March 11, 2021
Museum Statement on the Risk of Further Crimes Against Humanity in Syria on Ten Year Anniversary of Uprising
WASHINGTON, DC – What began as a peaceful protest calling for a democratic government has led to a decade of crimes against humanity and profound suffering for the Syrian people, primarily at the hands of the Assad government. More than 500,000 Syrian civilians have been killed, and more than 12 million—half the country's population—have been forced to flee their homes. The extraordinary human and societal destruction is a harsh reminder that 76 years after the Holocaust, the world has failed to fulfill the promise of “Never Again."
“We continue to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people at this somber moment—they have not been forgotten,” said Naomi Kikoler, director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “We honor the brave Syrians who have risked so much to come forward, bear witness to these horrific crimes, provide life-saving care, and advocate tirelessly for justice, accountability and an end to the killing. Their heroism has tragically been met with the abject failure of the international community to protect them, contributing to the devastating consequences that continue today.”
Syrian civilians still face a risk of crimes against humanity in Idlib, western Aleppo, the northeast, and in Syrian government detention centers. Since December 2019, attacks by the Syrian and Russian governments, supported by militias, including Iranian, on the ground, have killed and maimed hundreds of Syrian civilians, including children. Approximately one million people have been newly displaced, fleeing en masse deeper into northwest Syria, and stalked by aerial bombardments. Tens of thousands languish in makeshift detention centers enduring torture.
The international response continues to be impeded by the politicization of humanitarian norms, contributing to an ongoing paralysis in the UN Security Council. All parties to the conflict must protect civilian life. The Syrian government must ascertain the fate and whereabouts of the nearly 100,000 Syrians who have disappeared, take steps to inform families, and release those detained. These crimes demand justice. Both formal criminal prosecutions and broader transitional justice are needed to repair the fractured Syrian mosaic, restore dignity to victims and communities, and provide the opportunity to build trust and collective memory.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum works to inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. To learn more about the Museum’s genocide prevention efforts, visit ushmm.org/genocide.
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