Activists wrap their dead in UN shrouds in protest
Activists in besieged Eastern Ghouta have taken to wrapping dead bodies in United Nations banners to express residents’ “frustration” with the international community, activist monitoring group the Damascus Media Center told CNN.
One such photo, showing two children wrapped in the flag of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), made the rounds on social media over the weekend. Activist Rami Jarrah said the children had died in an airstrike on Saturday night. CNN has been unable to contact the photographer to verify the assertion.
Activists said they received the photo from a group inside Eastern Ghouta, one of the last rebel-held enclaves in Syria. Nearly 600 people are believed to have died and more than 2,000 injured in Syrian government air and ground strikes there since an offensive began February 18, according to the United Nations. Nearly 400,000 people are believed to be trapped inside the enclave.
Since the UN Security Council unanimously voted for a ceasefire in Syria one week ago, violence has escalated, according to the UN Regional Coordinator for the Syrian crisis Panos Moumtzis. “Instead of a much-needed reprieve, we continue to see more fighting, more death, and more disturbing reports of hunger and hospitals being bombed,” Moumtzis said in a statement on Sunday. “This collective punishment of civilians is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Jarrah said the photo offers a vivid illustration of the plight facing people in Eastern Ghouta.
“(The photo) shows the extent to which these people are desperate, where they’re not thinking about their children that just died. They’re thinking about the possibility of 400,000 people dying,” he said.
“They’re using that moment to protest to the world. And I think that’s just outrageous that parents can be pushed to that extent,” Jarrah added.
In two tweets, UNHCR Communications Chief Melissa Fleming wrote: “The @UN humanitarian community, which includes 450 of my colleagues in Syria, has been doing everything within their power to reach people in need – the blame for all the suffering lies with those who deny access or drop bombs on children.”
“A distinction should be made between teams in Syria trying to save lives and those with political influence who could end this mad war,” she added.
UNHCR officials told CNN that the tweets were the organization’s official response to the photo.