With eastern Aleppo under intense attack, civilians including women and children are being executed by Syrian government forces. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) and the Syrian American Council (SAC) held a press conference on December 13 to call for urgent action to guarantee protection and safe passage of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians that remain trapped In the besieged city.
The speakers, adding their voices to calls for the safe evacuation of civilians, included Tabassum Haleem, Executive Director of CIOGC, Hani Atassi, President of the SAC Midwest Chapter, Dr. Zaher Sahloul of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), Safaa Zarzour, Esq., President of Syrian Forum USA, Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, Reverend Paul Rutgers of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (CRLMC), and Raz Chakour, Director for Syrian Christians for Peace.
“If you are Syrian, you have one of two choices. Live under government control, it’s checkpoints every half mile, you pay bribes to visit someone, or you live outside of government controlled areas and risk getting raped or murdered.” Zarzour explained. Commenting on how feels about the dire situation in Aleppo, he said “It is beyond rage, beyond sadness and anger. I’ve really lost faith in humanity, lost faith in the current world order.”
“I’m worried about my colleagues, the doctor and the nurses,” said Sahloul, a Chicago-based physician who has traveled to Aleppo to treat wounded civilians as part of medical missions. He shared that he was able to negotiate an agreement to allow the medical teams to evacuate the war-torn city.
Sahloul was able to broker a deal that allowed most of the physicians to evacuate, but some 30 stayed behind. “Yesterday, I was able to talk to them and they are scared they will be killed,” he said.
In a statement, CIOGC Chair, Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin said, “The world apathy in the face of the potential massacre of thousands of civilians in Aleppo cannot be understood or accepted. The situation in Aleppo is much worse than in Benghazi, where the world did take decisive action to prevent the massacre. The civilians need to be evacuated from the violence and bombings.”