February 14, 2020

Letter to the UN Secretary-General

We sent the below letter to the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on behalf of doctors, nurses, and humanitarian workers from Idlib who have invited the Secretary-General to visit Idlib

H.E. Mr. António Guterres

Secretary-General of the United Nations

United Nations Headquarters

New York, NY 10017

14 February 2020

Dear Secretary-General,

I am writing on behalf of doctors, nurses, and humanitarian workers in Idlib who are inviting you to visit Idlib like you have visited other disaster areas before. Over the past week, they have been sharing photos from medical facilities in Idlib, using the hashtag #GuterresVisitIdlib. 

Idlib has been under attack since 2012, including by chemical and other internationally prohibited weapons, but what we’re witnessing today is unprecedented. According to the latest UN figures, 832,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since December. This figure is growing daily as Syrian and Russian forces show no sign of halting their aerial attacks on the province of Idlib and the western countryside of Aleppo. It is estimated that 60% of those who fled their homes are children. 

Village after village is being emptied out of inhabitants. Families are fleeing on foot, motorbikes, and in trucks that are increasingly scarce. Most are hoping to find shelter in the shrinking area between the frontline and the border with Turkey, but camps are already over capacity several times over and there are no available houses for the newcomers. As a result many have sought shelter in unfinished buildings, under flimsy tents, or out in the open in temperatures as low as -7 degrees. Several children have died due to the cold. Imagine the tragedy of a parent who couldn’t keep their child warm. 

Local medical and humanitarian workers are doing everything they can to help but they’re operating under the most difficult conditions. Syrian and Russian warplanes are deliberately targeting the rescue workers who rush to carry the injured to safety and the doctors who treat them in hospitals. In just six weeks, more than 72 medical facilities have suspended their work either because they were bombed or evacuated for security reasons, or due to the mass displacement of residents where they operate. 

In the face of these horrors Syrians feel completely abandoned by the institutions that were supposed to protect them. For nine years every resolution aimed to stop the bombs has been blocked or violated by Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council. Humanitarian aid is not reaching those who desperately need it. Hospitals whose coordinates were shared with the UN in hopes of protection have been deliberately bombed. Your Board of Inquiry into these attacks, which at first offered a glimmer of hope for accountability, has significantly delayed its findings and you have not even guaranteed it will be public or assign responsibility to the perpetrators. There seems to be no plan for the 832,000 recently displaced people and no pressure on Turkey to open its border and allow safe passage or on other countries to share the responsibility of accepting more refugees. 

The United Nations has utterly failed the Syrian people and the international principles espoused after the second world war have been rendered meaningless.

Mr. Guterres, the doctors and humanitarians of Idlib have issued you this invite in hope that you would show solidarity with them and take a stand with those who were forced to gather their precious belongings and flee their homes under the cover of night. They would like you to see for yourself the war crimes being committed against them almost every day. Issuing statements of concern from Manhattan is not enough. 

Standing on the Turkish border in solidarity with civilians in Idlib would be a great act of solidarity and leadership. Please find photos and statements from Idlib’s doctors here.

We sincerely hope that you would heed this invitation and look forward to hearing your response. 


The Syria Campaign