Turkey suspends Mercy Corps, aiding between 350,000 and 500,000 Syrians each month, for “technical reasons”
- Video: White Helmets Rescue Child After Pro-Assad Bombing
- Crowd Attacks Civil Society Organizations in East Ghouta
Turkey has suspended the operations of the US-based aid agency Mercy Corps, one of the largest humanitarian organizations working inside Syria.
Mercy Corps said the Turkish Government had not given a specific reason for the decision, ending regular assistance to hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians and refugees.
“Our hearts are broken by this turn of events, which comes after five years of cooperation with the government of Turkey and other local partners,” Mercy Corps said in a statement. “We continue to seek a dialogue with Turkish authorities in an effort to obtain permission to resume our operations in Turkey as soon as possible.”
The agency said it was grateful for the cooperation up to now with Turkey, “which has generously opened its doors to more than 3 million refugees since the Syria conflict began”.
A Turkish Government official told Reuters that the decision was “technical”, with Mercy Corps failing to meet some documentation requirements. He did not specify which documents the group had failed to provide.
Mercy Corps said it has assisted between 350,000 and 500,000 civilians each month.
“Our operations in Syria will continue, and our priority right now is to limit any adverse effects our departure from Turkey may have on the innocent men, women and children who depend on our assistance,” it said yesterday.
On Tuesday, the first high-level meeting between Turkish, US, and Russian military commanders ended in Ankara’s criticism of Washington, challenging US support to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. The Turks maintain that the Kurdish militia must not be involved an offensive on the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s main position in northern Syria.
Turkey maintains that the YPG, the military branch of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD), is linked to the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.
Video: White Helmets Rescue Child After Pro-Assad Bombing
White Helmets rescuers pull a child from rubble after the latest pro-Assad bombing of Kafranbel in Idlib Province in northwest Syria:
Rescue girl alive from the rubble after the bombing of KafrNbl this morning .
Idlib – whitehelmets
— Idlib – Whitehelmets (@whitehelmets_sy) March 9, 2017
Regime and possibly Russian warplanes have repeatedly attacks opposition areas despite a nominal ceasefire — declared by Russia alongside Turkey and Iran — in late December. The strikes on Idlib Province have escalated in the past week, with several killed in Kafranbel in recent days.
Crowd Attacks Civil Society Organizations in East Ghouta
Offices of civil society organizations in opposition-held East Ghouta near Damascus have been attacked and vandalized by a crowd angered by an article in a magazine.
The crowd gathered because of an article, published in Rising for Freedom, which they said contained offensive sentences and blasphemy. Security forces refused to intervene, saying, “The police are unable to confront the street….We won’t be able to protect you or ourselves.” They advised evacuation of the building.
Soon after staff left, a small group vandalized furniture and office equipment, tearing down NGOs’ signs and posters and writing threats on the doors and outside the building.
The Prosecutor General in the town of Douma later declared “all offices of the Rising for Freedom Magazine, Horras Network for Child Protection, and any affiliated organization or magazine will be closed until they face a judicial hearing”.
The editorial board of Rising for Freedom removed the article from the magazine’s website and stopped distribution of the printed issue, apologizing and readers and declaring that the article did not reflect the opinion of only the writer and not the magazine.
The Violations Documentation Center, one of the affected civil society groups, issued a statement:
The decision gravely damaged the work of the involved organizations, as it suspended their daily work, which aims to support the resistance of Ghouta under siege and to continue to empower people to live a normal life despite the dire circumstances imposed by Assad’s regime and his open war against the people and society.
The Development and Small Projects Organization offers job opportunities for the civilians inside Gouta, and Hurran Network provides educational and psychos=ocial support services to more than 18,000 children in Douma and Ghouta who live under violent conditions daily. In addition, the Violations Documentation Center works to preserve documents and archives for the victims, detainees, and martyrs. The VDC tracks everything related to human rights violations, a difficult task in a complex and violence-stricken society.