Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
15 April 2020
Dear Foreign Secretary
Ref. Prevention of the Spread of Covid 19 in North East Syria
We are writing to you in extreme urgency to implore you to use all your available means, diplomatic and economic, to ensure that COVID-19 does not rapidly spread in the AANES (the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria), also known as Rojava, (SYRIAN KURDISTAN). We beg you to break the silence over Turkey’s role in allowing this predicted catastrophe to occur.
The AANES, with a population of over 4,000,000, is now home to over 650,000 refugees and IDPs, of all ethnicities and religion, who have fled the attacks not only of ISIS but of Turkey. These people are now living in vastly overcrowded, unhygienic camps and ad hoc settlements. But the AANES also accommodates over 5,000 ISIS captives. The AL HOL camp, housing 65,000 women and children, is a breeding ground for the spread of Coronavirus, with ISIS women propagating the message that only infidels and non-muslims are at risk.
In these conditions it is impossible for people to protect themselves by social distancing, and with the scarcity of water even the washing of hands is problematic. Furthermore, many of these people are affected by a whole range of underlying health issues, from malnutrition, war wounds, pregnancy, and untreated diseases such as tuberculosis, jaundice and diarrhea, which increase the likelihood of death should they become infected. The predicted death rate in camps and detention centres is 10%.
Nine years of war, systematic targeting of health and water infrastructure by occupying Turkish forces backed by Russia; lack of international recognition (in spite of the YPG and the YPJ being the most effective local troops on the ground liberating towns and villages held by ISIS), and Turkey’s January 2020 closure of the only UN aid crossing, at Yaroubiah. have left this region at extreme risk from the virus, for there is a severe lack of PPE and essential medical resources to prevent fatalities.
Both the UN and the WHO refuse to deliver aid to this enclave, but only to the Assad government, leaving the AANES reliant on its own very meagre resources, and of course it cannot access the resources available in Damascus. The WHO supplied 1200 test kits to the Syrian government but none to the AANES. There is only one ventilator to serve 100,000 people, but WHO delivered 40 ventilators to Damascus.
Furthermore, NGOs working with the Kurdish Red Crescent have been refused access to the special $2,000,000,000 UN COVID-19 funding.
In spite of the UN Secretary General’s plea to all member states for a universal cease-fire as the world tackles this pandemic, Turkey has continued to bomb and attack hospital and schools in Kurdish towns. 9 out of 11 hospitals have been damaged or totally destroyed. This January it closed off the Alouck station water flow to the north-east, leaving some 1,100,000 people without water for cooking or washing. Cutting off the water supply to civilians during a conflict is a war crime, yet the UN has failed to condemn this act which is, in the present circumstances, is putting millions of lives at risk.
At the time of writing this letter we have learnt that medical authorities in AANES report that Damascus is refusing to accept any samples from them.
We are sure that you will agree that everything must be done to avert the spread of the virus in the Kurdish region. Therefore we ask that you use your influential seat in the Security Council, and also, in the context of the role you wish the UK to maintain in global affairs, to demand that Turkey opens the UN aid crossing at Yaroubiah and immediately restores the water flow at the Alouk water station. Also that you request the WHO to work directly with the Kurdish Red Crescent to provide them with test kits, PCR machines, ventilators and other essential medical equipment and resources.
Margaret Owen OBE
On behalf of Patrons of Peace in Kurdistan
John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Rahila Gupta, Nick Hildyard, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Elfyn Llwyd, Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, Maxine Peake, actor, Trevor Rayne, writer, Lord Rea, Joe Ryan, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, Jonathan Steele, Steve Sweeney, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Hywel Williams MP.
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
44 Ainger Road, London NW3 3AT
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890