Press release / January 18, 2022

Press release: Syrian victims and human rights groups urge Biden to step up diplomacy efforts

18 January 2022

Syrian human rights organisations have written to President Biden expressing their disappointment at the lack of a clear US foreign policy stance over Syria and urging him to take immediate concrete steps to demonstrate that the US remains committed to protecting the human rights of all Syrians.

In an open letter published today, marking Biden’s first anniversary in office, over 30 groups highlighted how Syrians worldwide have been disappointed by the president’s failure to put in place a robust US foreign policy strategy for Syria despite pledging to make human rights a priority in his government.

The letter also criticises the Biden administration for remaining silent in recent months as several Arab states – including key US allies – have taken steps to rekindle their ties with the Assad regime,

Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, a co-signer to the letter, said:

“The US has long been an ally and friend of the Syrian people. We at Syria Civil Defence – the White Helmets – are proud of the work we have done together to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrians. But we need the US to use its voice and to speak out for Syrians. It is senseless to continue to send funds to support the humanitarian response without also addressing the root cause of the suffering. The Biden Administration needs to send a clear message that Assad is a criminal and has used internationally prohibited chemical weapons, targeting civilians, humanitarian workers and medical staff with laser-guided missiles in their homes and workplaces. The international community must hold the Syrian regime accountable and not normalize with Assad and give him more opportunities to kill and displace Syrians.”

Fadel Abdulghany, Executive Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a co-signer to the letter, said:

“After last week’s verdict in the German courts against the Assad regime’s crimes against humanity – that the court considered systemic and widespread – all countries in the world, and especially the USA, must prevent and prohibit any relations with the Syrian Regime. Engaging with the regime amounts to encouraging and supporting ongoing crimes against humanity.”

Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign, a co-signer to the letter, said:

“Many Syrians who hoped that President Biden’s election would herald a renewed era of engagement and diplomacy over Syria have been bitterly disappointed. In particular the Biden administration’s resounding silence over US allies taking steps to normalise ties with the Assad regime is deeply alarming and sets a dangerous precedent. By turning a blind eye to these developments, the US government is in danger of emboldening more states to follow suit and diminishing prospects for a peaceful and democratic future for Syria.”

The letter calls on President Biden to take five key steps to show that the US government is serious about tackling human rights in Syria. These include appointing a Syria envoy to pursue a political resolution to the conflict, actively dissuading countries from normalising ties with the regime and ramping up consequences on states facilitating human rights violations in Syria, as well as protecting civilian lives and pushing for justice and an end to mass arbitrary detention and forced disappearance.


Notes to editor: