The Assad Regime Gives Up Chemical Weapons For Human Shields

On August 21st, chemical weapons were used in Eastern and Western Gouta which resulted in the death of 1400 residents. Syrian activists reported that 60% of the people that were massacred were children.

After many pleas to the UN for help by the Syrian Coalition, with no unanimous agreement the US began talking about unilateral strike against Syria to “teach Assad a lesson.” However, after taking the plan to congress for approval, President Obama didn’t find much support. An alternative solution, sparking out of talks between President Obama and Putin at G20 talks finally settled on “talking Assad into giving up his Chemical Weapons.”

While securing Syria’s Chemical Weapons may seem like a major achievement to the International Community, for Assad it is like a gift. The very people who were talking about removing him from his throne – now are just removing his Chemical Weapons. It’s like taking a kids toy away from him, but he is a kid with lots of toys so it really doesn’t impact him.

Children are among those most affected by the regime’s use of starvation as a weapon of war.

Pleas For Humanitarian Access

On Wednesday, October 16th, the Syrian American Council (SAC) called upon the international community to use all its “influence and leverage” to convince the Assad Regime to allow humanitarian access to Muadamiyah in Western Gouta. Their plea was to permit humanitarian access to prevent any more innocent children and civilians from dying of starvation.

SAC echoes the UN’s humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos’s call for the Assad regime and all concerned parties to grant access to the World Food Programme’s workers and “allow neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations safe access to all people in need.” As the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said, “it is absurd that chemical weapons inspectors could access these areas, but food and medicine are blocked from crossing front lines.”

No Bread For Six Months

The town of Muadamiyah, one of the Damascan suburbs gassed by chemical weapons in August, has been besieged by Assad’s military and regime-backed militias for nearly a year. Pro-Assad forces have blocked movement in and out of the town and prevented all food and medical supplies from entering. Staples like bread have been unavailable for six months, forcing the residents to eat leaves.

Humanitarian aid could be delivered through pre-negotiated and protected humanitarian corridors or through air drops. Considering the track record of Assad’s commitment to stick to a plan, humanitarian corridors would be riskier than air drops. Although, Assad will not easily accept planes dropping humanitarian aid in his airspace.

“We realize there are significant obstacles to getting aid to these people who need it so desperately, but if the international community can force Assad to permit chemical weapons inspectors through, certainly they can also force the regime to grant the WFP or other humanitarian organizations access. If the regime does not comply, the international community must be prepared to attempt other methods for delivering emergency assistance. Something must be done soon. People are already starving to death.”

Fatwa Allows Eating Prohibited Meat For Survival

On October 14th Al-Arabiya reported that “the situation is so desperate that a fatwa was issued in mid-October which granted residents permission to eat otherwise forbidden meat, including cats, dogs, and donkeys in order to survive.” A fatwa is a legal ruling issued by an Islamic scholar. Syrian clerics are pleading for “the provision of food aid to those in such desperate need. This issue should be non-controversial and should be undertaken with the utmost haste.”

Thursday, October 17th the Syrian Coalition sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations, the Arab League and Human Rights organizations to act immediately to save civilians in Western Gouta, a rural area of Damascus. The call was for immediate implementation of “Humanitarian corridors to save the lives of men, women and children in Muadamiyah, which has been under siege by Assad’s forces for more than 330 days.”

A Humanitarian corridor was desperately needed in order to evacuate 2000 Moadamiyah residents from Western Gouta. Under the belief that Assad had granted free passage, this group of evacuees including women, children and elderly attempted to leave the war torn area. They moved openly and in a group as they trusted the promise of safe passage from the Assad Regime.

The Syrian Coalition reported, “Assad forces recanted on their promise and began shooting at the evacuees [Syrian people] as they tried to evacuate, killing three and injuring dozens. Assad’s forces also took a number of women and children hostage and later used them as human shields to launch another assault on the area.”

Assad’s Hired Killers Use Torture

The Assad Regime has breached every international norm and disregarded all conventions since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution. Assad has instructed his security forces, shabiha (hired killers) and other thugs to arrest, torture, and kill peaceful protesters. It has carried out heinous massacres across Syria.

In March 2013, the former President of the Syrian National Coalition, Al-Khatib, said “all of this is happening to the Syrian People – from destruction of infrastructure to the arrest of tens of thousands to the displacement of hundreds of thousands to other tragedies – is not enough for an international decision to allow the Syrian people to defend themselves.”

What is the “International Community” Doing?

That was then … but today … after so much more has happened to the Syrian People, has the international community stepped up to do more?

According to the UN, over 52% of Syrian refugees are under 17 years old. There are over two million Syrian refugees. Millions of Syrians are still displaced inside Syria, and there are estimates that 2 million are at risk of starvation.

Children are among those most affected by the regime’s use of starvation as a weapon of war.

Kimberly Jones is a global nomad with a special interest in the Middle East and North Africa. She grew up in Saudi Arabia and traveled throughout the MENA growing deeply attached to the people and the culture.