War crimes in Syria must stop – stop bombing citizens, food crops and vegetable markets!

From the 15th Garden

The war in Syria has become one of the biggest wars in recent history. More people than ever since World War II have been displaced. The number of people killed to date is estimated to be around half a million; those displaced around 12 million, those facing starvation in what have been named as  “hunger sieges” are around 1 million (53 cities and communities, 50 of these by the Syrian regime), and at least 100 000 prisoners have disappeared in the regime’s prisons. *1

Actions that constitute war crimes are conducted on a daily basis: hospitals, schools, and live-sustaining places like bakeries or vegetable markets have been deliberately and casually targeted by air forces in Syria now. These targeted bombings are systematic campaigns against civilians: sometimes more than three hospitals have been bombed within one day, often with the use of so called “double taps”, bombing the place, waiting for the rescue responders and then bombing it a second time, often killing those who came for the rescue mission. *2

One of many examples in all the last years for targeting campaigns related to food have been bakeries and people lining up for bread in front of them. Inevitably these attacks on big gatherings of people waiting for bread were gruesome massacres, along with these attacks thousands of bakeries were destroyed, and the few that remained had to go underground. Other examples of targets are the crowded vegetable markets. All of these campaigns target the life-sustaining infrastructure of the population. 

To break down what “carpet bombing” actually means, just one example for a city that used to have around 120 000 citizens. It is called Maarat Al Numan and is located in the province of Idlib:

All of its neighborhoods, its self-run schools, the newly built bakery of the united civil society actors there (producing 300 000 loaves of bread daily for the whole area), the water treatment systems offering clean water for 50 000 people in the region, and the grain storage of the farmers of the region have been targeted only in the last year. All in all the city has been constantly shelled through ought the last 4 years, this according to a member of the 15th Garden.

These deliberate attacks are executed all over Syria in all liberated areas, they are well-documented and in a scale that continues over hundreds of kilometers. Systematic targeting of crowded places and those of basic needs for a civilian population constitute war crimes.  

Daily bombardments are ongoing in Syria, resulting in a relentless carnage. Just in these days the last route into the big city of Aleppo has been shut leading to a population of about 300 000 people under total siege, warfare and no route to escape.

After several hospitals were reduced to rubble in the preparation of this siege and an average of several dozen people were killed every day, this April the international initiatives surrounding the struggle for human rights and liberation in Syria managed to do one of its biggest campaigns ever since the Syrian revolution began: The #AleppoIsBurning campaign. In numerous cities people held protests with very simplified but common slogans and wearing red clothes. This campaign actually lead to few days of ceasefire and for the first time proved to Syrians, that they are not alone. But this seize fire only lasted as long as the public attention lasted, now Aleppo is under siege and all international solidarity must be at work to step in. *3

Solidarity with the peasants and people of Syria is needed now more than ever. Through the 15th Garden we continue to resist this wretched war that has been put upon us. Despite thousands of farmers being arrested, disappeared, tortured and killed and  in advance of the hunger sieges imposed on their communities by the regime, or the usurpation of control over local markets and certain territories by foreign interests as a result of  development aid, the mining of agricultural lands by warring factions and fighting forces, the sniping or executions of gardeners and farmers, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of shepherds, there are women who are making gardens when their whole city is under siege, with food producing plants in every corner possible out of the snipers’ aim. There are community gardens that built the capacity to feed thousands of people, there are farmers’ networks for work and skill exchange, there are seed reproducers and sharers, there are bakeries built and re-built, developments of mobile grain mills and networks for educating communities in closed-cycle methods: like trash recycling, small scale bio gas producing and local fertilizing cycles.

All over Syria food is being used as a weapon against the people and a tool to gain political control and to seek submission. Food baskets handed out by NGOs are rarely delivered in ways or places determined by the affected people themselves. They often are packed outside of Syria and often end up going into areas where farmers still work and thus cause them to lose the last of a meager possible income. Many areas where people are facing starvation do not receive any deliveries at all, for various reasons: because the international community does not act if the regime does not permit it or because the communities might not have submitted to the donors’ preferred political powers. Development or emergency aid in the name of food security is now running rampant in Syria and in the long term will create dependency. This includes large amounts of hybrid seeds, and chemicals often being sent without any indication for workers-peasant protection. These come through very centralized national and international structures that work with big entities and not with peasants and grassroots communities struggling to keep food production going.

It is crucial that political pressure be increased to stop the bombing of the Syrian population, to stop the targeted bombing of their hospitals, schools and vegetable gardens and markets, to stop the killing of thousands of civilians, and the displacements of millions. We urgently need support and solidarity as Syrian peasants trying to survive, to produce food to feed our people.

*1) The UN stopped counting the people killed in 2014, so the estimation is now based on data collected by various different human rights organizations)

Syrian campaign on the failures of UN in Syria: http://takingsides.thesyriacampaign.org/

Taking sides: The United Nations’ loss of impartiality, independence and neutrality in Syria)

Syrian campaign on the hunger sieges: www.breakthesieges.org/en

The numbers of prisoners vary very much depending on organizations’ access to information and standards, we mentioned the lowest possible number of 100 000, the highest estimates are mentioned at 500 000. https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/syria/report-syria/

*2) http://www.msf.org/en/article/syria-statement-dr-joanne-liu-international-president-m%C3%A9decins-sans-fronti%C3%A8res

*3) to see how the protests enfolded worldwide:  https://www.facebook.com/break.hunger.siege/?fref=ts