Washington DC, 18 May 2015 – The campaign group Naame Shaam (1) today released a new report entitled “Silent Sectarian Cleansing: Iranian Role in Mass Demolitions and Population Transfers in Syria.”
The report, which was launched at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC,(2) accuses the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its Iranian and Lebanese backers of systematic forced displacement of Syrian civilians and the destruction and appropriation of their property in certain parts of Syria, such as Damascus and Homs.
The report argues that these two types of international crimes constitute what appears to be a state policy of sectarian cleansing, 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 its militias.
A ‘silent sectarian cleansing’ is taking place in Syria while the world is silently watching, the report concludes.
Shiar Youssef, the head of Naame Shaam’s Research and Advocacy team, said: “The planned destruction and reconstruction of certain areas in Syria appears to have been intended to punish the communities supporting the revolution or the armed rebels, the majority of which happened to be Sunni.
“It also aims at ‘cleansing’ those areas of all ‘unwanted elements’ and prevent them from returning home in the future, and replacing them with Syrian Alawis and foreign nationals of Shia origin who support the regime.”
“This silent sectarian cleansing is dramatically changing the demographic composition of some parts of Syria,” Youssef added. “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 Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
The Naame Shaam report reveals that the highest levels of the Syrian regime, as well as Iranian and Hezbollah Lebanon leaders and businessmen, are implicated in these war crimes and crimes against humanity.
On 23 April 2015, a Naame Shaam representative handed a copy of the report and other relevant information to the Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor in The Hague and called on the prosecutor to open an investigation into these crimes.(3)
Fouad Hamdan, Naame Shaam’s Campaign Director, said: “We reiterate our call to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor to initiate an investigation into these crimes of her own initiative (proprio motu) on the basis of Naame Shaam’s reports and other available information. This should include the role of Iranian officials and commanders, particularly General Qassem Soleimani.”(4)
“We also appeal to the ICC Prosecutor to accept an offer made public in March 2015 by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (5) to share the names and details of the Commission’s ‘secret lists’ of suspects with any prosecution authorities preparing cases about war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria.”
“Syrians need to believe that justice will prevail,” Hamdan added.
Notes for editors:
- The report in English
- The Executive Summary of the report in Arabic
- The Executive Summary of the report in Persian
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 www.naameshaam.org.
Naame Shaam is supported by the Netherlands-based Rule of Law Foundation, www.lawrules.org.
2. The Middle East Institute in Washington DC, www.mei.edu
3. See here.
4. The ‘Legal Framework’ provided in the second chapter of the report, “Silent Sectarian Cleansing: Iranian Role in Mass Demolitions and Population Transfers in Syria,” argues that the crimes discussed in the report clearly fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The authors therefore urge the ICC prosecutor to use the powers bestowed upon her by Article 15 of the Rome Statute to initiate an international investigation into these crimes, even if this were to be vetoed by Russia and China in the Security Council.
5. For more information about the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic in Geneva, Switzerland, see here.
6. In November 2014, Naame Shaam published an in-depth report on the role of the Iranian regime in the ongoing war in Syria, “Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force”. See the full report here.
The report provides numerous examples and case studies of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria by Iranian-controlled militias and forces, including the ‘crisis cell’ assassination in July 2012 and the Ghouta chemical massacre near Damascus in August 2013. It also highlights ways of bringing possible lawsuits against Iranian regime officials, such as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander-in-chief of Sepah Qods, the foreign arm of Sepah Pasdaran (Iranian Revolutionary Guards).
The authors argue that there is sufficient evidence for the ICC to try the military and political leadership of Iran for complicity in various crimes committed in Syria. This ranges from inciting, endorsing and adopting specific criminal and terrorist acts to aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The 2014 report also presents a legal case for treating the war in Syria as an international conflict that involves a foreign occupation by the Iranian regime and its militias and a liberation struggle by Syrian people against this foreign occupation, as defined by the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.