Local Muslims mark Syria fourth anniversary

Relief programme co-ordinator highlights “horrific and worsening situation”.

Muslims in four English cities and a group climbing Scafell Pike to raise funds for Islamic Relief will take part in commemorative events to mark the fourth anniversary of the Syrian conflict over the next three days (Friday 13th-Sunday 15th March). Islamic Relief is concerned that the situation inside Syria is worsening, and is urging the international community to do more to get aid to remote areas, host refugees and bring about a ceasefire.

Islamic Relief staff and volunteers who are involved in the local events in the UK are available for interview, and can provide photos on request. Islamic Relief’s Programme Coordinator inside Syria is available to talk publicly for the first time about our experience delivering aid – and the conditions that displaced Syrians are facing. “I was inside Syria less than two weeks ago, and the situation really is horrific and getting worse,” says Programme Coordinator Mohamed – identified only by his first name for his own security. “Islamic Relief is providing food, water, shelter and medical aid across a wide area of northern Syria, but there are a lot of places we can’t reach because of the fighting.

“Aid continues to get through but the amount of aid being provided internationally is woefully inadequate, and more people are being forced to flee their homes each day. Many have no more than the clothes they are wearing, and most end up living in crowded tents with limited food and medical care and no access to running water or electricity.”

Events coordinated by Islamic Relief and local supporters/organizations in the UK include an announcement about the anniversary at regular Friday prayers and then a night of prayer for Syria at the Dar Mosque in Birmingham this evening as well as a commemorative balloon release by a group of volunteers who are climbing Scafell Pike in Cumbria to raise funds for Islamic Relief and an interfaith vigil at St Philip’s Centre in Leicester involving representatives of the church, the local mosque and the Hindu and Jewish communities (March 15).

Islamic Relief is currently working in the Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Latakia regions of northern Syria providing food, water, shelter and medical aid to more than two million Syrians. Mohamed explains: “Most public hospitals have been closed by the fighting, so people are relying on makeshift operating theatres in schools and other buildings for surgery on shrapnel and gunshot wounds and other serious injuries.

“When aid is in short supply we have to prioritise keeping people alive with food, water and medical aid. With more resources we could do so much more to help the Syrian people. Children born just before the conflict should be looking forward to starting school, but a whole generation is missing out on education. Many people in the northern areas used to make their living from farming, but they don’t have seeds and tools to grow food and get some dignity back.

“Many people need trauma counselling too – like the widow I met who is haunted by the day in 2013 when her husband went out to get Qurbani meat for the family’s Eid celebrations and never came back. She and her three children are totally reliant on aid to survive now, and she can’t bring herself to eat meat because of the painful memories it brings.”

On the international response, Dr Mohamed Ashmawey, CEO of Islamic Relief, says: “The UK government has shown great leadership in funding the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis so generously, and in encouraging others to do the same. The UK should be at the forefront of the search for a political solution too. And while we applaud Britain’s generous aid contribution to the crisis, it is clear that more aid is needed and that aid alone is not enough.

“After four years of conflict, more than three million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries, which are struggling to cope with the influx of refugees. We cannot continue to ask of Syria’s neighbours what we are not doing ourselves. The UK can accept more refugees through resettlement and other programmes.”