By Mahak Paliwal
Douma is a city situated in the Eastern Ghouta, which is located in a suburb east of Damascus. The Eastern Ghouta portrays the agony of approximately 4,00,000 souls who are dying every day under the atrocities committed by the government of Syria and allied military since 2013. This suburban area remains the ultimate rebel zone located in the vicinity of the capital. The conflict that took place in 2017 was an inter-rebel conflict amidst the Tahrir al-Sham and al-Rahman Legion on one side and Jaysh al-Islam on another side. A similar conflict was established between the groups in 2016 as well before implementation of the ceasefire. The city has witnessed the worst slaughter ever in past years which worsened overnight. The state of Syria has already been warned by the United Nations to stabilize the conditions and bring peace in the region of Damascus. The United Nations demanded the release of all the victims who were ill and wounded.
As per the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, consistent heavy aerial bombardment by Syrian and Russian forces has resulted in the death of not less than 47 residents. The tally further increased to 78 with the last rebel that took place near Damascus. The observatories reported approximately 335 deaths since the rebel started about six weeks ago. The activists claim the current situation to be the worst the country has ever come across with hundreds of people dying and thousands of them suffering from hunger and lack of medical supplies or health services.
“Today is not so difficult as it was yesterday because there are no warplanes or any raids till now, just heavy artillery bombardments … like surface-to-surface rockets, which are targeting the buildings and the population,” says a Syrian activist. The occupants are inclined to stay undergrounds accommodating themselves in the basements or the cellars as a result of the massive bombardment. The hospitals all around the city are filled with people carrying their babies wearing oxygen masks and screaming. Anas al-Ta’an a resident of Syria says, “We don’t know whether to hide in the basement from the strikes or risk it to stand in line for two hours in the hopes of getting bread for our children. This is the choice we make, and the situation is beyond tragic.”
The Genesis of Syrian Crisis
The outset of the ongoing crisis can be traced back to 2012. In the month of July approximately a year subsequent to the beginning of the regime, the attacks began which led to the control of rebels over certain suburban areas although a large portion was safe in the hands of the regimes. By the end of 2012, the Eastern Ghouta became a prominent rebel base resulting in everyday bombings and artillery strikes and hitting of markets, schools, and hospitals. A chemical attack by the rebels in 2013 resulted in setting up of another base station near Damascus, Moadamiyet al-Sham. Further, years 2014 and 2015 observed the exceptional flow of chlorine gas attacks resulting in the wide-scale destruction of lives and properties. In 2016, the Syrian humanitarian crisis reached its worst stage ever, when the rebels brought a huge number of habitats under the purview of their “deliberate tactic of cruelty”. Last year in the month of April, the rebels launched a least desirable sarin gas attack on the opponent causing extreme agony to the people dwelling in the area. The Syrian air force was adversely blamed for the same by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Human Rights Groups and the Syrian State
The human rights observers in Syria claimed that the “gasses” released during the attack on Douma were the cause of “cases of suffocation” referring to medical evidence and other sources. Paulo Pinheiro who is heading the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria constituted by the United Nations made a statement saying that he along with team is examining the reports which testify the use of weaponized chlorine in the recent attack on Eastern Ghouta. The experts are enquiring two reports of acclaimed chlorine bombing that took place in two towns of Eastern Ghouta namely Douma and Saraqeb in Idlib. He described the attacks as “extremely troubling” and added that the attacks on Eastern Ghouta involve “the international crimes of indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate starvation of the civilian population”. Prior to the formulation of an expert commission, the UN jointly with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has already inquired into the usage of sarin and chlorine in the weapons. UNICEF reports have presented the worst level of nutrition in Syria since the war began. The increased atrocities and death tolls are leading to increased question mark upon the role of human rights organization on an international level.