By: Soad Khbia
Syrian cities blockade policy is considered to be one of the most brutal crimes done by the Syrian regime since the beginning of the Syrian revolution until now, that most of the Syrian people say it outweighs in terms of the extent of its fatal effect, the damage and the severity caused by chemical weapons which frightened the whole world.
The blockade policy is one of the main forms of collective punishment executed on rebel cities, owing to the complex crimes lying beneath this policy, and the implementation of slow silent killing without making any noise.
The siege that Bashar Alassad enforced on five major Syrian areas began in Homs old city. It was followed by eastern and western Ghutta in Damascus countryside. Then, the southern Damascus quarters and neighborhoods became under siege. Recently, Aleppo countryside was besieged as well . These areas have endured long months of suffering without a single real international concern. This urged the activists and people under siege to raise the voice and draw attention to the disaster of these areas. Calls to break the siege began through an organized campaign, in which a number of civil society activists participated.
One month ago, twenty one revolutionary and media committees began preparations to launch Break Siege Campaign, which included three aspects: the juristic aspect , the media, and the action on ground. The campaign addressed international human rights organizations, media agencies, the Arab and western ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, and even nations in a direct manner. In addition to the campaign publications of reports, statistics, photos, and videos, campaign supporters outside Syria began strikes in the capital cities where they live, also they set up art exhibitions, lectures, and other attention drawing events.
The main goal is to display the awful reality shadowed by the military and political news, in addition to the media policies which is considered by a large bulk of Syrians as to be plotted when it comes to display their tragedy. Those tend to belief that media is avoiding putting pressure on the Syrian regime to allow international relief, medical, and human rights organizations to enter those areas, and open safe permanent passages to bring relief for the victims within their blockaded areas.
Campaign organizers consider the blockade of Homs and Damascus countryside to be a typical pattern for the ongoing genocides, given the presence of all the objective and subjective elements of a genocide according to Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In their campaign's preliminary statement, the organizers mentioned the physical and mental severe damages caused by this siege, harming the civilians living within the blockaded areas and leaving them intentionally subjected to poor living conditions intended to eliminate them partially or completely.
The added brutality to this genocide committed through siege is painfully revealed when accompanied with war crimes happening in the same areas simultaneously.
During this oppressive siege, the indiscriminative shelling is continued on these areas, including attacks on facilities dedicated to religious, educational, technical, scientific, and charitable purposes, as well as historical monuments and hospitals.
Furthermore, the regime tends to attack the civilians, knowing that this will cause major casualties as leaving behind long term widespread damages, to both environment and infrastructure.
In this context, the attacks carried by the Syrian regime with chemical weapons on Ghutta area in the 21st of August 2013, presented a clear pattern of war crimes taking place simultaneously with genocides, since the chemical weapon attack targeted the same blockaded areas, as recently proved by the U.N. Mission's report.
When the International community turned the blind eye on the felons who committed the chemical weapon crime, and ignored the Syrians agony as with such a slow stepping death, it created a huge shock among Syrians.
Thus, siege (as a genocide) composes a complex case of numerous massive violations regarding civilians in the liberated areas. Hence, It would be difficult to enumerate these violations or even calculate the number of people damaged. This is due to the wide spread damages and the enormous number of people affected, as well as the poor capabilities of the activists in these areas with the ongoing savage shelling.
Activists had pointed through their campaign reports that the siege is not limited to nutrients and medicines, but it prohibits mobility from and into these areas. It also includes cutting the essential services such as water, electricity, and communications.
Disease outbreak was the natural consequence of the lack of nutrients, medicines, and clean consumable water in blockaded areas. Medical cases of patients, injured people, pregnant women and children under the age of five have worsened.
The siege led to the accumulation of waste as never experienced before. An environmental and a health crisis had emerged, rodents and mosquitoes had spread. All of this has contributed in the emerging of disease outbreak to a great extent. This also led to the shutoff of educational services inside the blockaded areas moving students away from their schools and colleges. Other services have stopped as well, especially the hospitals and healthcare centers which were working at their minimal capacities through medical teams of volunteers, lacking the simplest medical supplies, adding to the uselessness of most of the medical equipments which need repair and spare parts that are not available.
On the other hand, activists have talked about the siege's impact on the social relationships, turning apart those families which happen to have some of their members outside the siege area at the time it was enforced, those members can no longer join their families, and mostly do not have a place to stay or resort to anymore.
Activists have worked through the campaign, which is still on, to transform this virtual call into a genuine act on ground, through communicating and collaborating with the armed brigades. Thirteen brigades of the military factions have issued a military statement confirming their willingness to protect any relief organization and provide safe passages for those organizations within the areas they control in the blockaded eastern Ghutta.
Reviving the teamwork of revolutionary committees, was one of the campaign's positive outcomes. The campaign organizers consider their work as a significant step for the revolutionary committees and activists to regain the initiative. Therefore, the rally of twenty one committees, with the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, Freedom Days and Revolution Leadership Council in Damascus in the lead along with other members.
Such a transitional step after a long silence and distance, has encouraged the activists to organize their work and concentrate on achieving other goals in the future after the overwhelming feeling implying that the decision has slipped away from the hands of revolution activists.