Our Response to President Vladimir Putin’s New York Times Op-Ed

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images).

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit: Mikhail Kireev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images).

In his New York Times opinion piece regarding Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin argues against the recently proposed U.S. military strike on Syria. Amnesty International neither condemns nor condones armed intervention in Syria. However, some of President Putin’s arguments obscure Russia’s own role in blocking a resolution to the human rights crisis in Syria.

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Inside the Divided Town That’s Become a Microcosm of the Syrian Conflict

Syrian rebels fighting pro-regime forces gather along a road in Deir Ezzour (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

Syrian rebels fighting pro-regime forces gather along a road in Deir Ezzour (Photo Credit: Getty Images).

By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Researcher

A different version of this article has appeared on http://www.newstatesman.com/.

Once a thriving hub of Syria’s oil industry, today Deir Ezzour has become a bleak microcosm of Syria’s conflict. The town, on the banks of the Euphrates River, some 280 miles north-east of the capital, is divided. Half is under the control of Syrian government forces. The other half is in the hands of armed opposition fighters, who also control much of the surrounding areas all the way to the Iraqi border.

Few outsiders make it to this isolated region. No human rights organizations and only a handful of journalists have visited the town. The opposition-controlled section of Deir Ezzour is the only area I can access, as the Syrian government has banned Amnesty and other human rights organizations from areas of the country it controls. The streets are eerily quiet and much of the town is in ruins. Many of the residents have fled. The empty shells of burned and bombed-out buildings line the streets – a testament to the unrelenting air strikes, artillery, mortar and tank shelling by President Bashar al-Assad’s troops.

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6 Steps For Syria We Want to Hear in Obama’s Speech Tonight

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Amid a swirl of political developments, President Obama is set to deliver a national televised speech on Syria at 9:00 p.m. EST tonight. The speech was originally expected to be an effort by the White House to argue for a U.S. military strike targeting Syria. But now there’s talk of U.N. Security Council proposals to remove Syria’s chemical weapons from the country, for presumed eventual destruction. And against a backdrop of growing domestic opposition to a U.S. military strike, the U.S. government is changing its political posture in response.

Given the rapidly shifting geopolitical landscape, it is difficult to know for sure what President Obama will say in a few short hours. Indeed, it’s likely that White House advisers are themselves still editing the President’s script as you read this.

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Justice for Syrians in 6 Steps [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Congress is debating whether to authorize the President to use force in response to allegations that Syria used chemical weapons against opponents of the government.

Although Amnesty International has not taken – and is not likely to take – a position on the appropriateness of armed intervention, we believe the debate in Congress is inadequate, as it does not address many of the pressing issues of the Syrian crisis.

Accordingly, we have identified several steps that should be taken in response to this crisis, no matter where one lands, for or against, the use of force. They are as follows:

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Have You Seen What’s Happening to Syrian Refugee Women and Girls?

By Maha Abu Shama, Syria Campaigner at Amnesty International

“We have no women for marriage” is Khawlah’s usual response when Jordanian or other foreign men ask about marrying her 14-year-old daughter when they come looking for a bride.

Like other Syrian women refugees I met during a recent visit to Jordan, Khawlah complained how Jordanian men constantly bombard her with marriage proposals or requests to arrange marriages with refugee girls.

“I do not have work for you, but could marry you if you like,” is what ‘Aisha was told when she went looking for work. A 22-year-old student of English Literature, she complained that one of the reasons her job search in the Jordanian capital of Amman has been futile so far is that she often receives marriage proposals instead of paid work.

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3 Things G20 Leaders Can Do Now For Syria

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) welcomes US President Barack Obama at the start of the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. Photo ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Easing the suffering of millions of civilians affected by Syria’s ongoing armed conflict must be a top priority for world leaders meeting at the G20 Summit in St Petersburg.

The G20 is made up of some of the world’s wealthiest countries and includes states with strong ties to each of the sides in Syria’s armed conflict.

Working together, these powerful countries can and must come up with a plan of action to ease the current humanitarian crisis.

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How Many More? Syria Conflict Refugees Top 2 Million

The U.N. refugee agency has announced that the refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict have surpassed 2 million (Photo Credit: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images).

The U.N. refugee agency has announced that the refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict have surpassed 2 million (Photo Credit: Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images).

By Charlotte Phillips, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Refugee and Migrants’ Rights

It is difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the scale and brutality of the conflict in Syria, the massive displacement and deep suffering it is causing countless human beings.

António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, has described the Syrian conflict as “the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”

This situation has deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks after videos emerged showing scores of civilians apparently killed by chemical weapons in towns outside Damascus.

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5 Things You Should Know About Enforced Disappearances

Activists hold lighted candles during a vigil on International Day of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, where some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the U.N. since the 1980s (Photo Credit: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images).

Activists hold lighted candles during a vigil on International Day of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, where some 12,000 complaints of enforced disappearances have been submitted to the U.N. since the 1980s (Photo Credit: Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images).

Every year in dozens of countries around the world, thousands of men, women and children are detained by state authorities for no reason, never to be seen again. They are the “disappeared.” In 2012 alone, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries.

Here are five facts you should know on August 30, International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

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6 Key Points for Military Intervention in Syria

Image from a civilian-uploaded YouTube video allegedly shows a mass grave of victims Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Damascus. The allegation of chemical weapons being used in the heavily-populated areas came on the second day of a mission to Syria by U.N. inspectors. The claim could not be independently verified and was vehemently denied by the Syrian authorities, who said it was intended to hinder the mission of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors (Photo Credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images).

Image from a civilian-uploaded YouTube video allegedly shows a mass grave of victims Syrian rebels claim were killed in a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Damascus. The claim could not be independently verified and was vehemently denied by the Syrian authorities, who said it was intended to hinder the mission of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors (Photo Credit: DSK/AFP/Getty Images).

By Kristyan Benedict, Crisis Response Campaign Manager at Amnesty International UK

In recent days, several governments, including the UK, USA and France have signaled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of August 21st. The horrific scenes in the dozens of videos I have watched from those incidents are some of the most haunting I have witnessed during this long and brutal conflict.

So now the specter of an international armed conflict looms between the Syrian government and foreign military forces. The protection of civilians is a key priority for Amnesty International. That is why we call on all parties who could be involved to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, those concerned absolutely must:

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