MPAC Joins Leaders to Call on U.N. to Address Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

January 13, 2014

On Friday, Jan. 10, the Muslim Public Affairs Council joined several human rights, humanitarian and faith-based groups at a press conference across from the United Nations headquarters in New York to call on the U.N. and the international community to take more serious action to address the plight of the Syrian people. They also encouraged participation in a rolling fast through Jan. 22, in solidarity with Syrians going through a difficult winter in the war torn nation.
The press conference was attended by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch; Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society; Mohja Kahf, Member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement and Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas; Dr. Annie Sparrow, Pediatrician, Teacher in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, Professor at Mount Sinai Global Health Center; Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York; Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation; and Haris Tarin, Director of MPAC’s Washington, DC office.

The group called on the U.N. Security Council to:

  • Pass a binding resolution to require unhampered access, across borders and military lines, for international humanitarian agencies to bring food and medicine to besieged populations in Syria. The resolution should not include preconditions or discrimination based on sect, ethnicity, gender, or political views, and must include a monitoring provision to ensure compliance.

  • Lift the siege on suburbs around the city of Damascus as a trust-building prelude to the Geneva Conference on Syria scheduled to convene on Jan. 22.

An estimated 1.5 million Syrian civilians are suffering from malnutrition and treatable diseases in an entirely preventable humanitarian crisis. Dozens of children have died from malnutrition and starvation around Damascus, in the same areas that were hit with chemical weapons attacks. Military forces continue to blockade dozens of Syrian towns, barring entry of food and medicine, while chemical weapons inspectors have been allowed unfettered access by the U.N. Security Council’s mandate. The military siege violates international laws prohibiting the use of starvation as a war weapon.

Leaders and activists shared the stories of countless number of people who have suffered during this harsh winter and whose stories have been ignored due to lack of any media access.

“It is sad to see that the international community has forgotten the tragic human toll this conflict has had,” Tarin said. “The international community is focused on the political and military track of Geneva II, but Syrians who are starving and dying on a daily basis have been forgotten and their voices are not being heard.”

Later in the day, MPAC joined a delegation headed by Dr. Zaher Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society for a meeting with the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers, to ensure that the humanitarian crisis is on the agenda when the Geneva II negotiations take place in a few weeks.

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