulting in the flight of the civilian population.
We likewise oppose the use of religious decrees that encourage, trivialize and justify barbarity, rape and terrorism. We appeal to the entire religious community to call the faithful to nonviolence and peacemaking, and to reject all forms of violence and discrimination, and we express our admiration and respect for the many Syrian religious leaders who have refused to endorse the use of violence and have dedicated their lives to working for a peaceful solution to this conflict. We urge particularly to set free the two bishops abducted in the North of Aleppo and that have dedicated their lives for peace and reconciliation and we call as well for the liberation of all the christian and muslim clerics as well as all the other kidnapped Syrian citizens.
We thank the Patriarch Gregorios III Laham for his kind invitation and his efforts and permanent support to Musalaha.
We thank Mr. Jadallah Kaddour for his generosity that made this visit possible and we express our gratitude for all those who have facilitated our path and specially the organization Committee of the Delegation visit and the Popular Council for the National Reconciliation.
We conclude by commending the work of Mother Agnes Mariam and the Musalaha initiative. We have witnessed their work inside diverse communities across Syria. We offer our unequivocal and ongoing support to these brave people, and we commit ourselves to continue to work alongside them until Syria is truly at peace.
Damascus, the 10/5/2013,
Mairead Corrigan Maguire in the name of the International Delegation to Syria for Musalaha and Peace