The recent invitations extended to Bashar Assad to various international events have sparked outrage and raised serious concerns about the lack of accountability for his regime’s crimes against humanity. Despite decades of repression, imprisonment, abuse, murder, and displacement of the Syrian people and Palestinians in Syria, he has been invited to international gatherings, highlighting a stark contrast between his actions and the international community’s response.
The Arab League is hosting an emergency meeting regarding the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. The meeting includes Arab leaders and Iran’s president alongside Assad and takes place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Arab League, along with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), seeks to demonstrate a unified stance in condemning the Israeli occupation, supporting Palestine, and holding Israel accountable for its actions.
However, some have expressed shock and concern over the inclusion of Assad due to his regime’s ongoing crimes in Syria which comprise many of the same violations carried out in Gaza by Israel such as the targeting of civilian homes, residential areas, schools, hospitals and mosques as well as the use of siege and starvation tactics, weaponization and withholding of aid and mass displacement.
As international attention is on Gaza, and the crimes and atrocities of Israel there, the plight of Palestinians in Syria, under the hands of Assad should not be overlooked. Over the years, they have faced repression, imprisonment, abuse, and displacement under Assad’s regime.
This includes the infamous siege and destruction of Yarmouk Camp, which expelled over 60% of the Palestinians and destroyed over half of the homes, similar, though smaller in scale, to what has occurred in Gaza. The recent invitation extended to Assad to Riyadh to discuss the crimes in Gaza stands in stark contrast to the suffering endured by Palestinians in Syria, further exacerbating their sense of injustice and abandonment.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invited Assad to attend COP28, the global UN climate conference. This move has drawn widespread criticism, as it not only undermines the pursuit of justice but also contradicts the UAE’s commitment to human rights. The UAE’s decision to welcome Assad while sidelining civil society and human rights defenders raises questions about its priorities and commitment to accountability.
The international community’s failure to hold Assad accountable for his regime’s crimes against humanity is deeply concerning. Arab countries, including the UAE, have rushed to normalize ties with Assad’s government without demanding justice for the grave abuses committed over the past 12 years. The readmission of Syria to the Arab League without requiring respect for human rights further highlights the lack of accountability and these recent invitations in light of the ongoing violations of Assad and his allies in Syria are an affront to those who continue to suffer due to the criminal actions of his regime.