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Türk warns civilians will again pay price as Syrian conflict fragments

14 September 2023

SYRIA - SEPTEMBER 06: Fighting in the rural area of Manbij, Syria, on September 06, 2023.  Credit Bekir Kasim / Anadolu Agency

GENEVA (14 September 2023) - The recent outbreak of fighting in northeastern Syria between Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their Arab-led Deir-ez-Zor Military Council (DMC) has heavily impacted civilians and raises wider security concerns that risk exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said today.

“The warning signs of a further fragmentation to the conflict in Syria are alarming. We cannot afford to sit back and watch the country slide even deeper into an endless conflict, which has already scarred the lives of so many civilians,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

“Over the past 12 years, civilians have suffered from a myriad of human rights violations and abuses, as well as other challenges arising from conflict, epidemics, the pandemic and most recently the devastating earthquake. Today, seven out of 10 Syrians require humanitarian assistance.”

Türk echoed calls by the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry this week for the immediate cessation of attacks on civilians across the country amid an escalation in hostilities, and to respond to their dire needs.

Fighting erupted in Deir-ez-Zor Governorate on 27 August following the arrest of the DMC commander by the SDF. Since then, the UN Human Rights Office has documented the killings of at least 23 civilians. Dozens have been arrested by the SDF for their alleged involvement in the hostilities. As a result, thousands of civilians have fled their homes.

Attacks have affected populated areas, including IDP camps, markets, water treatment facilities and health centres, Türk said. Curfews and roadblocks have curtailed freedom of movement and driven food and fuel prices higher.

“I call on all duty bearers to prevent and address all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by their forces, including by holding those responsible to account,” he said. “Accountability is central to sustainable peace.”

While initially confined to Deir-ez-Zor, the conflict quickly spilled into Al-Hassakeh and eastern rural Aleppo, and involved other armed groups.

“I am deeply concerned that the tensions and hostilities in and around Deir-ez-Zor will be exploited by other parties trying to exert their influence,” Türk said.  

“All parties to this latest flare-up must end their fighting, and work to resolve their differences through dialogue to avoid opening another catastrophic dimension to the Syrian conflict.”


For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or
Jeremy Laurence +  +41 22 917 9383 / [email protected] or
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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