PRESS RELEASE:  20th May, 2016

NOBEL PEACE LAUREATE MAIREAD MAGUIRE APPEALS TO EUROPEAN UNION AND PRESIDENT OBAMA TO REMOVE SHAMEFUL SANCTIONS AGAINST WAR-TORN SYRIA

At the end of May 2016 the European Council will discuss the renewal of European Union sanctions against Syria, sanctions which have been in existence since 20ll.   (In 2012 the sanctions were removed concerning the opposition-controlled areas, including the now Daesh-controlled areas).

Maguire said ‘Having visited Syria three times and seen the devastating effect on the Syrian people, I call upon the European Union and President Obama, to remove immediately sanctions against War Torn Syria.  I also support the Petition and call by Religious people from Syria aimed ‘at MPs and the mayors of every country’ to ask for ‘the iniquity of sanctions on Syria to be made known to the citizens of the European Union and become, finally, the subject of a serious debate and consequent resolutions’.  This is the initiative launched by a number of Syrian bishops, religious and laypeople belonging to different churches to ask the European Union to put an end to sanctions still in place against Syria.

The brief text of the petition describes  (www.change.org/p/parliamenti-sindaci-basta-sanzioni-alla-siria) how the policy of sanctions imposed by the EU have devastating effects on the daily life of the Syrian people, adding to the tragic context of the conflict, which in five years has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and six million refugees.  The text that introduces the petition says ‘the European Union put into effect sanctions against Syria, presenting them as ‘sanctions against the regime’ which imposed the oil embargo on the country, blocking all financial transactions and the prohibition to trade many goods and products.  A measure that still lasts today, although in 2012 the oil embargo in the areas controlled by the armed and jihadist opposition were removed, in order to provide economic resources to the so-called ‘revolutionary forces of the opposition’.  ‘In these five years’ continues the text of the petition –‘the sanctions on Syria have helped destroy the Syrian society, condemning it to hunger, epidemics, poverty, encouraging activism of fundamentalist militia fighters who now also strike in Europe.’  The petitioners point out that today ‘Syrians see the possibility of a viable future for families only if they run away from their land but ‘escaping cannot be the only solution that the international community can propose to these poor People’ partly because it ‘encounters many difficulties, due to lively debates within the European Union.  The petitioners support ‘all humanitarian and peace initiatives that the international community is implementing, in particular through the difficult negotiations in Geneva’. But in the meantime with the hope that the expectations find concrete answers, they ask ‘that the sanctions that affect the daily lives of every Syrian are immediately removed’.

Maguire also called upon President Obama and US Government to lift US economic sanctions against Syria by the US Treasury Department and its enforcement arm, the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) as these sanctions are targeting Syria children and families by damaging Syrian economy causing rampant inflation of consumer goods prices, while all but choking off economic development.

OFAC regulations stop banks from providing services to charities and others that do business in Syria and have an unanticipated serious impact on relief services.  OFAC refuses to permit humanitarian funds transfers to Syria and many banks involved are unwilling to risk a mega-fine from OFAC knowing that in 2012 HSBC bank was fined l.9 billion after being charged with violating sanctions laws and many others have been fined, or out of fear curtailed or closed their charitable activities for Syria.  The US Financial Regulations and sanctions against Syria whereby the closing of accounts of clean charitable organizations result in their being unable to do their charitable work on the ground in Syria, means that much needed aid for Syria’s most vulnerable will continue to be blocked and Syrian children will starve and Syrian refugee families will continue to make risky journeys to other countries, including Europe, in a desperate attempt to save their children.

Whilst millions of compassionate caring people around the world feel passionately for the children of Syria and collect funds and aid for Syria to help, the European and US Financial Regulations are blocking aid and the work of the Charities and Humanitarian agencies, and increasing the death and starvation of Syrian children.  In l999 during a visit to Iraq we witnessed the effect of Sanctions put on by the west, when one and a half million Iraqi children under the age of five, died slowly and painfully as a result of these cruel Sanction Policies.  Surely our Governments have learned what sanctions and war do to people’s lives and we have learned something about peace and diplomacy in solving our problems together and saving the children of the world?

 

Mairead Maguire, www.peacepeople.com   Nobel Peace Laureate

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