UN rights chief voices concern about escalating crisis in Idlib as 200,000 people displaced

Published 26.06.2019 00:33

The U.N.'s top human rights official on Monday expressed concern about the aggression of the Syrian regime and its allies targeting public facilities in the northwestern city of Idlib.

Inaugurating the 41st session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, commented on diverse issues ranging from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the crackdown in Sudan, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and the conditions of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China.

Bachelet told members during the session that 200,000 people have been displaced due to ongoing clashes in Idlib. "The recent and continuing military escalations in Syria, in Idlib and western Aleppo city are of extreme concern. The office [UNHRC] has received reports of hundreds of ongoing civilian casualties and destruction to civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools," she said.

Bachelet, a politician who served as president of Chile from 2006 to 2010, said the Syrian regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected severity in early 2011 and triggered a civil war, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Since late April, Idlib has been under the relentless bombardment of the Bashar Assad regime and its ally Russia. The attacks have killed nearly 500 civilians so far. The violence has forced around 330,000 people to flee their homes and has damaged 23 health centers, the United Nations said.

Being the opposition's last enclave, Idlib's prewar population of 1.5 million has swelled to around 3 million with new refugee waves after it was designated a "de-escalation zone" under the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran in May 2017 to pave the way for a permanent political solution in Syria.

Turkey and Russia inked a deal for a buffer zone in September in Sochi to prevent a massive regime offensive on the Idlib region, near the Turkish border. Following eight months of calm provided by the Sochi deal, the Assad regime intensified its attacks starting April 26 under the pretext of fighting Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants holed up in Idlib.

Meanwhile, regarding the developments in Idlib, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) spokesperson Ömer Çelik said they had called on the international community to take action against the Syrian regime's attacks.

Trail of Daesh terrorists, relatives

Bachelet also flagged the issue of foreign terrorists of Daesh and their families detained in Syria and Iraq. She insisted that countries must take responsibility for their nationals caught up in the war. She said following the collapse of Daesh, more than 55,000 suspected terrorists and their families from nearly 50 countries remain detained in Syria and Iraq. Out of them, 11,000 family members are being held in Syria's al-Hol camp.

"It must be clear that all individuals who are suspected of crimes, whatever their country of origin, and whatever the nature of the crime, should face investigation and prosecution with due process. Accountability, with fair trials, protects societies from future radicalization and violence," she said. "UNICEF estimates there are 29,000 children of foreign fighters in Syria, 20,000 from Iraq, most of them under the age of 12," she said.

Daesh started gaining control in Iraq and later in Syria in 2014 through a campaign of violence, invasion and extreme brutality against residents.

At the height of Daesh's power, hundreds of foreign fighters, including Turks, streamed in to join the self-proclaimed caliphate. Some militants took their young children with them to Daesh-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq.

Following a period of expansion from 2014 to 2015, Daesh went into a gradual decline, with the U.S.-led coalition bombings weakening the group. The international community has been fighting against Daesh for years, but this bloody group remained undefeated with its militias.

According to the 2018 report "From Daesh to Diaspora," issued by the International Center for Study of Radicalization that traced the women and minors connected to the terrorist organization, at least 41,490 citizens from 80 countries traveled to Syria and Iraq.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter