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The violence and targeting of civilians in Syria must stop

During the past few weeks, the violence in Syria has escalated rapidly, with shelling and offensives, especially in Eastern Ghouta but also in other places across the country.

– Kvinna till Kvinna stands in strong solidarity with Syrian women’s organisations and all the people of Eastern Ghouta and in Syria, says Kvinna till Kvinna’s acting Secretary General Petra Tötterman Andorff. We join other international-, and human rights organizations outcry as we urge the international community to act immediately.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege by the Syrian regime and its allies since the end of 2013. 400,000 people have been cut off from medicine, food and the outside world. Access to health- and basic services is severely limited, and disproportionately so for women and girls. The past few days have seen increased airstrikes, shelling and bombardment by the Syrian regime and its allies.

– Kvinna till Kvinna is born out of women’s suffering in another war, 25 years ago, when the world didn’t act in time for an end to the violence in the Balkans, Petra Tötterman Andorff recalls. I want to believe that we as an international community have learnt from our lessons. We have a responsibility to listen and act on the voices of civilians, including women, struggling for an end to this mad violence. The killing must end now.

According to human rights monitors and aid agencies, the ongoing strikes have killed more than 300 people and injured hundreds more. Civilian infrastructure has also been severely affected, with reports of more than 20 medical facilities being targeted since Monday Feb 19.

Now families have retreated to makeshift underground shelters with limited food and water as they try to shelter from the intense bombardment. Stories from these shelters have reached the outside world. As a woman in Eastern Ghouta shares:

“The bombing did not stop all night long yesterday. […] We have not been able to sleep since yesterday night. […] I could no longer hear the sounds of bombing, the fear and the trembling stopped and I felt like I travelled to another world. My daughter was next to me, I hugged her and we slept.”

The United Nations children’s fund UNICEF has expressed its outrage at the escalating violence in Syria’s East Ghouta by releasing a blank statement, because “no words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones”.

– I think we all feel a lack of words right now. The stalemate in the UN Security Council is completely unacceptable. The international community must take immediate action to ensure the protection of civilians and access for humanitarian actors. We also desperately need to see renewed pressure for a political solution, that includes women’s participation, to end this deadly conflict, says Petra Tötterman Andorff

Updated in: 2018-02-23