UN speeches highlight Syrian chemical weapons attacks

UN speeches highlight Syrian chemical weapons attacks
This week, country representatives and human rights advocates spoke at the United Nations Security Council to address Syria's chemical weapons programme, ahead of the tenth anniversary of the chemical attack of Ghouta on 21 August, 2013.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
10 August, 2023
Advocates make statements about chemical weapons attacks in Syria at the UN Security Council. [Getty]

This week, representatives fromhttp://unogs.com/ the United States, several allied countries and human rights activists spoke at the United Nations Security Council to address Syria's chemical weapons programme ahead of the tenth anniversary of the chemical attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on 21 August 2013.

Though the speeches at the security council are not expected to make tangible changes to the Syrian government's policies or make them accountable for past actions, advocates say they see it as a way to highlight the chemical weapons attacks. 

A 2019 study found that the Syrian government carried out more than 300 chemical weapons attacks, killing and injuring thousands, with few incidents reported in the news.

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Among the speakers at the UN was Mohamad Katoub, a survivor of the chemical attack in Ghouta and project manager at IMPACT - Civil Society Research and Development.

"I witnessed the Ghouta massacre, and through my work as a member of the medical team of Ghouta, and after I fled out of Syria with other civil society organisations, I have been engaged in supporting the medical response to chemical attacks and the documentation of uses of chemical weapons in Syria. An unfortunate experience that I, as a dentist, shouldn't have learnt if there were any measures of accountability," he said, according to a press release from the organisation. 

"In the morning of that day, I walked out of my office to a nearby school that we had transformed into a decontamination centre. I can't forget the scene of the school halls, bodies were scattered around, turning the child's sacred space into a vast funeral home."

He added that they didn't have any protective gear or space for treating the patients, though, at the time, they did hope the exposure to the attack would prevent future ones. That did not happen, he noted, as Syrians saw many more chemical attacks.

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"This is the anniversary of the major chemical attack that was the beginning of the ability of Assad to stay," Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian American Task Force, told The New Arab, referring to former US President Barack Obama's speech in which he said chemical weapons in Syria were a red line.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government "has repeatedly lied to the international community" and to weapons investigators, who have confirmed the government used those banned weapons. She emphasised that the US administration would continue seeking full accounting from Syria for its chemical weapons use.