Human rights defender Svetlana Gannushkina urges President Barack Obama not to carry out military operations in Syria

6 September 2013 

Svetlana Gannushkina

A meeting will take place today in St. Petersburg between members of Russian civil society and the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I was also invited to the meeting but was forced to decline because the day of the meeting had been postponed, and as a result I had in turn postponed some important matters related to the defence of migrants, in which others were involved. I could not do that again.

That being said, my message to the President of the United States is quite simple. It consists of two parts. I present them below.

1. Dear Mr. President, I have the greatest respect for the degree of responsibility the United States leadership is demonstrating on behalf of its people for the fate of the world. At the same time, I am convinced that military air operations resulting in yet more deaths amongst the civilian population are not the best expression of this responsibility. The United States has already repeated the abortive Soviet experience of military operations in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. In addition to casualties on both sides, it led to a flow of asylum-seekers from those countries. Now the refugees are primarily those who have cooperated with the Americans. 

This flow will increase dramatically, and its membership broaden, when United States troops leave these countries.

In the case of Syria, it is expected that no American soldier will set foot on Syrian soil. Nevertheless, destruction and casualties will be unavoidable.

Peaceful Syrians will be killed and children will suffer. These victims will join those who have died from the actions of their own authorities and the armed resistance of the opposition. Such actions cannot be justified by good intentions to bring the Syrian authorities to account for their crimes.

Furthermore, insufficient use has been made of diplomatic and economic means. Following any military operation taken, their scope would be reduced or rendered altogether negligible.

Events such as these enter the historical memory of nations for years to come and will have a negative impact on the psyche and mindset of the younger generations, including the youth of the United States.

I urge you not to give rise to evil and to abandon plans to carry out military operations in Syria.

2. The second part of my appeal concerns cooperation between the authorities and civil society. I believe that this cooperation at the level of the civil societies of Russia and the United States has been firmly established for a long time now. 

There appears to be a need to develop interaction between Russian civil society and the authorities of Russia and the United States. I think that discussion of the most pressing issues has been and remains crucial to our nations. At the same time, a clear-cut, firm and unequivocal position should be expressed and sufficiently stringent political and economic measures taken against countries that violate human rights, humanitarian law and international conventions.

I do not think I would have had time to say much more than that and I would be glad if the balance of arguments were to tip in favour of a peaceful impact on events in Syria, if only very slightly.


Svetlana Gannushkina

The text has been passed to the United States Embassy in Moscow. 

About the author: Svetlana Gannushkina
Chair of the Civic Assistance Committee,
Board member of the International Memorial Society