The Hague, 20 May 2015 – The campaign group Naame Shaam (1) yesterday published the second open letter out of four to the US President in the Washington Post newspaper. The letter focuses on the role of the Syrian regime and its Iranian backers in mass demolitions and population transfers in Syria.
“A silent sectarian cleansing is taking place in Syria, Mr. President,” reads the headline of the open letter.
It continues: “Syrian regime forces and Iranian-controlled militias have been destroying and appropriating civilian property en masse in certain parts of Syria. They have also been forcibly displacing and transferring civilian population in and out of these areas, coupled with dubious ‘reconstruction’ projects. The majority of those affected happen to be Sunni. The result is changing Syria’s demographic composition.
“Together, these war crimes and crimes against humanity constitute a deliberate policy of sectarian cleansing that is being implemented under the cover of the war. The ultimate aim of this scheme is to secure the Damascus–Homs–Coast corridor along the Lebanese border in order to both provide a geographical and demographic continuity of so-called regime-held areas and to secure arms shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
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.
- Fulfil 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)
Two more open letters from Naame Shaam to President Obama will be published in the same newspaper in June.
Notes for editors:
A pdf of page A13 of the Washington Post, 19 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.
2. See here.
3. On 23 April 2015, a Naame Shaam representative handed a copy of the 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. Naame Shaam 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. See: www.naameshaam.org/naame-shaam-report-icc-prosecutor/
The report was published on 18 May 2015. The full report is available 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. The full report, “Iran in Syria: From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force”, is avilable 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.