UPDATE: UNRWA Yarmouk social media campaign reaches millions worldwide

TWITTER CAMPAIGN(CHICAGO 01/22/2014) – The American Muslims for Palestine, a national education and advocacy organization, thanks its supporters and all who participated in the three-day worldwide social media campaign, demanding an end to the siege on Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which was established to deal with the Palestinian refugee crisis caused by the partition of Palestine in 1947 and the subsequent Zionist war in 1948, called for the campaign, which was backed by celebrities such as Mia Farrow, Hugh Grant and Arab Idol winner Mohamad Assaf, as well as other UN agencies such as Unicef, UNHCR, UNWFP, OCHA and UNRWA. Several international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch as well as domestic grassroots organizations such as AMP supported the effort.

The three-day worldwide social media campaigned generated nearly 32 million impressions and nearly 12 million people participated in the Twitter campaign that applied pressure on those at the Geneva Two Syria Talks. At issue is the Syrian regime’s siege on Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus and the inability to deliver humanitarian aid there and to other civilian areas within Syria.

UNRWA issues urgent appeal: Help pressure Geneva II leaders to end siege on Yarmouk

Yarmouk

UNRWA food distribution, Damascus, Syria. Dec 14, 2013 - © Carole al Farah/UNRWA Archive

(CHICAGO 01/20/2014) – The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization created to deal with Palestinian refugees, and several other UN agencies, has issued an urgent appeal for worldwide participation in a social media campaign in attempts to end the siege on Yarmouk camp as well as other civilian areas in Syria. Together with organizations such as Human Rights Watch UNRWA’s goal is to use social media to reach 23 million people (the pre-conflict population of Syria) and for them to back a call to the leaders at the Geneva Two Conference to lift the restrictions on Yarmouk and other civilian areas in Syria.

UNRWA hopes “to trend and reach that figure on the eve of the conference and send a loud signal that enough is enough.”

In a heart-wrenching letter sent to the American Muslims for Palestine, journalists and other social justice supporters, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said “Just occasionally in a journalist’s career, they are confronted with a situation of such overwhelming pitilessness that they have no choice but to cross over the divide between objective observer to engaged participant. I believe we have reached that moment in Yarmouk and other civilian areas of Syria.”

AMP denounces Syrian regime; demands an end to siege on Yarmouk refugee camp

YARMOUK
Photo/AP

(CHICAGO 01/15/2014) – At least 43 Palestinian have starved to death in the past three months in Yarmouk refugee camp outside Damascus because the Syrian regime placed it under a total siege in July 2013. The delivery of humanitarian assistance, including food and medical supplies, has been prohibited since then, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Women are dying while giving birth, and children are suffering from diseases related to severe malnutrition, according to Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesman.

”Residents, including infants and children, are subsisting for long periods on diets of stale vegetables, herbs, powdered tomato paste, animal feed and cooking spices dissolved in water,” Gunness said in a statement.

The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) condemns the Syrian regime in the harshest possible terms for the starvation and suffering of the Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk, and for using Palestinians as pawns as conditions of the war it is waging on its own people. Furthermore, AMP condemns the regime for its attempts to drive a divisive wedge between Palestinians, oppressing some while collaborating with others in attempts to set up a deleterious “good Palestinian vs. bad Palestinian” dichotomy.

Action Alert: Support American Studies Association against Zionist attacks

The American Studies Association (ASA), which voted on Dec. 16, 2013, to endorse the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institution, has been coming under harsh attack. The American Muslims for Palestine is calling upon our supporters to take action and stand in solidarity with the ASA by signing a petition of support.

The ASA, which is comprised of academic scholars, attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in such a referendum in the history of the organization. Sixty-six percent of voters endorsed the resolution. By doing so, the ASA’s members sent a message that it stands in full solidarity with the world-wide BDS movement initiated and led by Palestinian civil society, according to the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

We must not stand by idly. We must stand in solidarity with these courageous individuals who chose to stand for academic freedom and justice for Palestinians in the face of harsh criticism and at a time when college campuses are coming under increased attack for lectures, activities and student groups, which are critical of Israeli policies that contravene international law and deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights.

Read the letter of support.

Sign the petition.

UNRWA update on Yarmouk

(UNRWA 01/14/2014) -- The following is a news report from Chris Gunness, spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, after UNRWA attempted again to deliver humanitarian aid to Yarmouk camp on Jan. 13, 2014).

The relief convoy which tried to get in to Yarmouk was an UNRWA convoy led by UNRWA staff and carrying humanitarian supplies loaded from UNRWA’s central warehouse in Damascus - six small trucks with food for 6,000 people along with 10,000 doses of polio vaccine and some medical supplies. Syrian authorities provided us with a security escort enabling us to reach a last government-controlled checkpoint at the southern entrance of Yarmouk. The convoy was cleared to proceed beyond the checkpoint and the Syrian authorities provided a bulldozer to go ahead to clear the road of debris, earth mounds and other obstructions. The bulldozer was fired upon, hit by direct gunfire and forced to withdraw, though with no casualties. Thereafter, bursts of gunfire, including machine gun fire, erupted close to the trucks and UNRWA vehicles, suggesting a fire-fight. Also, one mortar exploded very close to the convoy. The convoy withdrew at this point following the advice of the security escort and returned safely to Damascus.

Empowerment Through Education and Action

The American Muslims for Palestine firmly believes that educating the American public is key to bringing about change in the Middle East. Because once Americans know what is truly happening on the ground in Palestine, they will no longer allow their tax dollars to be used to support Israel's military occupation of Palestine, the world's last and longest-lasting occupation. We are all empowered to act for justice when we know the truth.

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