Press release

Don’t abandon us, Syrian activists urge international community - new report by Christian Aid

With the situation in war-torn Idlib deteriorating, Christian Aid urges the international community to take action, with their new report - Syrian Civil Society, A Closing Window. The report traces the growth of civil society organisations and calls for the international community to maintain funding and support to Syrians who have defended human rights and strived for social progress for years.

Máiréad Collins, Christian Aid’s Senior Advocacy Adviser for Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and the report’s author, said:

"What has been achieved by Syrian civil society in the last eight years is incredible. Syrians have literally risked their lives to deliver aid and to develop a movement which was unimaginable before 2011. The international community encouraged and funded this work and it hypocritical and dangerous to now turn their backs on it when the risks are considered too high.

‘International support is especially vital right now, as the situation continues to deteriorate in Idlib, one of the last remaining non-government held areas of Syria. It has been pummelled with shelling from Syrian government and Russian forces for months.

Since May, 630,000 people have fled the violence and remain displaced. As one of the last opposition-held areas, it is also one of the last remaining hubs of a free Syrian civil society movement left, from the conflict that has raged in Syria over the last eight years."

Syrian peacebuilders and activists, committed to the rebuilding of their country, must be prioritised. From emergency aid to trauma counselling and agricultural support, it is the Syrians on the ground who lead the change. The report urges donors to communicate with “those on the ground [who] understand the context and could suggest ways around the legitimate challenges and risks that exist”.

The report warns that a window of opportunity for Syrian civil society to flourish is now closing. It says: ‘To grasp the potential for Syrian civil society, we must act now. The door is already closing and it will slam shut, returning the country to the pre-2011 hostile environment for civil society, where civil society groups faced being shut down and their members and volunteers risked being arrested or imprisoned if they were perceived to challenge the state.’

The report also calls on the Church to be outspoken in their solidarity with Syrian civil society, which includes Christians; and urges them to use their voice to promote the need for a robust democratic civil society as the best option for the future of all Syrians, including Christians and other minorities.

Syrian civil society: A closing window will be launched on Thursday, 19 September, in London. More information here 

Members of the press wishing to attend should contact Amy Sheppey