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 Full text 
Thursday, 17 April 2014 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Syria: situation of certain vulnerable communities

  Marietje Schaake, author. - Mr President, it is hard to believe we are ending this parliamentary term, and the discussion on human rights with a resolution on Syria. We need so much more. May the contrast between the horrors on the ground and the lack of Members in this House for every human rights resolution debate be a wake-up call to all of us and a reminder of how much more the EU can and must do to protect human rights. In fact, a majority of Europeans want the EU to protect human rights first and foremost.

With more than 150[nbsp ]000 people killed, more than 6.5[nbsp ]million people internally displaced, more than 2.5[nbsp ]million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and no end in sight for this horrible war, what more do we need to be convinced about? Today we focus on minorities and their vulnerable positions – ethnic and religious minorities, but also women and children, suffer disproportionately among the civilian population that is increasingly crushed between Jihadist extremists and a murderous regime.

I want to pay tribute to a Dutch priest, Father Frans van der Lugt, who was killed in Homs on 7[nbsp ]April 2014. Human rights defenders, intellectuals, journalists and civil society activists continue to be victims of this horrible crisis, and so is the 2011 Sakharov Prize winner, Razan Zaitouneh, who was kidnapped together with her husband and two other human rights activists more than four months ago. We call for her release.

The Assad regime has used sectarian polarisation as a survival strategy, so may we ourselves be careful not to fall into the trap of emphasising differences in the plight of one minority over another. Let us stand united in recognising that the rights of minorities are inextricably linked to the upholding of other fundamental human rights and freedoms, such as the right to liberty, security and equality, and the right to freedom of expression. A negotiated peace will require buy-in from all stakeholders, including Iran, the Gulf States and Russia, and it should lead to a society where all Syrians can live freely. But what a long way away that is.

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