Idlib: Millions in Need of Protection. The World Must Act Now.
Idlib, located in northwestern Syria along the border with Turkey, is the last major territory held by armed opposition groups. In March 2017, Iran, Turkey and Russia, the three sponsors of the Astana meetings, designated Idlibas de-escalation zone and established military observation posts to ensure that the Syrian government and armed opposition groups would comply with the ceasefire. Since January 2018 however, Syrian government forces conducted several unlawful air and ground attacks including a chemical attack that targeted the town of Saraqeb on 5 February 2018, killing at least six people and leaving 11 in need of emergency treatment. In addition, hundreds of civilians have been killed in car bombs and infighting between armed opposition groups.
Since 2011, 700,000 people have sought refuge in Idlibfleeing the violence in other parts of Syria; others were displaced, in some cases forcibly displaced as part of evacuation deals reached between the Syrian government and armed opposition groups, including in Homs, Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Daraa. As a result, Idlib's population has reached 2.5 million, with many internally displaced people living in camps and relying on cross-border aid from Turkey. In July 2017, Turkey closed its borders with Idlib following the capture of the province by the armed opposition group Hay’at Tahrir al- Sham, resulting in the temporary suspension of humanitarian aid.
In July 2018, Iran, Turkey and Russia agreed to avoid a large-scale military offensive on Idlib. However, ominous statements by the Syrian and Russian governments indicate that a military offensive might be imminent. Given the siege and starvation tactics used repeatedly by the Syrian government against the civilian population in all of its major military offensives to capture territory from armed groups, the fate of millions of civilians in Idlib is now at risk.
No matter how much I describe to you how terrible the situation is, it is still an understatement.
Who's in Idleb Now?
Idlib in Numbers
More than 13
camps for internally displaced people
As of April, over 2 million people were identified as needing humanitarian assistance in Idlib, lacking access to food, water and health care. Access to health care specifically is restricted as a result of ongoing air and ground attacks on hospitals, as well as limited medical resources.
Recently, the threat of kidnapping doctors for ransom has increased. Some doctors at Khan Sheikhoun hospitals have been kidnapped.
Internally displaced people live in camps across the area. In 2017, the Turkish government closed its border, preventing people in Idlib and elsewhere from seeking refuge in Turkey. As a result, several camps were set up in northern Idlib, close to the border, and these camps today host the largest numbers of internally displaced people fleeing the violence across Syria.
Many camps have restricted access to food and water, and inadequate heating during the winter. Numerous camp schools had to close due to lack of funding, leaving children with no education. Some camps have also witnessed raids and arrests by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while others were exposed to shelling.
Infighting between armed groups harming civilians
Syrian and Russian air strikes targeting civilian neighborhoods and hospitals
Dire humanitarian conditions
Abduction of civilians by armed groups
The Displaced in Idlib
Tens of thousands from across Syria have been forcibly displaced to Idlib between 2016 and 2017. Read our report which shows how Syrian government forces systematically subjected civilians to unlawful sieges and unlawful attacks in a pattern of violations that amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Tell Presidents Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani – the three Astana sponsors – to ensure that civilians are protected during any possible military attack on Idlib. These people have gone through a lot already. We must keep them safe.
It is not safe here. [Armed groups] are raiding our houses and kidnapping people, accusing them of colluding with the regime, or with ISIS, or of being a member of the Free Syrian Army.