Tag Archives: civilians

A look at key events in Syria’s Aleppo

The Syrian government’s capture of eastern Aleppo, held for more than four years by rebels, marks a horrific new chapter for Syria’s largest city.

Here’s a look at key events in Aleppo since the start of Syria’s uprising nearly six years ago:

March 2011

Protests erupt in the southern city of Daraa over the detention of a group of boys accused of painting anti-government graffiti on the walls of their school. On March 18, security forces open fire on a protest in Daraa, killing four people in what activists regard as the first deaths of the uprising. Demonstrations spread, as does the crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s forces, eventually igniting a full-scale civil war.

July 2012

Rebel fighters seize eastern Aleppo, dividing the city. The intense fighting that follows, including almost daily barrel bombs dropped on the poorer and more densely populated rebel-held east, causes an estimated 1 million civilians to flee. Another half million are displaced inside the eastern part of the city in the first year of the conflict.

October 2012

The U.N. negotiates a short-lived truce for the whole city during the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. Fighting destroys cultural and historic sites, including the Grand Umayyad mosque, which both sides fought to control.

December 2012

Rebels launch an offensive that expands their presence in Aleppo province and secures supply lines to the Turkish border. They seize a number of military and air bases, increasingly isolating government forces. All flights from Aleppo airport are suspended after al-Qaida-linked fighters threaten to shoot down civilian planes.

January 2013

Bodies begin washing up on the banks of Aleppo’s Queiq River, in the rebel-held Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood. Human Rights Watch says at least 147 bodies were retrieved from the river between January and March. It says the victims were most likely killed in government-controlled areas.

April 2013

Aleppo’s ancient Citadel, used by government forces as a base, comes under rebel fire. The government targets the Umayyad mosque minaret, suspecting rebels were using it as a base. Amid the fighting, passageways between the two sides of the divided city emerge, allowing an informal link for residents, but also turning deadly at times, as sniper fire kills many.

August 2013

Insurgents gain control of the Aleppo-Damascus highway, tightening the siege on the government part of the city. Residents of eastern Aleppo take food and vegetables through illicit passageways to their relatives in western Aleppo.

October 2013

Poor coordination and infighting weaken the rebels’ ranks. That winter, Islamic State militants clash with the rebels, establishing a presence in the eastern part of the city.

December 2013

The government begins an unprecedented campaign of dropping barrel bombs on Aleppo city and surrounding areas, driving more people out of eastern Aleppo. IS expands its presence in the eastern part of city.

January 2014

Rebels unite against IS, driving the extremists out of Aleppo city. Government forces exploit the fighting to push the rebels back.

May 2014

Using a new tactic, rebels tunnel beneath a hotel used as a government command and control center and blow it up. The government’s barrel bomb campaign on eastern Aleppo intensifies.

March 2015

Insurgents blow up the Air Force Intelligence building in Aleppo after digging a tunnel, a symbolic victory. The newly formed Army of Conquest, which brings together rebels and al-Qaida-linked fighters, seizes Idlib city to the northwest.

October 2015

Russia begins launching airstrikes to bolster Assad’s forces. Syrian troops launch an offensive around Aleppo. Iraqi, Lebanese and Iranian militias also throw their weight behind the government, setting the stage for a wider offensive against Aleppo that would continue until the following year.

February 2016

Russia and the U.S. broker a cease-fire that excludes extremists. Signs of normal life return to Aleppo.

April 2016

The cease-fire collapses, bombing resumes, and the Castello road, the only road out of eastern Aleppo, becomes a death trap.

July 2016

The government and allied forces impose a full siege on eastern Aleppo, home to an estimated 250,000 people. Rebel fighters break the siege for a couple of weeks from the southern front, but it is re-imposed by August.

September 2016

A cease-fire negotiated by Russia and the United States holds for a few days, but talks to bring in aid go nowhere, and an airstrike hits a humanitarian aid convoy north of the city.

October 2016

Russia announces it is suspending its airstrikes on eastern Aleppo and designates humanitarian corridors, urging the rebels and residents to leave the eastern enclave. The rebels reject the offer, no one uses the corridors and the U.N. says it cannot carry out medical evacuations due to security concerns. The government continues its air raids on eastern Aleppo.

November 2016

The government launches a renewed and intensified aerial campaign. In late November, Syrian troops and allied forces launch a major ground offensive, rebel defenses crumble and thousands flee.

UN: Nearly 19,000 civilians killed in Iraq in under 2 years

At least 18,802 civilians were killed and another 36,245 were wounded in Iraq between the start of 2014 and Oct. 31 of last year as Iraqi forces battled the Islamic State group, according to a U.N. report released this week.

The report documented a wide range of human rights abuses, including the IS group’s conscription of some 3,500 people into slavery, mainly women and children from the Yazidi religious minority captured in the summer of 2014 and forced into sexual slavery.

It said another 800 to 900 children were abducted from Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, for religious and military training. It said a number of IS child soldiers were killed by the extremists when they tried to flee fighting in the western Anbar province.

The reports called the civilian death toll in Iraq “staggering.” It also detailed the various methods the IS group has employed to kill its enemies, including public beheadings, running people over with bulldozers, burning them alive and throwing them off buildings.

Such acts are “systematic and widespread… abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law,” the report said. “These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”

Iraqi forces have advanced against the IS group on a number of fronts in recent months and driven them out of the western city of Ramadi.

But U.N. envoy Jan Kubis said in a statement that “despite their steady losses to pro-government forces, the scourge of ISIL continues to kill, maim and displace Iraqi civilians in the thousands and to cause untold suffering.”

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said the civilian death toll may be considerably higher.

“Even the obscene casualty figures fail to accurately reflect exactly how terribly civilians are suffering in Iraq,” he said in a statement.

IS swept across northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014 and still controls much of Iraq and neighboring Syria. It has set up a self-styled caliphate in the territories under its control, which it governs with a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law.

Veterans for Peace: Withdraw Maryland National Guard from Baltimore

Veterans For Peace would like to extend our condolences to the family of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Black man who died in police custody from a fatal spinal cord injury. The loss of a child under any circumstance is tragic. However, losing a child to violence adds a deeper pain.

Veterans For Peace stands with the family and the people of Baltimore in their call for peace and non-violent change. As veterans who know war and the horror it brings, we know that violence only serves to cause more violence. Those who are most vulnerable are caught in the crossfire of violence, disrupting lives and destroying families. Violence is like a virus that escalates and spreads. It can easily spiral out of control into a dark morass of death. Knowing this, because we have participated in it, we call on all parties to take a step back and search for non-violent means to address the tensions in Baltimore and around the nation.

Veterans For Peace calls for the immediate withdrawal of the Maryland National Guard. We are appalled to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment once again deployed in U.S. cities to control U.S. citizens who are in fact reacting to a long history of state sanctioned violence and appalling economic and social conditions. Conditions that give them little hope of providing for themselves and their families. We are highly concerned as we approach the 45th anniversary of Kent State this May 4th and Jackson State this May 15th, that we will see another example of nervous and fearful National Guard troops shoot and possibly kill people in the streets of this nation.

With our call for peace and as an organization waging peace, we must also seek justice. Those most responsible for the rebellions in Baltimore and Ferguson are not the disenfranchised and the victims of police violence. Those most responsible are the economic and political leaders who do not address the chronic economic and social instability of neighborhoods like that of Freddie Gray’s. One only has to drive through Baltimore neighborhoods like his to see and understand the frustration of residents. But the numbers also speak for themselves; unemployment 16-64 years old – 51.8%, population 25 and older with less than a high school diploma – 60.7 percent, vacant or abandon building – 33.1 percent and 9th-12th graders chronically absent from school – 49.3 percent.

Under these conditions there are few possibilities other than street violence and confrontations with police. The truth is that police are like soldiers, working class people who are manipulated and used by the same economic and political interests who gain the most from the neglect of these neighborhoods. Mirroring working class soldiers who are sent to foreign lands to impose U.S. ruling class interests on the poor of the world, the police are sent to control poor populations ere at home who have legitimate complaints and grievances, but have been ignored for decades.

In both cases, the police and soldiers’ sense of wanting to do the right thing and serve people and country are exploited for greed and profit. Two time Medal of Honor winner and highly respected Marine Corps General Smedley Butler said it best, “I served in all commissioned ranks from a second Lieutenant to a Major General. And during that time, I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism.” In cases like Ferguson and Baltimore, the police are tools for the same interests.

President Barack Obama and many others have called for the end to violence in response to police brutality. We agree, but we must also remind the President and others that today just as in 1968 as tated by Dr. King, “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.” Veterans For Peace can cannot be silent.

