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Cause of Syrian refugee ‘crisis’ is Iranian regime’s support for mass murder and sectarian cleansing in Syria


EU and UN should send bills for dealing with millions of Syrian refugees to Tehran

The Hague, 11 September 2015 – The campaign group Naame Shaam (1) today said the Iranian regime’s support for the mass killing and sectarian cleansing taking place in Syria is the main cause of the growing number of Syrians trying to reach Europe in desperate conditions.

The Iranian regime has also been propping up the Syrian regime economically and spending billions on enabling these crimes. The Assad regime would have collapsed years ago without the massive military and financial aid provided by Sepah Pasdaran, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.(2)

Naame Shaam’s Campaigns Director, Fouad Hamdan, said: “The European Union and the United Nations should send the bills for dealing with millions of Syrian refugees to Tehran, because the Iranian regime is the main cause of all these tragedies. Sepah Pasdaran and its Shia militias, like Hezbollah Lebanon, are effectively an occupying force in the regime-held areas of Syria, and they are the ones that should be held responsible.”

“European countries should unite in dealing with the root cause of the Syrian refugee ‘crisis’ and not contend with dealing with its repercussions, because that will not solve the problem,” he added.

Since the start of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes following ground attacks, massacres and aerial bombardment. In some areas, such as Damascus and Homs, the Iranian and Syrian regimes have also been implementing a systematic policy of forced displacement of civilians and the destruction and appropriation of their property.(3)

Shiar Youssef, the head of Naame Shaam’s Research and Advocacy team, said: “Sepah Pasdaran commanders and the Shia militias they fund and control, like Hezbollah Lebanon, are co-responsible for the crimes and massacres that are driving so many Syrians to flee their country. They are also systematically implementing a state policy of sectarian cleansing in Syria. This policy is being driven by a combination of mafia-style war profiteering linked to the inner circle of the Syrian regime and a ‘Shiatisation’ programme pushed and financed by the Iranian regime and Hezbollah.”

“It should come as no surprise that the consequence of these war crimes and crimes against humanity is millions of refugees and thousands of tragic deaths in the Mediterranean and elsewhere on the way to safety,” he added.

This sectarian cleansing is dramatically changing the demographic composition of some parts of Syria. The ultimate aim of this scheme appears to be securing the Damascus-Homs-Coast corridor along the Lebanese border in order to both provide a geographical and demographic continuity of regime-held areas and secure arms shipments to Iran’s army in Lebanon, Hezbollah. The main driver of this policy, and the effective ruler of regime-held areas in Syria, is Gen Qassem Soleimani, the head of Spah Qods (the foreign arm of Sepah Pasdaran).

Last April Naame Shaam handed a report titled “Silent Sectarian Cleansing: Iranian Role in Mass Demolitions and Population Transfers in Syria” to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, asking the ICC Prosecutor to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes in Syria. (3)

Commenting on the progress with this matter, Hamdan said: “We are still awaiting an answer from the ICC Prosecutor, which we should have received at the latest on 23 June, two months after the official request was made.”(4)

The Syrian and Iranian regimes have been blaming Sunni extremist groups like Daesh (the so-called Islamic State) for the tragedies in Syria. But the fact is that these two regimes have done everything to fuel Sunni extremism and create the current Sunni-Shia conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The attempt by the Syrian and Iranian regimes to sell themselves as ‘partners’ in the global fight against Daesh is pure cynicism.

Hamdan said: “It is obvious that the growing Syrian refugee crisis reflects the state of despair facing Syrians who had fled to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, where most of them live now. Many feel that the US and its Western allies have given up on them after signing the nuclear deal with Iran last July.(5) Many Syrians believe that their country was ‘sold’ for the sake of containing the military nuclear ambitions of the Iranian regime. That is why many of them are risking their lives to reach Europe.”

Naame Shaam has been demanding that the UN Security Council refers the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). All war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria should be investigated and their perpetrators punished according to international law. And this should include the role played by Sepah Pasdaran and the militias it controls in Syria, such as Hezbollah Lebanon.

Naame Shaam also reiterates its call on the US administration to fulfil its promises by arming and training moderate Syrian rebels, not only to fight Daesh but also al-Qaeda-linked groups and Syrian and Iranian regime forces and militias. When enough moderate Syrian rebels have been armed and trained to liberate Syria, no-fly zones should be imposed to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access throughout Syria in line with the international ‘responsibility to protect’ norm.

Notes for editors:

1. Naame Shaam is a group of Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese activists and citizen-journalists that focuses on uncovering the role of the Iranian regime in Syria. Naame Shaam (نامه شام) means “Letter from Syria” in Persian. For more details about the group and its activities, see
Naame Shaam is supported by the Netherlands-based Rule of Law Foundation,

2. For more about the military support provided by the Iranian regime to the Syrian regime, see here.

3. See the Naame Shaam report Silent Sectarian Cleansing: Iranian Role in Mass Demolitions and Population Transfers in Syria, which was released in May 2015.

4. See the press release.
On 23 April 2015, a Naame Shaam representative also handed to the office of ICC Prosecutor, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, another report which was released in November 2014, Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force.

5. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, could prevent the US and its allies from being able to put any serious pressure on the Iranian regime in the future to force it to end its destabilising policies in Syria and elsewhere in the region. Read more about Naam Shaam’s position on the nuclear deal here.

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