Dr. Radwan Ziadeh
Head of the Syrian Commission for Transitional Justice
In the beginning of 2012, the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Victims of the Syrian Revolution (ADVR) was born here in Istanbul with the hope of gathering the victims, affirming their presence, and giving them a voice on accountability and justice, particularly after that voice had faded due to the lengthy conflict and the significant increase in the number of victims. Nonetheless every victim that falls in any moment will be a reminder for us to stand up for our duties to him, to this country, and for the freedom that he died seeking.
The Syrian tragedy is becoming deeper, and what is happening today in Aleppo with the non-stop rain of death barrels reveals the magnitude of destruction that Assad is deliberately trying to cause for Syria after him: a wasteland, a torn society, economic breakdown, refugees and displaced people, disfigured history, and a complete elimination of the concept of the right to live through indiscriminate murder, and through victimizing the Syrian people using different methods such as chemical weapons and recently starvation.
Historians will remember the Syrian revolution with various and unique names and incidents. This is largely due to the special brutality and bloodthirstiness of the Assad regime, and the special determination of the Syrian people to get rid of the Assad regime at any cost.
The cause of death varies in the prisons of the Assad regime. However the worst is dying under torture because it is greatly degrading and insulting to human dignity. Unfortunately torture is not conducted against adult males alone, but there are also woman and children who are subject to torture. The cases of Hamza Al-Khatib and Tamer Ash-Shar’ie tell us a lot about the brutality of Assad and his subordinates. The number of victims who died under torture is increasing daily and every time I read about such a case my hatred grows for Assad and his regime for bringing back the dark ages with their torturing of the Syrian people.
What’s even worse is starving to death. Every day in Al-Yarmouk camp and Al-Mu’damya, we see young flowers fading bit by bit until they die. The shame is not only on Assad but also on the international community that allowed such things to happen. We haven’t even sensed real political pressure to put an end to this shame that is all over us, a shame that will not disappear easily from our memories so we can justify this neglect by forgetting. Every day in Syria, which is most known for its goods and historical civilizations, more Syrian and Palestinians are dying due to starving under a siege that is enforced by a hateful group that never belonged even a bit to Syria, deserved to live in it, or was a part of a civilization or witnessed it. The regime belongs to a pre-civilized age, when brutality and barbarism ruled.
When Mahmoud Al-Jwabra, Ghyath Matar, Hamza Al-Khatib, Tamer Ash-Shar’ie, Tareq Al-Aswad, and others, gathered by innocence and will, decided to stand against a dictatorial regime, no one imagined that death was their only option. But with their sacrifice they light a candle for our future and put on our shoulders the responsibility of never letting this candle go out.
The families of all those victims are gathered today to establish this association in order to become the voice that will demand righteousness and fairness, to become the voice of justice in the Geneva negotiations and ever after, and to tell Syria and the whole world that we cannot turn a new page easily in Syria. We must demand accountability, bring justice and compensation for all the victims and ensure they have a role in the political future of Syria.
We quite frequently forget the cause of the victims in the midst of political negotiations and in the realm of settlements, and we also, perhaps on purpose, forget it again to avoid paying the necessary cost for the various parties.
We say today that there will be no settlement in Syria today without giving the families of the victims the most prominent voice in demanding justice, accountability, and compensation.