A Joint Statement Condemning the Repeated Targeting of Syrian Civil Society Organizations

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, condemn and deplore the repeated and deliberate attacks on Syrian civil society organizations operating in different regions of Syria. We declare our solidarity and support for these organizations, which have been subjected to all kinds of pressures and violations to impede their duties towards the Syrian society. The last of these attacks were the crime that targeted a center for Syria Civil Defence (SCD) in the city of Sarmin in northern Syria, and another that targeted an office operated by three civil society organizations in the city of Douma in southern Syria.

On August 12, 2017, a center for Syria Civil Defence, known as White Helmets, in Sarmin in Idlib countryside was subjected to an armed attack in which seven members of the center team were killed, and the center was completely robbed. On August 13, 2017, the Popular Movement attacked an office which is shared by the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS) and Hurras Network in the city of Douma in the countryside of Damascus. The Popular Movement is a group of followers of Jaysh Al Islam. The assailants assaulted staff and visitors that were present with physical violence, sticks and sharp metal objects. The assailants stole certain contents of the office, destroyed the rest and threatened to burn down the office next time.

Despite these ongoing attacks on the civil society that aim to force feelings of insecurity onto workers in this field and to push them to give up their humanitarian duty, the Syrian civil society has repeatedly renewed its commitment to fulfill its duties to serve the Syrian people and to promote and protect human rights. “It is hard to find to words to describe my martyred colleagues; each of them leaves stories of hope behind in lives they’ve saved and injured they’ve rescued. I feel very proud of their humanitarian actions and the legacy they leave,”

said Raed al Saleh, head of the Syria Civil Defence, in commenting on the incident in which seven Civil Defence volunteers were killed, “we promise the Syrian people this crime will not deter us from serving them and alleviating their suffering.”

Attacks on human rights activists and civil society workers are not a new phenomenon, with numerous violations of many types monitored and documented. The statement issued by LDSPS touched on this point, “This new attempt to scare our team reminds us of previous attempts, including what happened in 2013 when one attempt ended with the kidnapping of our four colleagues, Razan, Samira, Wael and Nazim, from the very same office on the night of December 9, 2013.”

Civil society organizations play a key role in serving civilians, as well as recording violations against them. “Unfortunately, this attack coincided with the fourth anniversary of the terrible chemical massacre carried out by the Syrian government forces in Ghouta in Damascus countryside in 2013,” VDC statement said, “The Center [VDC] was primarily involved in documenting and recording its victims as part of its work to document violations in order to redress victims and hold criminals accountable.”

While we grief for the lives of the victims and hope for the speedy recovery of the wounded, we call on the international community and international human rights actors to:

  1. Condemn such violations
  2. Support Syrian civil society organizations by all means to be able to protect themselves and their employees.

The below signatories: (1) hold de facto forces in these areas responsible for the safety of civil society workers, (2) call upon these forces to arrest and bring to justice those who participated in or incited these crimes and violations, and (3) demand these forces to commit to not to interfere with the work and lives of civil society workers and to protect them when necessary.

List of Signees

  1. Al-Bab City Coordinating
  2. Al-Kawakibi Organization For Human Rights
  3. Al-khadraa organization
  4. Al-Marsad | Arab Human Rights Centre in Golan Heights
  5. ANA PRESS
  6. Badael Organization
  7. Baytna Syria
  8. Bihar relief organization
  9. Citizens for Syria
  10. Comunita’ Araba Siriana in Italia
  11. Dawlaty organization
  12. Emissa for Development
  13. Fraternity Foundation for Human Rights-Birati
  14. Jazour society Training & Development
  15. Justice For Life Organization
  16. Kawakibi Center for Transitional Justice and Human Rights
  17. Kesh Malek
  18. Local Administration Councils Unit LACU
  19. Local Development & Small-Projects Support (LDSPS)
  20. Mouwatana For Civil Action
  21. PÊL- Civil Waves
  22. Raqeeb Institute for Monitoring and Documentation
  23. Sanad Organization
  24. SHAML coalition of civil society organizations
  25. Start Point organization
  26. Syrian activists monitoring organization
  27. Syrian Archive
  28. Syrian Center For Legal Studies and Researches
  29. Syrian Center For Media and Freedom of Expression
  30. Syrian Center For Journalistic Freedoms
  31. Syrian Feminist Lobby
  32. Syrian League For Citizenship
  33. Syrian Network for Human Rights
  34. Syrian Nonviolence Movement
  35. Syrian Women’s Network
  36. Syrians For Truth and Justice
  37. The Day after
  38. The Syrian Journalists Association
  39. The Working Group for Syria
  40. The Working Group for Syrian Detainees
  41. This is my life organization
  42. Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC)
  43. Women Now