The Hague, 6 May 2015 – The campaign group Naame Shaam (1) yesterday published the first open letter out of four to the US President in the Washington Post newspaper. The letter asks Mr Barack Obama to recognize that the so-called regime-held areas of Syria are effectively occupied by the Iranian regime and the militias it controls, and to act decisively to end the bloodshed in Syria.
“Iran is already occupying Syria, Mr. President,” reads the headline of the open letter.
It continues: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ al-Qods Force, headed by General Qassen Soleimani, is in effective control of all major military operations attributed to the Syrian regime. Iranian and Hezbollah Lebanon commanders are in control of most Syrian regime forces, as well as Iraqi and Afghani Shia militias. The Iranian role in Syria amounts to an unlawful military occupation, as defined by the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.”
“In the areas out of their control, barrel bombs, mortars and missiles target civilians daily, with the full knowledge and complicity of Iranian and Hezbollah commanders. Chemical and toxic weapons have frequently been used. The Iranian regime should not get away with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, while also spreading mayhem in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen through the militias it controls there. “
The letter then asks President Obama to:
- Treat the war in Syria as an international armed conflict involving a foreign occupation by the Iranian regime and its militias and a liberation struggle by the Syrian people against this occupation.
- Refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court to investigate the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, including Iran’s and Hezbollah’s role.
- Impose no-fly zones to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access throughout Syria, in line with the international ‘responsibility to protect’ norm.
- Fulfill your promises by arming and training enough moderate Syrian rebels, not only to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked groups, but also Syrian and Iranian regime forces and militias.”
The open letter ends with the message: “Mr. President, the people of Syria need to know that they did not make a mistake in March 2011 when they took to the street demanding freedom and dignity.”
The open letter was accompanied by a photomontage of a Syrian bank note, which Naame Shaam had produced to visualize the Iranian occupation of Syria, carrying the counterfeit of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the de facto ruler of Syria. (2)
Three more open letters from Naame Shaam to President Obama will be published in the same newspaper in May and June.
Notes for editors:
A pdf of page 3 of the Washington Post 5 May 2015, where the open letter was published, can be found below.
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.
3. On 23 April 2015, a Naame Shaam representative handed a copy of our new report (“Silent Sectarian Cleansing: Iranian Role in Mass Demolitions and Population Transfers in Syria”) 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. This should include the role of Iranian officials and commanders, particularly General Qassem Soleimani. This report will be published on May 18. See here.
4. 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.
Attachment: pdf of page 3 of the Washington Post, 5 May 2015