More than 700 people have been killed in Ghouta since the UN Security Council passed a resolution for a 30-day ceasefire to stop the bombs and allow humanitarian access. Chlorine gas has been dropped twice on residential areas and medical centres have been struck. This is horror beyond words, but it can be ended.
For years we have watched Syrian civilians be killed while the world fails to act. The most damaging story that has emerged is that it is a uniquely complicated conflict in human history that has no possible solution. So it’s worth restating the absolutely and utterly possible: these attacks could be stopped tomorrow
. Here’s how:
1. ENFORCE THE CEASEFIRE
. In the 48 hours since the ceasefire the Syrian regime has acted in total defiance of the terms laid out, launching 81 air-strikes, 32 barrel bombs, and 213 artillery shells on the neighbourhoods of Ghouta.
Without consequences for violating the ceasefire, Saturday’s agreement will be condemned to the same rubbish bin of history of multiple other resolutions
. Indeed a similar ceasefire was agreed just before the onslaught of Aleppo in 2016.
We must push our leaders to be ready to use force to uphold the resolution
. The vast majority of deaths in Ghouta are coming from aerial attacks. If the ceasefire is violated, European and US forces could strike the Syrian regime airbases and jets used to drop bombs on civilians. These punitive measures will send an unequivocal message to the Assad regime and Russia that the war crimes against civilians in Ghouta must end.
In addition, Europe and the US must be ready to create real pressure directly on Russia for its conduct in Syria
. Embassies could be kicked out overnight, further sanctions placed on Russia and Putin’s cronies, sponsors could boycott the World Cup, the list is endless. Only an enforced ceasefire can create the conditions needed to end the suffering of families in Ghouta and create the conditions for real negotiations to end the conflict for good.
It’s up to us to flood the inboxes of every UN Security Council member and demand that the ceasefire resolution is enforced by all means necessary
2. USE THIS MOMENT TO PUSH FOR PEACE
. With the world’s eyes on Syria, this moment is used to exert all the diplomatic energy needed for a real, credible peace process. Enforcing this ceasefire would create the conditions to force the Assad regime and its backers to the negotiating table. This same strategy has worked before, when Nato strikes helped end the Bosnian conflict in 1995 by bringing Milošević to the negotiating table.
For years Syrian humanitarians and civil society have called for real measures to be taken to save lives
. Now is the moment to do all we can to amplify this demand. Many Western commentators and politicians have been quick to explain why the above won’t work or point to failed interventions elsewhere, not stopping to consider the particularities of Syria. As people who share values of human rights and solidarity we should be rooting our demands in what Syrians living through the bombing judge to be the best solution -- which is real protection by any means necessary.
For those that still say no I’d ask what is their alternative? Because living in a world where we watch as the remaining millions of civilians living outside of the control of the Assad regime are bombed or starved into submission feels like the most impossible of all options.