'Ask a Syrian' campaign highlighted at Humanitarian Summit

More than 80 Syrian NGO’s are urging the world to ‘Ask a Syrian' about the situation in their country so they can better understand the crisis.

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

Syrian activist Dr. Rouba Mhaissen (L) speaks at the World Humanitarian Summit.

Updated May 26, 2016

Representatives from more than 80 Syrian NGO’s have called on the international community to cooperate with activists working on the ground.

Speaking at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit hosted by Turkey, Syrian representatives including academics, doctors and advocates addressed the challenges that activists, also know as local actors, are facing in their joint press release ‘Resolve or Dissolve: Ask a Syrian’.

They urged the world to ''Ask a Syrian'' about the situation in their country to better understand the humanitarian crisis there, as they gave an insight to their press release, which they first presented in mid-May.

Regarding the title of the statement, Dr Rouba Mhaissen of Sawa for Development and Aid said, “Resolve or dissolve. Because we all believe the importance of the big work done by big organisations, but we also believe the evolution, right? Ask a Syrian. We would like you to ask us. Not only in the last stages but from the very start.”

Syrian NGO’s are completely aware of the situation on the ground in Syria. They are also aware of the political challenges the local population faces, as well as their needs. 

A school girl walks past damaged buildings in the opposition-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria October 28, 2015.

Syria Relief and Development’s Turkey director Dr Abdusalam Daif, who drew a quick illustration of the catastrophe, said: “Hospitals and schools are still bombed indiscriminately."

“Families are afraid to send their children to school because of attack threats. Syria is facing dangerous long-term consequences of the conflict, losing a generation.”

Stating that 88 percent of attacks were carried out by Syrian regime forces, Daif also said all schools in Aleppo have stopped their activity because of attacks that have been carried out in recent months.

Daif who now lives in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, occasionally travels to Syria to treat the sick and injured and to support his medical colleagues who remain in the country.

However, he says not everyone was as lucky as him.  

“I've recently lost two of my best doctor friends that I shared the same office with for years. I got out from Syria, but not all doctors did. It’s a real challenge for us.”

A view shows the damage at the Doctors Without Borders (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by regime air strikes, in an opposition-held area of Syria's Aleppo, April 28, 2016.

'Hospitals and schools must be safe'

Head of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations Dr Zedoun Alzoubi, stressed the importance of the UN Security Council having a more active role in Syria. He said that the UN should do so by punishing perpetrators of school and hospital bombings.

“I provide data to the UN Security Council. But the bombings still continue. The only progress is that now physicians are being directly targeted instead of hospitals. But at the moment over 3 million children are not able to attend school.”

Syrian NGO's often stress that the UN's open support to the cause is as important as the humanitarian assistance it provides.

Syrian local actors say international funders hesitate to support education in Syria in fear that it could become a tool in the hands of extremism.

Human rights defenders denounce the unsupportive approach.

They say halting the education system in the country is not a solution to the problem, since children are also victims of terrorism.

Alzoubi also addressed the funding issue that local NGO’s face while trying to educate Syrian children.

“We don’t teach extremist mathematics, we don’t teach extremist biology. This is a problem that needs to be solved.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon after delivering his statement at the World Humanitarian Summit.

“Heavy, heavy heart as receiving number of dead people”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded to concerns that the UN Security Council is not active enough.

“Bombings on hospitals and schools are war crimes. I've made two formal requests to the Secretary Council that those perpetrators who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity must be brought to the International Criminal Court."

Ban also expressed that he's deeply saddened by the ‘terrifying’ situation in Syria.

"I have a thick book with the name of dead that I received with a really heavy, heavy heart. This is a heart-breaking situation."

AUTHORS: Bilge Nesibe Kotan & Ioanna Sakoufaki