Syrians ask pope to #TellPutin to end Idlib bombing

Syrians urge Pope Francis to #TellPutin to end brutal Idlib bombing
3 min read
04 July, 2019
Hundreds have been killed and almost 400,000 displaced since late April, when the Syrian regime and its Russian ally began a deadly campaign to recapture the anti-regime bastion.
Almost 400,000 civilians have been displaced in Idlib since late April [Twitter]

Syrian activists and human rights campaigners are asking Pope Francis to urge Russian President Vladimir Putin to end devastating airstrikes on civilians in Idlib.

The long-running leader of Russia on Thursday arrived to the Vatican to meet with the pope.

For days, Syrian activists and allied human rights campaigners have flooded social media with the hashtag "#TellPutin" in a bid to end violence against civilians in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

Idlib and parts of neighbouring Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces are covered by a de-escalation zone agreed by Russia and Turkey. But the area has suffered a punishing escalation in airstrikes that had displaced more than 330,000 people.

The Syrian regime with Russian support launched an offensive in April with huge bombardments hitting southern Idlib and northern Hama. 

Dozens of schools, rescue centres and hospitals have been destroyed in Russia-led bombing, and airstrikes have killed at least 490 civilians in the anti-regime bastion.

In photos shared on social media, civilians in Idlib are pictured holding signs informing Pope Francis of the situation in Idlib and urged him to tell the Russian president to end Russia's attacks on civilians.

"Pope Francis, our hospitals are being bombed," read one sign.

In another image, a young boy holds up a sign: "Pope Francis, our kids are being killed."

Others quoted the Bible, with one sign held by a young girl among makeshift tents, apparently in a destitute refugee camp, reading: "I was homeless and you gave me a room."

Another repeated the biblical quote, adding: "Pope Francis, we are displaced with no homes to go back to, they are destroyed."

An Irish Syria Solidarity Group amplified the campaign on Twitter, simply calling on the pope to tell Putin to "stop bombing Idlib".

Other international human rights advocates also urged Pope Francis to discuss the issue with the Russian president.

"With 3 million civilians at risk in Syria's Idlib province, Pope Francis should #TellPutin when he sees him today to stop Russian-Syrian indiscriminate bombardment there, not to mention their systematic attacks on hospitals," Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, said in a tweet.

Syria's war has killed around 500,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of protests against President Bashar al-Assad.