The recent distressing images of the emaciated baby has turned attention once again to the atrocities committed by the Syrian Regime, in particular the siege of East Ghouta.
As many as 400,000 people are trapped in the Damascus suburb, which has been under complete siege since 2013, shortly after the sarin gas attacked by regime forces that killed an estimated 1,429 people.
Since the siege began, hundreds of people in the suburb have died from food and medical shortages under the tactic of “kneel and starve”. The tactic has resulted in the withholding of aid to Ghouta’s civilian population, a form of collective punishment and human rights abuses. A doctor in a hospital in East Ghouta commented that ‘there is a lack of specialist equipment. There are no serialisation devices, there is no fuel to run the appliances.’ Another doctor, Abu Yahya, said that ‘many children are suffering from deficiencies, migraines, vision problems, depression and psychological problems.’
Citizens of East Ghouta have been forced to cook with firewood due to the lack of gas, and the minimal food that is available has seen a dramatic increase in price. Reports suggest that almost 400 people have starved to death in recent months.
The regime tightened the siege in March this year, preventing residents from bringing in essential items. The regime closed the al-Wafideen checkpoint, which was the final passage out of the city. Shockingly, the situation has worsened since May after the regime forces seized the Barzeh and Qaboun neighbourhoods in north eastern Damascus. These neighbourhoods were hubs for smuggling supplies into East Ghouta through a network of tunnels.
East Ghouta is one of four ‘de-escalation’ zones created under a deal brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey to reduce the violence in Syria. Despite this truce, the regime has continued the siege, increasing the suffering of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Assad has exerted his dominance and control by encircling territory and enforcing restrictions on Syrians. He has kept the rebel-held areas under an increasingly tight blockade, preventing civilians from fleeing or receiving desperately needed supplies.