UN Officials Mustn't Politicize Humanitarian Issues: al-Shammat

DAMASCUS, (ST)- "UN officials should be neutral and must not exploit their visits to Syria for political purposes," Minister of Social Affairs Dr. Kinda al-Shammat said on Wednesday.

The minister was speaking to journalists during her tour with Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict Affairs, at one of the temporary sheltering centers in al-Zahera al-Jadida area in Damascus.

Dr. al-Shammat urged not to politicize a sensitive and important issue like childhood, expressing her disappointment over Zerrougui's lack of interest in the talk of the women and children she met at the sheltering center.

"Zerrougui's lack of interest affirms that she came to Syria to play a role that is prepared in advance," Dr. Al-Shammat said. 

She also regretted the UN official's describing of the national feelings of children at the center as a "media propaganda".

The minister stressed that the government has spared no effort to provide all forms of care and protection to the children displaced from their houses as a result of the ongoing events in the country.

H. Mustafa

Al-Shammat, Zerrougui Discuss Ways of Protecting Children in Armed Conflict

DAMASCUS, (ST)- The issue of children being the major victims of armed conflicts has been one of the top priorities of the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Within this framework, Dr. Kinda al-Shammat, the Minister of Social Affairs and Head of the Higher Relief Committee, held a meeting on Monday with a UNICEF delegation represented by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui, UN Program Officer Alec Wargo and the Public Information Officer  Stephanie Tremblay.

Dr. al-Shammat and the guest delegation discussed issues relating to the protection of children and underage individuals, in terms of their health and psychological conditions in the light of the incredibly increasing number of displaced families and the difficulties facing the issue of documenting violations of children's rights.

Al-Shammat affirmed that the Syrian state has issued resolute legislations against all who exploit children in military operations.

"The government provides care for the victims who were exposed to the armed gangs' attacks," al-Shammat said, adding that the Syrian Arab Army and the civil defense institution believe that the issue of protecting the people from non-Syrian outsiders is a duty, and "we trust their efforts".

The minister concluded by saying that "We are keen to reactivate the Witnesses Protection Program in order to document violations against children."

H. Mustafa 

Syrians' Unity and Solidarity

The displaced Syrians coming from other cities, especially from Aleppo, to the coastal city of Lattakia, were forced to leave their cities in fear of armed terrorist groups' heinous crimes and terrorism. The people of Lattakia have had different opinions about the coming displaced: they vary from welcoming those people ,due to the fact that Syria is for all of us and it is an obligation to welcome them , and complaining about the fear that some of them might be 'sleeping cells' who are plotting to destroy this city.

 Those displaced have conflicting views as satisfied and grumbling .Some of them found themselves a place provided by the official authorities as sheltering centers within the sport city ,a place that allows them to benefit from the aid and food packages regardless whether it is enough or not as it was reported . In contrast ,others were forced to secure a shelter by themselves ,because accommodation centers, on the one hand ,are not enough to house all of those displaced. The Syria Times interviewed ome of those who chose to live far from the accommodation centers . Hassan , a guy from Idlib who has been living here for a year and five months tells us that he and his family consisting of a wife and two little daughters live in a rented house in Basateen AlReehan neighborhood. He said that they are satisfied and feel comfortable . He adds that he pays a monthly rent of 8000 S.P ,which is an average rent because it is old compared to these days. "Thanks to the landlord who didn’t ask to raise the rent". knowing that Hasan is a seller in Halloum square with a  monthly income which is not more than 14000 S.P, Hassan describes the owner of the house as a man of consciousness .

 Khaled , who came from Aleppo nine months ago , complains about the way of living in the  city and the rise of prices which is no longer bearable considering the fact that there isn't a good job to get a decent income. He stresses that "there is no market here". He rented a shop naming it "Aleppo center" and brought all the goods he has in his original shop in Aleppo which were toys and gifts. Now he is about to close this shop because as he summarized his experience, it is better staying jobless," I opened a shop in an isolated area with a rent of 13000 S.P. It is expensive compared to the income which is no more than a quarter of the amount. Now  I am broken and going to close the shop .How are we going to live? We only have this country and may God be with us".

 As a Lattakian person Wael , a taxi driver ,said that the presence of those displaced here in Lattakia is better than leaving the country and living in an inhumane conditions. He adds that there is no difference between the people of the same country and the same may happen to me. As a result , I may need his help as he needed mine .He indicated that some of those who came from Aleppo and Homs are working as taxi drivers inside the city . 

Nisreen , who is working in a clothes store in AL-Mahata Street welcomed the displaced and stressed that most of them are suffering because the aid provided to them is not enough. She continues that some of them have no interest in politics or what is going on in their towns. So it is not their fault that the armed terrorist groups destroyed their life.

 The hope for going back to their houses  is what helps those people to go on in their daily lives regardless whether they are satisfied with their current life or not . 

Zainab Makhlouf

Social Affairs Ministry, Islamic Relief Organization in France Agree on Providing Aid to Crisis Victims

DAMASCUS, (ST) - Ministry of Social Affairs and the Islamic Relief Organization in France on Tuesday signed an agreement on conveying humanitarian aid to victims of the crisis in Syria.

The French organization is due to send the first of its aid convoys today which marks the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

Minister of Social Affairs Kinda al-Shammat said taht according to the agreement, the organization will provide assistance to orphans and will assess the needs of the families staying in temporary shelters.

She affirmed the ministry's keenness to facilitate and ensure the arrival of the aid to those who deserve wherever they are in Syria and in complete neutrality.

The Executive director of the French Islamic Relief Organization Muheddin Khladi pointed out that in the light of the agreement, the organization will try to enhance the abilities of the crisis-hit victims. It will also carry out water projects and provide food assistance represented in 10 thousand food baskets to help these families live better conditions.

