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Call for Immediate Aid to Syrians Dying of Starvation Due to Siege

Doctors, faith and peace leaders gather at UN to announce International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria, demand lifting of military

TOMORROWFriday, January 10, at 10:00 a.m. — a working group of leaders representing the Syrian American Medical Society, the Syrian Nonviolence Movement and the Minnesota-based Friends for a NonViolent World will hold a press conference in the United Nations Plaza to announce an International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria, a major global campaign, and to demand the lifting of the starvation sieges of dozens of Syrian towns that are preventing hundreds of thousands of Syrians from eating or getting medical treatment.

To address the background of the siege, they will be joined by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch and Dr. Annie Sparrow, an expert in complex humanitarian emergencies at Mount Sinai Global Health Center. Leaders representing interfaith and peace organizations will express their support for the hunger strike.

WHEN: Friday, January 10, at 10:00 a.m.
WHAT: Press Conference about the International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria
WHO: Doctors, Faith and Human Rights Leaders Representing the Syrian American Medical Society, the Syrian Nonviolence Movement, Friends for a NonViolent World and Other Organizations
WHERE: Bahá’í International Community’s United Nations Office, 866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 120. The entrance is on East 48th Street, just off of 1st Avenue, on the same side of 1st Avenue as the UN. It’s the first building north of the UN gardens.
The speakers at the press conference will include:
  • Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch
  • Zaher Sahloul, President of the Syrian American Medical Society
  • Mohja Kahf, Member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement & Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Arkansas
  • Dr. Annie Sparrow, Pediatrician, Teacher in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, Professor at Mount Sinai Global Health Center
  • Haris Tarin, Director of the Washington, DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
  • Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY)
  • Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation
The working group demands the following:
  • a binding resolution from the United Nations Security Council to require unhampered access, across borders and military lines, for international humanitarian agencies to bring food and medicine to besieged populations in Syria, with neither preconditions nor discrimination based on sect, ethnicity, gender, or political views, with a monitoring provision to ensure compliance
  • the lifting of the starvation sieges in Syria as a trust-building prelude to the Geneva Conference on Syria scheduled to convene on January 22
  • solidarity for starving Syrians, inviting people of conscience to join the International Hunger Strike on any day until January 22
An estimated million and a half Syrian civilians are dying of malnutrition and treatable diseases in an entirely preventable humanitarian crisis. Children have died in malnutrition and starvation around Damascus in the same areas that were hit with chemical weapons attacks. Military forces blockade dozens of Syrian towns, barring entry of food and medicine, while chemical weapons inspectors are allowed unfettered access by UNSC mandate. The siege violates international laws prohibiting the use of starvation as a war weapon.
Soad Nofal, a schoolteacher from the Syrian city of Raqqa who has protested both Assad and Islamist authoritarianism, launched a hunger strike on November 4 with dozens of Syrians, to protest the siege. Qusai Zakarya, a Palestinian Syrian besieged in Moadamiya, Syria, recently conducted a 33-day hunger strike. The International Solidarity Strike is inspired by the civil resistance of Soad and Qusai.

Rev. Kristin Stoneking and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, co-founder of the Shalom Shomer Network for Jewish Nonviolence, led the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the oldest interfaith peace and justice organization in North America, into the Strike.

The International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria has been endorsed by prominent philosophers, poets, faith leaders, peace activists, public figures and global civil society voices, including:
  • Philosophers Jürgen Habermas, Slavoj Žižek, Seyla Benhabib and Simon Critchley
  • Celebrated poets Andrei Codrescu, Carolyn Forché, Martín Espada, and Marilyn Hacker
  • Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota’s 5th District and Muhammed Sacirbey, former Bosnian Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Jawdat Said, Syrian nonviolence teacher; Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer and former political prisoner; Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger-activist and former political prisoner; Taysir Alkarim, Syrian field doctor and former prisoner of conscience; Afra Jalabi, writer and member of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement
  • Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange; Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence; Gail Daneker, Director of Peace Education Advocacy for Friends for a NonViolent World; Michael Nagler, President of the Metta Center for Nonviolence
  • Noam Chomsky, internationally renowned author; Huwaida Arraf, Palestinian-American co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement; Bill Fletcher Jr, labor activist and former president of the TransAfrica Forum; Maryam al-Khawaja, Bahraini human rights activist
  • Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Parliament of the World’s Religions; Rabbi Michael Lerner, co-founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives; Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN); Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Founder and Director of The Shalom Center
For more information about the press conference, contact Katrina Jørgensen, Media & Communications Coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society, at [email protected] or 817-881-8199.
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