Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Artyom Kozhin’s answer to an RT question concerning the situation in Raqqa

Wednesday, 06 June 2018 00:04

Question: The media have often written about a humanitarian catastrophe in Raqqa lately. Would you, please, comment on this?

Artyom Kozhin: On June 6 a year ago, the US-led coalition launched an operation to “liberate” Raqqa from ISIS.

The siege of this city, a large city for Syria and the centre of the province of Raqqa, continued until October 17, 2017 when it was announced that the city had been cleansed of ISIS terrorists. This was the largest victory of the US-led coalition in Syria. The world is only now learning about the high price Syrians had to pay for this.

Reports from various sources have laid bare the Western myth about the “liberation” of Raqqa. The city was mostly razed and many city residents – the number cannot be reliably counted – were killed and lie buried in the ruins.

The media reported a statement by a high-ranking US military official who said that over the four months of the siege of Raqqa more artillery shells were launched into the Syrian city than anywhere else since the Vietnam War.

The results of US artillery attacks and US, British and French airstrikes are clearly visible all around Raqqa. Nobody is restoring the ruined city. The occupied city does not have a government that cares about its living residents.

There is shocking evidence in a recent report published by the international human rights organisation Amnesty International, which writes about the fate of four typical Raqqa families: Aswad, Hashish, Badran and Fayad. Each of these families lost at least a dozen relatives during the “liberation” campaign. None of their dead were connected to ISIS in any way. The living family members say there were no ISIS fighters near their buildings during the coalition attacks.

“If you stayed you died, and if you tried to escape you died,” said one of these survivors. The “liberators” did not take time to distinguish between military targets and buildings where civilians were hiding.

Assessing the consequences of these disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks, Amnesty International, which can hardly be suspected of sympathy for the Syrian “regime,” has concluded that Coalition forces failed to take all feasible precautions to minimise harm to civilians and that these actions can therefore be considered a violation of international humanitarian law or may even amount, in some cases that should be investigated, to war crimes.                                                                                           

I repeat that this is not our conclusion but the conclusion of an international human rights organisation.

The situation in Raqqa is further complicated by the fact that nothing has been done over the nine months since ISIS was ousted from the city to improve the life of the remaining city residents. International organisations that deliver humanitarian aid say they cannot work in Raqqa and that there are no safe places to establish offices or sites from which to distribute aid among the people, because of the threat of mines. Several people are killed by mines and unexploded ordnance in the city every day.

I would like to conclude this comment on life in a demolished Syrian city with a question: Do those who have “liberated” Raqqa in this manner from terrorists have the moral right to tell the Syrians what future they should choose for themselves? Can those who are still occupying part of a sovereign UN member state and so preventing the legitimate authorities from regaining control of these regions to normalise life for those who have survived the horrors of the ISIS caliphate and US “liberation” – can these people be the guarantors of  a  “meaningful” intra-Syrian political settlement?

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