The 8th anniversary of the Ghouta Massacre of 21st August 2013
The silence of the international community towards a crime that deserves punishment
On August 21st, 2013, the regime of Bashar al-Assad killed approximately 1500 Syrian citizens in the Ghouta, Damascus countryside, by suffocating them to death with chemical weapons, and wounding 5000 others, most of which were women and children.
Preparations for the massacre started at the beginning of August when Bashar al-Assad threatened to burn the Ghouta in Damascus countryside, and to use all types of weaponry against its people in order to stop the escalation of protests against his regime. Rockets loaded with chemical warheads were delivered to the 155 Brigade stationed near al-Qalamoun.
On the morning of August 21st, the aforementioned brigade launched 16 missiles at 2:31am local time, targeting areas within Eastern Ghouta. An hour later, other missiles were fired at the eastern side of al-Zamalka city near Damascus. At 2:40am, bombs targeting the town of Ain Tarma hit the Al-Zainiyah area, and after two minutes 18 missiles were targeted at the Eastern Ghouta area, falling in between Zamalka and Erbeen. The bombing continued until 5:21am with the firing of two more rockets which targeted the city of al-Moadamiyah in Western Ghouta.
The United States of America, Germany, France, Britain and the Human Rights Watch organisation all blamed the regime of Bashar al-Assad, proving the regime’s responsibility over the massacre. Meanwhile, the Arab League, Turkey and Saudi Arabia called on United Nations inspectors to immediately go and investigate, given they were only a few miles away from the sites of the massacre, however this did not take place as the regime had sealed off the area. After denying the existence of the massacre at first, and only after the multiplication of documented reports particularly the reports of the NGO Doctors Without Borders, the regime along with allied Russia claimed that the massacre was perpetuated by the opposition in order to implicate the Assad regime. In a clear collaboration with the regime, the then PYD Kurdish leader, Saleh Muslim, denied the regime’s involvement in the heinous massacre but he declined to name the perpetrators.
This horrific crime passed in the silence and implicitness of the international community. The criminal who committed the most heinous crime against humanity was not punished for his actions, nor did the international community fulfill its obligations in maintaining peace across the world. The US president at the time, Barack Obama, remained silent and did not live up to the threats he made, should the regime use internationally prohibited chemical weapons. This silence and lack of action is what then encouraged the Assad regime to use the internationally prohibited chemical weapons such as sarin, chlorine and chlorcyanogen amongst other chemicals multiple times since, all over Syria.
The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) reiterates its unequivocal condemnation for this reprehensible crime, whilst also condemning the silence of the international community that encouraged the regime of Bashar al-Assad to repeatedly use chemical weapons against the Syrian people, as exemplified in the Khan Sheikhoun Massacre of 2016.
SHRC holds Bashar al-Assad directly responsible for this massacre, as well as the overall executor of the massacre, General Ghassan Abbas the commander of the 155 Brigade, from which all the missiles were loaded with the internationally prohibited substance and launched.
SHRC further deplores the international community stand for its inability to punish the perpetrators of this barbaric crime, which could not be carried out by anyone with a single shred of humanity in their heart, and in particular the US president who did not implicitly object to the regime’s use of all weapons, rendering only the use of chemical weapons a ‘red line’; yet when the crime was committed, he failed in taking action and instead settled the matter with his Russian counterparts, in a clear betrayal of the civilians who were killed in cold blood.