Saturday, 30 May 2015

Barrel bombs killed 71 people today: Call for action

Cross-posted from Syria Solidarity UK.

BBC News reports at least 71 people killed by barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo province today.

The Syrian Observer translated a report this week about how barrel bombs are made:

Banias is home to the “barrel factory”, as Nazih calls it. An employee at the Banias refinery for a decade, the 40-year-old engineer claims to have never presumed something secret was going on within its walls.

When Syria’s oil production decreased by 90 percent following the rise of ISIS, which seized a majority of Syria’s oil wells in the process, work at the refinery stopped.

“They are using the maintenance and pipelines welding workshop to make these barrels,” says Nazih. For around a month, Nazih has been aware of the factory’s true purpose, but it is clear from his behavior that he is still in a state of shock.

“One of my tasks required me to visit to the headquarters of a maintenance and welding workshop. I saw the construction of vast empty barrels in the rear yard, there was no need for further explanation—it was clear,” Nazih continued.

Nazih headed to his colleague, an engineer and the chief of the workshop. An Alawite man in his 50s, Nazih finds him witty and enjoys drinking tea with him from time to time. When Nazih inquired about the barrels, the workshop chief simply replied: “We are manufacturing barrels to kill the dogs and burn them.”

“I tried to explain to him that the barrels are a random and blind weapon, he did not listen… he was perhaps annoyed,” Nazih says. The chief of the workshop explained the details of making the barrels with pride. He talked about the bolts, the large nails and the sharp metal triangles added to the barrel full of explosives, Nazih said.

Curious, Nazih asked: “How much does each of them cost?”

“Less than 20,000 Syrian pounds (75 USD),” the chief replied.

The UK has the ability to stop this happening. Write to your MP here.

Download and share our demand for action: Ongoing chemical weapons attacks and bombing of civilians by the Syrian Air Force: A call for action (PDF)

Monday, 25 May 2015

Video: Peter Tatchell on Syria

Peter Tatchell on why the international community needs to act on Syria.

More from Peter Tatchell at

Via Syria Solidarity UK.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The No-Fly Zone Debate

From Syria Solidarity Movement UK:


Syria Solidarity Movement UK decided at the start of this year to call for a no-fly zone. It’s a controversial position, and even within Syria Solidarity UK opinion is not uniform: some supporters have strong objections, and some have caveats.

We make our call for a no-fly zone in solidarity with Syrians: with Syria Civil Defence rescue volunteers, with non-violent activists of the Planet Syria campaign, with Syrian doctors, with the Syrian Coalition, with Syrians who first called for a no-fly zone in street demonstrations as long ago as October 2011.

To encourage debate we would like to publish a set of arguments both for and against, as well as explorations of issues involved in choosing one form of no-fly zone versus another. Submissions are welcome from all. We hope to be able to present a broad selection of opinion, not just from within Syria Solidarity UK.

Please email submissions to:

Read more at the Syria Solidarity UK site.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Over 29,000 civilians killed in Syria since British MPs rejected action

This is an updated version of an earlier post.

The Violations Documentation Center in Syria now lists 29,003 civilians killed since the 29 August 2013 UK Parliament vote against intervention.

This total includes 379 civilians killed by rebels listed under ‘Regime’ casualties. 28,624 are listed under ‘Martyrs’, a figure which includes 254 killed by US-led Coalition air strikes, leaving 28,370 civilians killed by the regime or others.

VDC figures are a minimum count of people confirmed killed, and as omniscience is impossible, even more so in wartime, this is certain to be an undercount. When compared to the latest UN minimum count of 191,369 confirmed violent deaths (both civilians and combatants) up to the end of April 2014, VDC figures for the same period show only 109,648 killed. (95,199 under ‘Martyrs’ and 14,449 under ’Regime’.)

If the VDC figure for civilians killed since the 2013 vote were found to be an undercount to the same degree, then the actual figure would be over 50,000 civilians killed since the UK Parliament rejected intervention.

Amongst the 29,003 civilians that VDC Syria have confirmed as killed since the UK vote are 11,029 people killed by air attacks. 254 of them were killed by US-led strikes, and 10,775 were killed by Assad’s air force. That means at least 37% of all civilians confirmed killed since the vote could have been saved had a No-Fly Zone been enforced against Assad’s air force. Again, the confirmed number is certainly an undercount, possibly by thousands.

Amongst women the proportion killed by air attacks is higher: over 45% of adult women civilians confirmed killed since the 2013 Parliamentary vote against action were killed by regime air attacks. In 2014 the proportion rose: over 50% of women confirmed killed in 2014 were killed by regime air attacks. So far in 2015, over 51% of women confirmed killed have been killed by regime air attacks.

Amongst children killed, over 49% of boys confirmed killed since the 2013 vote were killed by regime air attacks. Over 53% of girls killed were killed by regime air attacks. Again, the proportion rose in 2014. And so far in 2015 it is higher still: 56% of boys confirmed killed since the start of this year were killed by regime air attacks, and over 55% of girls killed since the start of the year were killed by regime air attacks.

Air attacks by the regime are a key driver of refugee flows: see Barrel Bombs and the Regime’s Strategy of Urban Warfare by Ryan O’Farrell, and the March 2014 Human Rights Watch report, Unlawful Air Attacks Terrorize Aleppo.

As with confirmed figures for violent deaths, UNHCR numbers for registered refugees are also necessarily lower than the actual number of people to have fled Syria. When the UK Parliament debated intervention on the 29th of August 2013 the number of registered Syrian refugees in the region was 1,830,557. The current number of registered Syrian refugees is 3,977,538, well over twice as many as when Parliament voted.

Those numbers don’t include Syrian refugees outside the Middle East and North Africa. 222,225 Syrians sought asylum in Europe from April 2011 to the end of 2014.

Protect Civilians
Enforce UN Security Council Resolution 2139
Syria needs a No-Fly Zone

In giving these numbers, I am trying to demonstrate the scale of the consequences of the decisions made by MPs in August 2013. I have not shown graphic images of the butchery that continues every day, but you should remember that these are not peaceful deaths, eased by painkillers in quiet hospital beds. And for every body fatally ripped apart there are untold others maimed for life. And they all have names, or had them once.

Below are the confirmed killed for one day, 25 December 2014.

Click to enlarge.