Wednesday

1st Apr 2020

Opinion

A message to the EU from Syria

  • Russian jets: More than one person per day killed for over two years (Photo: mil.ru)

I come from Idlib, the most heavily bombed city in the world, and I have a message for the EU.

People are being fired on every day by Syrian and Russian jets on the other side of the Turkish border.

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  • More than one million refugees came to Europe in 2015 (Photo: Daniel Belenyi)

There are millions in harm's way and if no one helps them, then, sooner or later, they will flee to the EU in a repeat of events in 2015.

Idlib is in north-east Syria, on the way from the Turkish border to the Syrian city of Homs and, further south, to Damascus.

Idlib and its surrounding region is home to some five million people.

It was a centre of the peaceful protests against the Syrian regime before the conflict started eight years ago.

It was one of the first cities that fought the regime in the civil war.

It also fought to expel Isis, the extremist group, in order to defend civilisation and to give people who had been displaced from other areas a chance to build a normal life.

Russia's veto in the UN Security Council has blocked international intervention to stop the violence and to hold the Syrian regime to account.

Instead, Russia organised a peace conference in Astana in January 2017.

It invited the Syrian regime, its ally Iran, the Syrian opposition, and Turkey.

The regime axis agreed to de-escalate fighting in Idlib.

But in reality, they just regrouped their forces and Russia attacked the de-escalation zones under the pretext of protecting a military base.

They have killed 1,373 civilians, 364 of whom were children, since they signed the Astana Agreement in 2017 until August 2019, according to theSyria Response Coordinators' Group (RCG), a non-profit that operates in the conflict zone.

Think about it - that is more than one person killed each day for more than two years.

And it is getting worse.

Russian and Syrian forces killed 1,151 civilians between February and August this year in the Idlib, Aleppo, and Hama provinces counted together.

They killed 132 civilians, including 34 children, in one week of horror from July 23 to July 29.

They also caused 92,119 people to flee their homes in one week in August in southern Idlib and northern Hama.

Scorched earth

And they have laid our homeland to ruin.

They have shelled 113 schools in Idlib and in northern Hama since the start of this year, the RCG says.

They destroyed 36 villages and 233 other structures in Idlib, including field hospitals, health centres, and water-pumping stations.

The physical damage they have done there would cost $1.5bn [€1.3bn] to repair.

But they have also demolished other cities, such as Maarat al-Numan and Kafranbel.

People fleeing the air strikes go to northern Idlib, the Turkish border, and the refugee camps there.

And they have nothing to go back to because of the regime's scorched-earth policy.

Russia and Syria have dropped tens of tonnes of explosives on people's heads and aid camps are overflowing with women and children in need.

It is not a threat, but a fact on the ground that Turkey and the EU are the only safe havens in the neighbourhood.

The suffering is unbearable and this is where people are being forced to go - to break the Turkish border and cross into Europe.

Deja vu

If we pass a tipping point and there is a mass exodus, it might look like 2015 all over again, when one million refugees fled to Europe.

That caused a political shock, prompting the rise of far-right parties, which helped Russia in its strategic goal to break up the EU.

Back in Idlib, people just want the violence to end.

Every day, civilians, including children, are being hurt or killed, homes are destroyed, and lives are being shattered.

It is a moral test for Europe and the humanitarian values it espouses.

It is also a test of whether the EU can defend its interests.

And that is why Idlib is at the centre of a crucial moment in post-World War II European history.

Author bio

Iyas Kaadouni is a Syrian journalist from Idlib who now lives in Brussels.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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