For more than three years, Syria has been in the grip of a civil war. The United States has hesitated to take sides in the heated conflict, as the government of Bashar Al-Assad provided valuable assistance in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. However, three devastating reports released earlier this month highlighting how more than 5.5 million Syrian children have been affected by the three-year-long Syrian crisis (UNICEF,Save the Children, World Vision) have started to awaken the sleeping giant into at least some sort of action in the conflict.
On March 13, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tim Kaine (D-VA), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a bipartisan group of senators in calling on President Obama to develop and submit to Congress a more robust U.S. strategy for addressing the Syrian humanitarian crisis.
“One of history’s greatest humanitarian catastrophes is unfolding before our eyes. The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world, giving $1.7 billion thus far. But I refuse to accept there’s nothing more we can do to end the suffering,” said Kaine. “The numbers defy belief - nearly three million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and more than 5.5 million children are in desperate need of assistance. I’m pleased to join my colleagues in calling for a new U.S. strategy to address the humanitarian tragedy that Syria’s dire situation demands.”
The call came as part of the Syrian Humanitarian Resolution of 2014 (S. Res. 384), introduced by the 19 senators today, that condemns the unlawful use of violence against civilians in Syria, urges all parties in the country to allow for immediate, unfettered access to humanitarian aid, supports the immediate and full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139, and calls on the international community to continue assisting innocent victims of the crisis, both internally displaced within Syria and in neighboring countries. If adopted, the resolution calls for the President to submit the new humanitarian strategy to relevant Senate committees within 90 days.
“It is clear by now that the measures taken to try and end Bashar al-Assad’s brutality against the Syrian people have failed,” said Rubio. “As long as the Assad regime continues to ignore deadlines and break promises without fear of consequence, millions of Syrian civilians, including children, will continue to suffer and even be indiscriminately killed. The administration should act quickly to propose a new strategy that includes concrete actions to increase pressure on Assad instead of giving him more room to maneuver and commit these atrocities.”
Other cosponsors include Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX).
Many humanitarian and human rights organizations have expressed support for this resolution, including the following: Alliance for Peacebuilding, Amnesty International, The Center for Victims of Torture, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Interaction, International Rescue Committee, Open Society Policy Center, Pax Christi International, Physicians for Human Rights, Refugees International, Syrian American Medical Society, The Syrian Nonviolence Movement, United to End Genocide, Syrian Relief and Development, and World Vision.
“Passage of the Syrian Humanitarian Resolution of 2014 would be an important statement from the U.S. Congress in recognizing the scale of the crisis and the depth of the human rights violations being committed,” these organizations said in a joint statement of support. “Our organizations are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the people of Syria do not lose another year to bloodshed and suffering. We stand with the people of Syria, and people around the world, in calling for our leaders to make the same commitment and engage the public. We urge strong support for and swift passage of this critical resolution.”
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