March 11, 2020

Young Addresses Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) today participated in two events regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria. Senator Young participated in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the war in Syria, with witness testimony from Caesar, a Syrian military defector for whom the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act was named. Senator Young also spoke during an event hosted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum regarding the Syrian crisis that has killed more than 500,000 civilians and displaced 12 million individuals.


Senator Young urged the Administration to fully implement the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act and for the Government of Turkey to step in and provide life-saving aid and humanitarian assistance. Currently, the offensive around Idlib in Syria has produced thousands, if not millions, of new refugees.

“I remain very concerned about the ongoing conflict in Syria that the Assad regime brought on and continues to fuel at great loss to the Syrian people. This morning, I heard from Caesar himself. This brave individual has contributed so much to the international community’s understandingof Assad’s crimes,” said Senator Young. “We should use Caesar as an example of courage, and look to his ability to provide millions with a voice. I look forward to working with our allies to help bring humanitarian assistance and peace to Syria and the broader Middle East.”

Senator Young delivered the following remarks:


Thank you for inviting me to speak today as we consider Syria’s decade of violence. I appreciate the opportunity to meet so many dedicated individuals, and to briefly share my thoughts.


I remain very concerned about the ongoing conflict in Syria that the Assad regime has brought on. This conflict continues to fuel a great loss to the Syrian people.


Last fall’s security operations by the Government of Turkey in Northeast Syria also raises concerns. We have already seen countless displaced Syrians forced to flee their homes.


Refugees should be well-informed of the conditions that would await them upon their return so they can make an informed decision. My goal is to ensure families are not forced to leave their homes or places of refuge until it is safe.


I am proud that the United States is the leading donor of humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis. That aid is being delivered by humanitarian organizations, many of which need to base their operations in Turkey.


That aid is delivered across the border pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 2165. Maintaining a sufficient number of these cross border delivery locations is essential to delivering life-saving aid. The Government of Turkey should continue to support the various NGOs that provide that aid and Russia should not politicize the negotiations of this resolution.


Russia also continues to exacerbate the conflict by shielding Assad from accountability for his actions which only serves to prolong the conflict. Russia claims it is trying to be helpful as it has sought to take the lead in negotiating a solution to the conflict, but this has only been a distraction from the United Nations-led effort in Geneva.


We cannot allow Russia – or any other country – to further delay progress in resolving this conflict.


This morning, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I had the opportunity hear from Caesar himself. At great personal risk, Caesar has time and time again stood up to the cruel injustices of the Assad Regime, and bravely given a voice to millions.


I encourage anyone here who has not studied this brave individual to do so, and to look at just a few of the photographs Caesar collected.


I also encourage you to look to his sacrifice and courage. It’s because of people like Caesar that we have a more complete picture of the trials of the Syrian people. We must not let them down through inaction or miscalculation.


Finally, it is impossible to survey the situation in Syria without being deeply concerned about Idlib. For years, Syria, Turkey, and Russia have been unable to find a path forward for this embattled city. And now, continued pressure by the Assad regime has created thousands, if not millions, of new refugees.


The indiscriminate tactics used by the Assad regime and its Russian allies continues to place enormous strain on international aid workers, and on the ability of refugee agencies and to properly care for the refugees this conflict continues to produce.


I fear that the regime’s offensive in Idlib will deplete the ability of Turkey to ensure the safety of refugees.


I call on our NATO partners to seek de-escalatory measures in Idlib and elsewhere along the border between Syria and Turkey. Regional rivals should not use the dire humanitarian crisis – nine years in the making – to their advantage. 


For too long, Russia and Iran have turned a blind eye – or willfully participated – in gross human rights abuses simply for their own international prestige and benefit. We merely have to ask the millions of displaced Syrians about the compatibility of humanitarian access and power politics.


I was encouraged by Ambassador Craft’s announcement last week of the United States committing $108 million in additional assistance. Since the start of the conflict, the United States has contributed over $10 billion in humanitarian funding. These financial commitments are key, and another example of how America can lead and be a global force for good, even when American interests are not a primary concern.


Again, thank you for inviting me to speak on this important matter today. I look forward to working with you all to bring peace to Syria and the broader Middle East.