Amnesty International UK
‘We thought the forces who came to evict Daesh would know their business and would target Daesh and leave the civilians alone. We were naïve. By the time we had realised how dangerous it had become everywhere, it was too late; we were trapped.’
Rasha Badran, resident of Raqqa who lost almost her entire family, including her only one-year-old daughter Tulip, whose tiny body they buried near a tree before fleeing the city.
Our team of researchers visited Raqqa, a city in north-east Syria, and reported a level of destruction beyond anything they have seen in decades of covering conflicts around the world.
In June 2017, the US-led coalition – including France and the UK – launched a military operation to force the IS armed group, or so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS), from Raqqa.
But instead of only targeting IS, they killed hundreds and injured thousands of civilians, while obliterating much of the city.
Raqqa’s residents were trapped as fighting raged in Raqqa’s streets between IS militants and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters, all while the coalition’s airstrikes rained down.
A fate worse than Daesh?
Despite the Coalition’s insistence that ‘there has never been a more precise air campaign in the history of armed conflict,’ hundreds of civilians were killed by the aerial bombardment. Our evidence shows that several Coalition attacks violated international humanitarian law.
People we spoke to told us that, even though they suffered immensely during the three and a half years of Islamic State control over the city, the death and destruction caused by the US-led coalition military campaign was worse.
Islamic State operate amongst civilians and use them as human shields – a tactic known well ahead of the campaign. Coalition forces failed to take the precautions needed to minimise harm to civilians.
What you can do
Send an instant email to the UK’s Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to demand that he:
- Proactively investigate UK airstrikes that killed civilians
- Publish the findings, including the number of deaths caused
- Publicly acknowledge that the UK has a responsibility to minimise civilian casualties under international law
- Accurately report the scale of the coalition’s combat operations and the devastating impact on Raqqa’s civilians
By serving justice for those who were unjustly killed in Raqqa, we can help make sure that similar crimes never happen again.