Millions of Syrians have been killed, tortured or displaced, but new catastrophes must be prevented, say UK-based academics.
The necessary measures must be put in place “to prevent the occurrence of great catastrophes” against civilians in Syria, according to the CEO and founder of The Cordoba Foundation, a London-based research and advocacy group that promotes religious and cultural understanding.
“The world must agree to adopt sufficient measures that stem the desires of rogue regimes such as the Assad regime in Damascus and many others in our midst today,” said Anas Altikriti, speaking to Anadolu Agency as a decade of unrest, civil war, and suffering of millions of Syrians was marked last week.
“It is quite a damning indictment of the international community, governments, along with international agencies that a catastrophe the scale of the Syrian crisis was left to expand and deepen over a decade with virtually no consequence for those who perpetuated this immeasurable crime against the Syrian people,” Altikriti said.
Assad regime attacks must be prevented
“However, it must be seen that the ultimate priority right now is to ensure that the Asaad regime is prevented from continuing its attacks against Syrian towns and cities and that Syrians are able to return to safe and secure homes,” he said.
Underlining the necessity of a judicial process against the war criminals in Syria, Altikriti said victims need to be “compensated in whatever way appropriate.”
“The suffering of the Syrian people, who desired no more than freedom, reforms, and justice, must never be allowed to be in vain. Without this, there will be no end in sight to the tragedy that has engulfed Syria and millions of Syrians for the past ten years.
“Finally, measures must be put in place to prevent the occurrence of such catastrophes against innocent civilians ever again, whether it be on the level of international law, politics, economic interests, or security,” he said.
Altikriti said governments worldwide “must support efforts” to bring those responsible for war crimes and atrocities in Syria to justice.
“European governments, in particular, are holding an extremely peculiar position in respect to Syria: while claiming to uphold humanitarian values, Syrians fleeing the bloodshed are being prevented from reaching safety in Europe and are often sent back to where they are likely to be killed, and when efforts are made to bring the Syrian regime to account, they fail to afford those efforts the support it needs to be seen through,” he said.
Commending Turkey’s hosting of nearly 4 million Syrian refugees, Altikriti said: “It is a fact that the only government that opened its borders to Syrian refugees in their millions and allowed them access to a residence, employment and various forms of assistance in Turkey.
“The fact that Europe adopts such a hostile stand regarding Turkey is in itself an inexplicable stand, given that it is doing what Europe should have done a long time ago.”
Echoing him, Dr. Abdullah Faliq, executive director of the London-based Centre for British-Turkish Understanding, said, “Turkey’s decision to welcome mass numbers of refugees is based as much on faith, human compassion, and solidarity as it is on international law.”
“Currently, Turkey hosts more refugees and asylum seekers than any other state on earth,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“It ought to be noted that hosting refugees in Turkey is not new; the Ottoman Empire welcomed Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492,” Faliq said.
“This backdrop is important to note as Turkey opened its borders to welcome and shelter that fleeing persecution, especially from Syria. Sadly, the same can’t be said about other countries, namely [those of] the EU, which has an agreement to support Turkey financially to host the refugees. The agreement largely remains unfulfilled.”
Faliq said the UN has acknowledged “Turkey’s distinguished role in extending help to the refugees.”
“But this state of play cannot continue like this. The international community needs to act and act fast to help the Syrians.”
Faliq also said that serious force and pressure “need to be put on the perpetrators, Bashar al-Assad and his regime, to stop the killing and the destruction in Syria.”
“He and his henchmen need to be tried for crimes against humanity. In tandem, the basic foundations of any civilized society — the rule of law, safety and security, justice, freedom and due process – need to be instituted. This may be a tall order given the dire situation in Syria today, but there is no alternative to this.
“The people of Syria are crying out for a lasting solution, and it is the obligation of the international community and all decent people around the world to help the Syrians at their hour of need. The suffering has gone for too long; no longer can the international community sit idly by,” he said.
Crimes against humanity
Pointing out that the killings, mass detainment, and torture in Syria are of “an industrial scale” and nothing short of crimes against humanity, Faliq argued that bringing the perpetrators to justice is possible.
“We have examples of other perpetrators who were pursued, captured, and tried for crimes against humanity — Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic, and Slobodan Milosevic, for example,” he said, referring to three high-profile masterminds of the Bosnian genocide.
“There are developments in other countries such as with the plight of the Rohingya. The same is possible in Syria, provided there is a strong resolve to pursue Bashar and his regime. The efforts of the Canadian and Dutch governments in this regard are a step in the right direction, and they should be supported.”
Faliq said more countries need to step up as a matter of urgency.
“Like Turkey, they need to abide by the international law principle of non-refoulment, i.e., rejecting the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they are liable to persecution,” he said.
“The general lackluster and inconsistent approach by most European countries to the plight of the Syrian refugees needs to change. Expressing concern for the refugees on the one hand, but preventing them from accessing safety in Europe on the other, is rather telling.
“Words must be matched by action. Turkey is doing just that,” he added.
PKK/YPG, a big challenge before lasting peace in Syria
“Achieving peace is a long journey that is fraught with challenges and obstacles. Clearly, terrorist groups like the PKK/YPG are bent on causing turmoil and destabilizing the region,” Faliq said.
“The perpetrators of terrorism and violence need to be brought to justice. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to their violence and ill motives. We need to be consistent when dealing with extremists and terrorists, whether it is the PKK/YPG or Daesh.”
“Peace will come to the region eventually, and we must remain resolute in seeking such a future,” he added.
Altikriti also said the terrorist organizations are and will continue to be “a destabilizing factor to the entire region and a justification for the stalling of various crucial processes, including transitional justice and the return of refugees and displaced civilians.”
“In addition, the havoc they continue to pursue and how various regimes utilize their presence to bring about respective interests that are usually destructive in nature adds to the reasons that they must be eliminated in order to bring about any sense of stability or security.”