Two years later, Syrians recall chemical massacre

Aug. 21 marked the two-year anniversary of the chemical weapon attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, found by international investigations to have been the work of the Bashar Assad regime. The Syrian diaspora around the world held protests and vigils marking the event. The vigil in New York's Times Square for a second year drew some 200, wearing matching t-shirts reading "CHEMICAL MASSACRE IN SYRIA: WE WILL NEVER FORGET." Amid Syrian flags (the pre-Assad version used by the rebel forces), protesters laid white-shrouded effigies representing the dead, and as the sun set lit rows of small candles numbering 1,400—the estimated number killed in the attack. Chants—led by children, prominently including a girl of perhaps 10 years—included "BASHAR ASSAD, YOU WILL SEE; SYRIA, SYRIA WILL BE FREE"; 'BASHAR, ISIS, THEY'RE THE SAME; ONLY DIFFERENCE IS THE NAME"; and "SYRIA, SYRIA, DON'T YOU CRY; WE WILL NEVER LET YOU DIE." (WW4R on the scene)

An official statement from the organizers asserted: "Even though the majority of the chemical stockpiles in Syria have been destroyed, activists have confirmed approximately 27 separate cases of chemical gas usage since the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 2118, calling for the destruction of all chemical weapons and weapons facilities in Syria." The UN announced in June that it is investigating new chemical attacks in Syria. The regime's "barrel bomb" terror also continues. Last week, the UN expressed "horror" at "unacceptable" attacks on civilians as regime air-strikes left some 100 dead near the site of the 2012 chemical attack. (eNCA

Organizers also distributed a fact-sheet from the #ClearTheSky campaign, calling for a no-fly zone in Syria. including the following bullet points:

1. The Assad regime is killing 7 times more civilians than Isis.

2. More than 11,000 barrel bombs made of scrap metal and high explosive have been rolled out of regime helicopters onto hospitals, homes and schools since the UN banned them. They are the biggest killer of civilians. They drive extremism.

3. These barrel bombs are the leading cause of displacement, forcing refugees to cross the Mediterranean and other borders.

4. Many of the barrel bombs are dropped on areas under siege. More than half a million people in Syria live in areas with no access to food, water or medicine since 2013, including the areas of Ghouta that were targeted by the sarin gas attacks in the same year.

5. The international anti-Isis coalition is flying in the same airspace where many of these barrel bombs are dropped, choosing to look the other way.

The death toll in the Syria war now exceeds a quarter million—over a third civilians. Some 12 million people have been displaced.