The Syrian Women’s Political Movement Letter on Donors Conference in Brussels
- updated: March 15, 2023
The Syrian Women’s Political Movement sent a letter regarding the donors conference in Brussels to the international missions for Syria in the European Union, countries such as France, Germany, Sweden and Netherlands, in addition to the European Union and many stakeholder international organizations.
The Syrian Women’s Political Movement sends you its sincere greetings, we are reaching out to you today to express concerns regarding the potential discrimination and bias in the distribution of the funds granted at the Donors’ Conference to be held this month, March, in Brussels to mobilize the international community in support for the people of Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of the earthquake that hit the two countries on February 6.
The catastrophic earthquake led to more than fifty thousand deaths in Syria and Turkey. Since then, aftershocks and smaller earthquakes have continued to hit the region. The disaster in northern Syria was not only the result of the earthquake, but also the dependence of the local economy on what has been reaching the region through the border crossings for years, as well as the lack and delay of response to this catastrophic situation.
During the first days after the earthquake, the international community was unable to respond quickly to these disasters and their humanitarian repercussions that affected Syrian women and men throughout Syria. In addition, the Syrian regime has not taken any real or urgent actions to help the afflicted Syrian women and men, including those in the affected areas under its control. The Syrian regime also stipulates that all aid must be sent through it or a monopoly of organizations working under its control.
The first organization is the Syrian Red Crescent, whose leaders and some of its members are suspected of being involved in the crimes committed by the Syrian regime against the Syrian people, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. This has been reported by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which makes it unqualified to shoulder the responsibility of providing aid to afflicted Syrians, but instead transfer any aid it receives to finance the war that the regime is carrying out against Syrians. The other organization is the Syrian Trust for Development, which is run by the head of the regime’s wife, Asma al-Assad, who has been listed on US and EU sanctions.
All of this causes us to worry that aid will not reach those who deserve and need it most. Furthermore, the damage caused by the earthquake in northern Syria constitutes 80% of the total damage in Syria, while in areas controlled by the regime constitutes 20%. This raises doubts about the unbiased distribution of humanitarian aids, if aid is sent to respond to the aftermath of the earthquake in Syria through the regime and organizations affiliated therewith.
The situation of the Syrians in Turkey is not better. Nearly one million and eight hundred Syrian refugees were directly and indirectly affected by the catastrophic earthquake in the most affected regions and states. Hence, they are suffering from displacement now in light of lack of clarity in applicability of Turkish measures to Syrians in Turkey. There are also fears of refugees being or feeling forced to return involuntarily. Additionally, a large number of Syrians in Turkey were already living in poverty, since most of them had been earning very low wages from irregular daily jobs, and many have lost their jobs due to the disaster. This is exacerbated for some due to increasingly racist anti-Syrian sentiment and treatment in many communities.
We also stress the importance of taking into consideration the special needs of women when planning the aids and adopting gender sensitivities considerations in urgent aids. This includes things such as: provision of separate bathrooms for women and girls in the camps to ensure privacy and safety, consideration of women’s and girls’ special needs in aid baskets, and providing separate tents for families to ensure privacy for the families.
In light of the above, we in the Syrian Women’s Political Movement call on you to take into consideration the following demands with regard to the Donors’ Conference in response to the earthquake in Syria and Turkey:
- Refusing the participation of Organization or any other body that is affiliated with the Syrian regime as a representative of Syrians in the conference, due to legitimate concerns regarding neutrality of delivery of aid intended for Syrian women and men in distress.
- Working with local organizations in the afflicted areas in Syria, instead of only relying on organizations working in the regime areas to cover the needs of affected Syrians in all of Syria especially ones with women leaders.
- Ensuring long-term delivery of aid through the cross-border mechanism by keeping the border crossings in northern Syria open after the three months period and without requesting the regime’s approval, including by ensuring and relying on a non-politicized international approach.
- Ensuring that humanitarian aid is not reduced at the annual Donors’ Conference for Syria to be held in June under the pretext of the earthquake aftermath response aid provided at the conference to be held later this month.
- Ensuring equal distribution and monitoring aid delivery to all affected Syrians, whether inside the country or those in Turkey, adopting a gender sensitive approach, and blocking attempts to politically exploit aid by the Syrian regime or any de facto authority.
- Preventing the Syrian regime from exploiting the disaster and the aid response to start activities relating to reconstruction; in this regard, we reaffirm that any reconstruction process does not start until a political process according to UNSC Resolution 2254 is irreversibly underway.
- Reaffirming that while the disaster caused by the earthquake requires an urgent and immediate response, the situation in Syria also requires a more sustainable response; accordingly, we strongly urge including support for development projects, which would secure work and a source of livelihood for those affected so that they can be more self-reliant and less dependent on aid.
Finally, we ask you to set a suitable time to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss these demands in more detail and exchange views on ways of cooperating in this regard.
We thank you for your interest and looking forward to your response
General Secretariat of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement
Tuesday, March 14, 2023