Observing a Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Human Rights Workers

By Ifat Gazia, American Red Cross Volunteer, Northeast Ohio Region

ICRC Annual Report 2013 - Syria

Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers retrieving dead bodies from the streets of Aleppo. Photo © Syrian Arab Red Crescent/TAYYAR, I.

The Syrian war entered the 8th year just a week back. This deadly war not only led to a loss of over 350,000 lives in the past seven years, but also the displacement of 5.6 million Syrian people.

More than 60,000 of them have gone missing.

Therefore, this war drew to itself the attention and intervention of international humanitarian organizations, the United Nations, and other human rights defenders from all across the world. But the violence in Syria didn’t spare even these aid workers and peacekeepers who worked for these organizations locally.  Many of these aid workers or UN staff members have been either abducted or are missing. Some of these staff members were also the local Syrians. Through 2017 alone, 28 UN staff members have been missing in Syria or have been abducted by different armed gunmen. There are many more missing who work with other aid organizations like the Red Cross/ Red Crescent and ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross).

Wars are always political, but the pain and destruction associated with them is unquestionably personal. Likewise, the pain suffered by the families of these staff members who are missing in Syria and other conflict regions of the world is beyond solace.

Every year, March 25th is recognized as the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members. The commemoration of this day began after the abduction of a UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) journalist Alec Collect in 1985, who was working in the near East for Palestinian refugees. Due to the increasing number of incidents of violence against peacekeepers and aid workers working in different conflict zones all across the world, it has become essential to observe this day.

This day is an international day of solidarity with the families of those who lost their loved ones, and sometimes their only breadwinners. Henceforth, providing a significant reminder every year on this day that measures should be taken to stop the intensified violence against peacekeepers worldwide and stop their enforced disappearances is very critical.

This day is also a reminder for other people who are not directly linked to conflict to work towards world peace. This day is a reminder that wars do no good to anyone. This day is a reminder that it’s a war that creates refugees. It is a war that leads to enforced disappearances and killing. It is because of a war that we lose our loved ones.

 

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