WASHINGTON, DC — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today expressed its grave concern for the safety and security of civilians in Syria, and warned of the potential for genocidal acts if nations do not take prompt actions to uphold their responsibility to protect groups and individuals targeted by the Syrian regime.
There is abundant evidence that crimes against humanity are being committed by the Syrian government and allied militias. The United Nations has estimated that more than 10,000 people have been killed though unofficial estimates put the number at more than 14,000. Tens of thousands of additional civilians have been arbitrarily and illegally detained, and many of them are feared dead. Some 100,000 people have fled the country, and as many as 300,000 may be displaced within Syria. A new report this week accuses the government of using young children as human shields.
The reported massacres of civilians in the past two weeks have made clear the increasing sectarian nature of the violence. Neighborhoods and villages are being targeted solely on the basis of religious affiliation. Some, including a senior UN official, have characterized the situation as civil war, and the deteriorating situation raises the risk of genocidal acts.
Unless the international community steps up its efforts to alter the trajectory of the violence, tens of thousands or more civilians are at risk of group targeted violence, including members of Syria’s ethnic and religious populations—Sunni Muslims, Druze, Christians, Kurds, and Alawites, among others.
“We have learned from the Holocaust and other cases the warning signs of genocide, and we see some of those signs in Syria today,” said Tom Bernstein, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. “While there is not an easy or obvious route to end the conflict, it is vital that the international community act before it is too late to avoid a greater humanitarian and moral catastrophe. Once again we must not fail to act because the task seemed too great and the results unsure.”
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org