On June 13, 2019 the Turkish Heritage Organization hosted a teleconference conversation on Syria’s Idlib: The View from the Ground featuring speakers: Ammar Al Selmo, White Helmets Volunteer From Idlib; Bassam Rifai, National Board Chairman, Syrian American Council; and Mariam Jalabi, Representative to the UN for the Syrian National Coalition.
After a brief introduction from THO’s Executive Director, Elvir Klempic, THO’s Communications Manager Savannah Lane directed the first question to Ammar Al Selmo to provide context and background for what is happening on the ground-level in Syria. Al Selma provide context that over half of the refugees are coming from other cities, such as Aleppo. Further, Al Selmo provided context of how dire the situation is, especially with the hospitals. Currently there are no hospitals in Idlib, and “people would rather die in their homes than try to make it to a hospital for treatment due to the pattern of bombing hospitals recently…help can be as far as 200km away for some people.” Additionally Al Selmo shed light on what he dubbed the “absence of accountability” in the region and that “hospitals are now not a place of refuge and healing, but a place of fear and danger.”
Next, Mariam Jalabi discussed the current situation in Idlb and the importance of bringing women to the table to solve this problem. Jalabi discussed that a military solution is not a legitimate way to solve the problems in Syria and that it is critical to bring women to the table in large roles, sharing that “the masculine point of view when everything is militarized like this loses sight of the real people, such as women and children, that are suffering greatly because of the actions in Syria.” Jalabi further shared, that “only working with women can we bring an end to the conflict for good and it should be through diplomatic and political processes.”
Next, Bassam Rifai addressed the question of the ceasefire. Rifai stated that “President Trump calling for safe zones isn’t going to work anymore, and the time to act is now.” Rifai also discussed that the Assad regime and allies have a change to retreat and gather themselves to prepare to mount another attack when we give them a reprieve such as this. Further, he mentioned the influence of Russia and the thinly veiled attempt at giving the armed forces an opportunity to increase intensity in the region.
This has been their game plan in every opposition stronghold previously and the point of a ceasefire is to protect civilians, and Russia has obviously violated this.
Speaking more on the ceasefire, Ammar Al Selmo and Mariam Jalabi both called for a new way to solve this crisis and the need of immediate assistance from the powerful international community. Through the assistance of the international community, Bassam Rifai shared his disappointment in the fact that “Congress has lacked the will to overcome hurdles to pass necessary legislation and the State Department and Congress will have to work together to stop Assad and his regime.”
Finally, Mariam Jalabi shared the challenges they face at the United Nations. Jalabi stated that the biggest challenge stems from Russia because there is absolutely no cooperation. The power U.N. comes from the power of the member states, cooperation, and coordination If they disagree (which with Russia involved and blocking everything they try to do, they will always disagree) there will be gridlock. Jalabi further explained that in order for the U.N. to act they must have the consent of the member states and currently with Russian opposition the UN doesn’t have a full consensus to provide humanitarian aid in Syria, therefore it is critical to encourage the international community to assist. For the full recording of this teleconference and all of our recent events, visit our website at www.turkheritage.org.