Eastern Ghouta: A new Sarajevo. Again and again!

Following the dramatic situation in Eastern Ghouta, Karl Blanchet, Director of the Health in Humanitarian Crisis Centre, has issued the following statement:

I am shocked and horrified by the persistent attacks and bombings on civilians in Eastern Ghouta. The 400,000 civilians living in this enclave in the periphery of Damascus have experienced four days of relentless attacks by the Syrian army. They have been living under siege since 2013, with limited access to basic services and humanitarian aid. Five hospitals that typically provide 10,000 consultations, 1,200 surgeries and around 200 births each month have been bombed by the Syrian armed forces. Who in the Syrian regime condoned hospitals as military targets, contributing to even more indirect deaths through destroying access to healthcare? Who has declared that civilians should become the new enemies?

The International Humanitarian Law, specifically created to protect civilians, has been blatantly and deliberately flouted again and again. The Syrian situation is once more the obvious demonstration of the incapacity of our international legal system to function and control human cruelty and violence. The international community is watching Eastern Ghouta burning in front of their eyes, unable to negotiate a cease fire, unable to stop this barbarism.

These atrocities remind me of what we experienced in Bosnia and more specifically in Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995: a civilian population under siege, targeted by armed forces killing children, women and men in full view of the international community. We humanitarians had access to a corridor to provide assistance to populations. But populations needed a political solution rather than perfused humanitarian aid. It took four long years before the international community reacted to the atrocities in Sarajevo, four long years at the cost of 14,000 deaths.

Why do we repeat the same errors and take so long to respond? Why do so many civilians have to pay the ultimate price and such pain due to our inaction? This massacre has to stop through a strong international political decision. In the meantime, civilians need to be urgently evacuated! In the meantime, civilians need to be urgently evacuated!