The Islamic Relief Organization in France is one of the most notable five French organizations working in the humanitarian field. Its activities cover 15 countries, but its work in Syria started in 2009.

H. Mustafa

Talkalakh: Great Coexistence Story

In the mid of violence and congestion scenes afflicting the country for more than two years, a glimmer of hope appears as new method of treatment is adopted. This method has been welcomed by many people yet been attacked by others. Reconciliation is the bold title of the initiative taken last week by the governor's convoy to Talkalakh, where armed terrorists have heavy presence. The large convoy included senior officials from the army, security, government and the city’s dignitaries.

This visit is not the first made by state representatives and civil society. Nevertheless, it is held under the auspice of great efforts made by the Reconciliation Committee in the province represented by its head, Sheikh Saleh Al Nuaimi. He considers his effort and the Committee’s members one, along with Talkalakh's reconciliation proceedings being an important step towards ending the crisis.

"Holding this  direct dialogue between clans and tribes on one hand, and armed groups on the other helps building confidence between all components of the society. The constructive dialogue that dominated the meeting led to end the armed presence in this city, as it allowed the state to impose its control and legitimacy upon the city; making those who take up arms against the state to be again state supporters against  Takfiri terrorist groups who are trying to infiltrate from neighboring Lebanon."

All participating parties have accepted the initiative stressing that this country is for all Syrians, and they can bring all things to the table. They had faith in dialogue and acceptance of the other's thoughts and differences. Everyone agree to forgive in order to rebuild  homeland through making the city’s peace model an example to be followed in other Syrian cities. Consequently, an immediate rehabilitation of the city processed, as well as a number of maintenance workshops entered the city to restore what have been sabotaged such as water, electricity and communications.

As we toured the city, every one asserted that many countries wanted to ruin Syria, the Syrian human being, and Syrian society moral foundations. Nonetheless, that didn't not happen, since Syrians can talk about and discuss anything. This country is for all Syrians, and they can bring all things to the table.

They stressed that "Syria is indisputably non conquerable and the coming days would but highlight the unique Syrian model of dialogue, coexistence, fraternity and stability.”

Amal Farhat

Aiding Children Affected by Terrorism

In-order to provide moral and psychological support workshops are launched for deported children living in temporary accommodation centers in Tartous.

 in-cooperation with UNICEF and the Ministry of  Culture, the Directorate of Culture in Tartous launched workshops aiming at aiding the  children  affected by terrorism of the armed groups in order to provide psychological and emotional support to help them cope with their distress.

Mr.Shaheen Shaheen, the Director of culture in Tartous emphasized the importance of this campaign for children. It included workshops supervised by specialists in the centers of their accommodation.

The ministry of Culture works for this campaign through a set of ideas and visions related to children.

Mr. shaheen indicated that this campaign is directed to boost hope for children .It gives them leeway to express their love of homeland and life through creative ways trying to surmount the stress posed by the terrorists which prevents them from practicing their daily peaceful routines.

Mona Assa'd, the responsible of the activities in the Cultural Center in the governorate indicated the value of establishing such activities which are intended to help the affected children from  other places that witnessed brutal acts of killing and violence practiced by the armed groups. This fact clearly affected their psychological status. She pointed out that the role of the Ministry and the Directorate lies in providing support for them in co-operation with other establishments caring for children and childhood .

Besides ,Assa'd mentioned that these workshops include training children in the domains of music,art,calligraphy,writing short stories and handcrafts .In addition to activities related to interactional theater and narrating stories.

The workshops function according to a specific schedule every Tuesday in all accommodation centers .At the end of each workshop there will be an exhibition to show the work of children to the public.

Children expressed their excitement about these workshops asking for holding such activities on a regular basis since they enable them to express their sorrow and pain.

 They wished that Syria would overcome this crisis and the children could be able to go back home safely to their daily life.

Zainab Makhlouf

victory Heralds

The days passed heavily for al-Kousier people. The majority of them hold on to their homes, but after a period when the armed groups abounded their attacks targeting them, they were compelled to leave the city to safer neighboring places .

Today everyone has returned to the city. Everyone feels joy and pride to liberate the land and clean it from terrorism and murder. Many of them have come to see the ruins of their homes, which were either detonated by terrorists, or used by them as weapons' stores and gathering places. "The most important is homecoming and everything will be compensated and rebuilt again. Our main interest is to save Syria and to protect its land and people against those criminals and mercenaries. The destruction of houses  is not a matter for us, what is important for us is to remain resolute so nothing would undermine our resolve".

I have recently met in al-Kousier many inhabitants coming back knowing that their homes were demolished yet returning back to prove to the whole world that Syrians cannot be defeated ."We will rebuild our Syria and bring life to our city", one of them said.

When I asked a martyr's wife, how do you feel about the Army's victory in Homs at large and in al-Kousier in particular, "victory is what condolences me and my children," she declared.

The martyr's father stressed "I've seen  my son in every soldier who was resisting and fighting valiantly on the battlefield. I feel that those soldiers are my sons hearing my son's voice in their words and cheers."  

The bereaved mother added "I saw the eyes of my martyred son in our victorious soldiers' eyes. I feel victory as a spring blooming in every martyr who returned back to the bosom of the nation 's land."

 A lot of people gathered in the vicinity of the church . They are determined to rebuild it as well as to rebuild the destroyed mosques. They told me that terrorists did not differentiate between a church or a mosque when destroying the city. They went on damaging mosques, churches as well as hospitals and all other service facilities.

 "We came back to our city to construct our church and mosque, since they are our unity's symbols. We will do our best to help the government in rehabilitating the city's facilities to come back as it was and even better", a young man stressed confidently.

Amal Farhat