March 11, 2020
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Statement on the Risk of Further Crimes Against Humanity in Syria as Conflict Enters Tenth Year
WASHINGTON, DC – As the Syrian crisis enters its tenth year, threats to civilians in Syria have reached a critical juncture. After almost a decade of conflict and large-scale crimes against humanity, over 500,000 civilians have been killed and 12 million displaced. With the regime threatening the last pocket of territory not controlled by the government in Idlib province, millions of civilians are at tremendous risk. The opportunity to save the lives of those trapped in Idlib is quickly running out.
“We must not grow complacent in the face of a risk of mass slaughter and accept crimes against humanity and war crimes as something unstoppable or normal,” said Naomi Kikoler, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “The regime has shown no compunction about killing civilians en masse. However, with action, lives can be saved right now, particularly in Idlib province, Rukban, and the country’s detention centers.”
Every effort needs to be made to halt the commission of crimes against humanity and prevent mass slaughter, especially in Idlib province, by the Russian-and Iranian-backed Assad regime. Three million civilians in Idlib, many of whom previously fled atrocities in other parts of the country, face daily bombing raids. Nearly one million people in Idlib have fled to the Turkish border in recent weeks, yet the border is closed and they are essentially trapped. The recently announced ceasefire is a positive if tenuous step, but it is not sufficient.
An estimated 100,000 people remain in detention centers where they face murder and torture. Approximately 12,000 people living in the Rukban displaced persons camp near the Jordanian border face dire living conditions and civilians in the northeast continue to risk displacement. Many displaced Syrians are afraid to return to areas controlled by the Syrian government, as forced conscription, detention, torture, and killings remain common.
Ordinary Syrians have taken on heroic tasks of rescuing families whose homes have been bombed, designing early warning systems for civilians to protect themselves from impending attacks, and documenting mass atrocities for the world to see. “Because of the courageous efforts of groups, such as the White Helmets who rescue people from the rubble, or the military defector Caesar who documented evidence of mass atrocities, we know that individuals can make a difference,” said Kikoler. “This courage should extend to the world leaders who have the power to end this crisis.”
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.View All Museum News Releases