All war is terrible. But there is something particularly terrible about a city under siege. Think of Derry, Leningrad, Sarajevo.
That’s been the fate of Homs in Syria since Spring 2011. It was there that reporter Marie Colvin was killed by Syrian government shelling in February of this year. Who knows how many residents, whose names we don’t know, have shared her fate before and since.
Most of the city is now under government control but fighting continues in certain areas of the city.
The Red Cross reached the besieged and beleaguered neighbourhoods of Khaldiyeh and Hamidiyeh in the Old City of Homs over the weekend, delivering medical supplies, food and blankets and making an assessment of what other aid is urgently needed.
As the Red Cross point out in their statement:
In accordance with international humanitarian law, the parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population. This includes allowing civilians to move to safer areas, and facilitating the delivery of life-saving assistance. The wounded and the sick must also receive, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay, the medical care and attention they require.
This appears to have been the exception rather than the rule in parts of Syria with civilians suffering at the hands of both government forces and opposition groups. For the people of Homs and surrounding areas, that has included being blasted by government warplanes as Assad’s forces attempt to eliminate resistance.
The results are inevitably gruesome. According to one report of an attack on Maaret al-Numan:
Chubby feet resting on bicycle pedals and a decapitated head were all that was left of a boy caught unaware by the blitz as he played outside his home.
We’re hoping that local political activists – of all hues, bloggers, journalists and campaigners will turn out in force to support the emergency work of the Red Cross / Red Crescent in Syria at this year’s Great Big Politics Pub Quiz. Every penny of the ticket price will be going to support this life-saving work.
With only a couple of weeks to go before the big night, it’s time to organise your team and get your tickets booked online or in person at The Black Box. Great prizes are guaranteed for the winning teams, courtesy of our friends at Stratagem, and MLAs from various parties are lined up as your evening’s quizmasters. It will be excellent.
Great Big Politics Pub Quiz – The Black Box, Belfast – 7:30pm, Tuesday 20 November.
I am the Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International UK and an occasional human rights blogger at Amnesty Blogs: Belfast & Beyond.
I’m on Twitter at @PatrickCorrigan