A Year after the Poison Gas Attacks on Ghouta in Syria: A Dossier

16 March 2015 – An extensive dossier on the poison gas attacks in the suburbs of Damascus last August has been complied by WADI in cooperation with our Syrian partner organization Al Seeraj. More than 1,300 peoples died in the attacks. This dossier includes interviews with witnesses and survivors, background information on the situation in Syria today, as well as forgotten details about the German and European involvement in the production of chemical weapons in Syria, Iraq and Libya. Comments from survivors of the poison gas attack on the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja are included as well.

Excerpts from the Introduction:

In the early morning of August 21, 2013, the first posts of the Free Syrian Army reported the impact of rockets that probably contained toxic agents. Witnesses reported of projectiles that would sound like bursting water tanks upon detonation. The first ground-to-ground rockets assembled with chemical agents struck around 3:00 am, followed by a whole series of strikes in the neighborhoods of Hammuriyah, Hirista, Irbin, Sepqa, Kafr Batna, Ayn Tarma, Jobar, and Zamalka. A few days later, Doctors Without Borders would confirm 350 deaths using hospital records, but this number would be revised higher and higher in the days that followed. As the affected neighborhoods stood under fire, medical provisions were meager at best. Local doctors are now in consensus with other reports of over 1300 dead. (…)

One year later, the Ghoutas are still besieged, and the situation for the people there has only deteriorated. Everything is lacking: food, clean drinking water, medical supplies. Bashar al-Assad’s regime is starving out the restive neighborhoods of the Ghoutas. The survivors of the chemical attacks are also affected. More than 9000 people are registered as having been exposed to toxic agents and a number of them carry life-threatening injuries as a result. Treating victims of sarin is extremely difficult even under peaceful conditions; under siege and bombardment it is practically impossible. There is no international aid. There has been no further fact-finding mission, nor has there been any serious effort to claim from the Syrian regime access to those affected, in order to provide them humanitarian aid. Now that the Syrian government has assented to the OPCW-led destruction of its known chemical weapons arsenals, it seems that the international furor over the use of toxic agents against civilians in Syria has subsided. (…)

As long as regimes like that of Bashar al-Assad are not held accountable for the use of toxic agents against their people, chemical weapons remain the weapon of choice in conflicts in which harm to the civilian population is an objective in the conduct of war. Syria readily agreed under threat of military action to disclose its known chemical weapons caches, but the regime has not renounced terror and bombardment of its own people. Worse still, several sources report that Syrian troops are deploying chlorine gas against the population, which due to its many civilian uses does not appear on the list of prohibited chemical agents. So, under the smoke screen of destroying its arsenal of chemical weapons, the Syrian government is continuing a dirty war against its people. It is Syria’s civilian population that is paying the price for the signing and implementation of the chemical weapons protocol.

In the summer of 2012, a year before the attack on the Ghoutas, U.S. President Barack Obama declared the use of chemical weapons as a “red line” whose transgression would lead to measures against the Syrian regime. In the summer of 2014, the people of the Ghoutas have now been living for a year on the other side of the red line—and nothing has been done for them. The world’s inaction in the face of unabated slaughter, in the face of grievous war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, is an unabated scandal.

Download the Dossier
Wadi also has supported a group of Syrian activists who have published
a Petition on Avaaz calling for support of the survivors of the chemical attacks and demanding urgent action in Syria.