Saturday, January 11, 2014

Save Yarmouk: Speakout for Palestinian refugees starving in Yarmouk Camp, Syria

Dear friends,

on Saturday in Melbourne we held a small speakout for Palestinian refugees under siege and starving in Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.  The speakout was called by ASPIRE (Australian Society for Palestinian Iraqi Refugees Emergency) as it has been estimated that up to 50 people have died from starvation in Yarmouk due to the camp being under siege with no food or medicine being able to enter the camp for 6 months.

In 1948, when Israel ethnically cleansed 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and razed 500 Palestinian villages, Palestinian refugees fled to Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.  The size of the refugee population in these countries has grown over the years due to Israel's refusal to abide by international law and allow Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homeland.  Since the war in Syria began, Palestinian refugees like the rest of the population have been at risk.

According to a statement by UNRWA on Dec 17, “of the 540,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in Syria, about 270,000 are displaced in the country, and an estimated 80,000 have fled. 51,000 have reached Lebanon, 11,000 have identified themselves in Jordan, 5,000 are in Egypt, and smaller numbers have reached Gaza, Turkey and farther afield".

Yarmouk camp was home, for many years, to 250,000 of the 540,000 Palestinians refugees living in Syria.  Of those 250,000 in Yarmouk, more than 150,000 who were formally registered as refugees. Since the war began in Syria, the vast majority have fled to neighbouring countries. It is estimated 18,000 - 20,000 are still left in the camp, which has been under total siege since July 2013. No food, medicine or humanitarian aid has been able to get in. For the past year the camp has been without electricity or heating. The UN puts the number of people who have died from malnutrition (ie. starvation) at 15, but the figure is most likely higher with estimates between 30 and 50 people having died.

According to the director of the Palestinian Refugees Support Network in Syira, Ayman Abu Hasham, residents of the camp are now eating grass to ward off starvation.   It has been estimated that if a supply line with food and medicine is not opened in the next 10 - 14 days, hundreds of Palestinians in the camp face the imminent threat of death.  Last week, when there was an attempt to transfer
300 patients from the camp to receive medical treatment, snipers from the Assad Syrian government opened fired at them, injuring the director of a relief committee Fuad al-Omar.

The Syrian government, Israel and the international community are responsible for the plight of the refugees in Syria.  Now more than ever we need to demand the right of return for not only the refugees in Syria, but all Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

It is imperative that Palestine solidarity activists, human rights activists and refugee rights activists in Australia and around the world, raise their voices in support of the refugees in Yarmouk and publicly call for an immediate end to the siege being imposed on the camp and for food and medicine to be allowed into the camp and for the safe evacuation of all those in need of medical care.

For more information about the situation in Yarmouk, please see Ramzy Baroud's excellent article at Palestine Chronicle.  You can access it by clicking here.

In solidarity, Kim

Melbourne Speakout: 

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