We call on our nation to hold police accountable for lawless violence against communities, and we call on the rich and powerful to end global wars, to end their indifference and pursuit of profit over humanity and to use the trillions devoted to Pentagon war spending to invest in human needs around the world. The quickest path to end violence is to provide a path to a bright future. Education, jobs and opportunity will lead to stable families and prosperity. If we continue to ignore the cries of the global poor and disenfranchised, we will continue to see violent reaction and the spread of organizations like ISIL. People rise up because they must, not because they want to. They have no choice. They will use whatever means is at their disposal.

Veterans For Peace will continue to use nonviolent means, including direct action and civil disobedience to push for the change we seek. We call on all peacemakers and justice seekers to join together to bring into fruition a system that places humanity and human needs over profit. That is what we need and what we must build if we want to end the violence sweeping the world.

Editor’s note: Veterans For Peace is a national organization founded in 1985. It is structured around a national office in Saint Louis and comprised of members across the country organized in chapters or as at-large members. The organization includes men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations including from the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf and current Iraq wars as well as other conflicts. Our collective experience tells us wars are easy to start and hard to stop and that those hurt are often the innocent. Thus, other means of problem solving are necessary.


ACLU: Chicago leads NYC in use of stop-and-frisk

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Chicago says the Chicago Police Department leads the NYPD in the use of the controversial “stop-and-frisk” practice. The report highlights the use — or overuse — the practice and makes the argument that the justification for such stops often fails to meet constitutional standards. 

The report indicates that last summer, the Chicago Police Department conducted more than 250,000 stops of civilians that did not lead to arrest. The ACLU said Chicagoans were stopped four times more often than people in New York City.

Stops per 1,000 residents was 93.6 in Chicago compared with 22.9 — at the highest point in 2011 — in New York City. The NYPD has been forced to curb significantly its use of stop-and-frisk after a federal judge found the use in that city to be unconstitutional.

“While most of the media coverage has suggested that that stop-and-frisk was a New York phenomena, it’s misuse is not limited to New York,” said Harvey Grossman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. “Chicago has been systematically abusing this practice, for reasons that are not justified by our constitution.”

“And just like New York, we see that African Americans are singled out for these searches,” said Grossman.

A “stop-and-frisk” search has become common in African-American and Latino communities across Chicago, the ACLU said.

A 1968 Supreme Court ruling has allowed for officers to stop a civilian if they have reasonable suspicion that person has been, is, or is about to be involved in criminal activity. Once the stop has occurred, officers can frisk the individual if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is dangerous or has a weapon.

The ACLU report demonstrates that in Chicago, the stops are disproportionately target people of color and often are done without the justification required by the court.

The ACLU said African Americans represent nearly 72 percent of all the stops in the city of Chicago; aAfrican Americans represent only about 32 percent of the city’s population.

The data analyzed by the ACLU shows that stops most commonly take place in the districts with the largest minority populations. For example, in 2014, police conducted 266 stops per 1,000 people in the Englewood area, which is predominantly African American, while the rate in the predominantly white Lincoln/Foster district was 43 per 1,000 people.

The data also shows that African Americans are more likely to be the target of stops in predominantly white neighborhoods. In Jefferson Park, where the population is just 1 percent African American, African Americans account for a full 15 percent of all stop-and-frisks. In the Near North District, where the African American population is 9.1 percent, African Americans are subjected to more than one-half of all the stops.

The ACLU report concludes that “black citizens are disproportionately subjected to more stops than their white counterparts.

“What this data shows should be a wake-up call for residents of the City,” said Karen Sheley, senior legal counsel and one of the authors of the report.  “CPD is engaging in wholesale stop-and-frisks of African American youth, without any link to criminal activity in most cases.”

“These stops don’t make us safer, they simply drive a wedge further between the police and the public they serve,” Sheley added in a news release.

The ACLU also said the city of Chicago only records information about stops if there is no arrest or charges. Stops that result in arrest are not identifiable and so the rate of innocent persons stopped cannot be ascertained. In New York, which does keep such data, 88 percent of people stopped were innocent.

Also, Chicago records no information about frisks, which prevents the city from computing the rate of frisks resulting in the seizure of contraband. For example, in New York, which records frisk data, 2 percent of the frisks turned up weapons.

“The data makes clear that stop-and-frisk is a problem in Chicago and needs to be reform,” said Grossman. “The city has an opportunity to make modest fixes now, rather than risk further alienation with large swaths of the public.”