Letter Sent to PM Johnson and President Biden Calling on them to Lift Sanctions on Syria

21 January 2021


HART is proud to have been closely involved in planning and organising this international initiative calling on President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson to cease sanctions against Syria. The following press release was distributed to various media outlets by HART alongside the letters.



Today, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson faced renewed calls to lift sanctions against Syria, in urgent letters signed by over 90 politicians, human rights experts and some of the most senior church leaders in the Middle East.

The letters warn that “millions of hard-pressed Syrians will go to bed hungry and cold tonight,” and that “the COVID-19 pandemic is raging through the country, unhindered by a healthcare system largely destroyed over ten years of war.” They say that sanctions, which are backed by Biden and Johnson, “make the economic plight of the Syrian people worse.”


‘It is the poor who bear the brunt’ 

Signatories to the letter to Boris Johnson include two former British ambassadors to Syria, two former Archbishops of Canterbury, General Lord Dannatt, Admiral Lord West, European diplomats and academics, senior Syrian church leaders, and the General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, which represents all the member churches in the region.

Following the publication of the letter, Baroness Cox – an independent member of the House of Lords and CEO of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust – said:

“The evidence is clear: economic sanctions are prolonging the suffering of the Syrian people and must be stopped. They are totally ineffective as a means of putting political pressure on the Syrian Government. It is the poor who bear the brunt of these actions.”


‘Dire humanitarian situation’ 

The letters to Biden and Johnson follow a statement by UN human rights expert Professor Alena Douhan, who warned on 29 December that U.S. sanctions “violate the human rights of the Syrian people,” and “exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in Syria, especially in the course of COVID-19 pandemic,” by blocking the aid, trade and investment necessary for Syria’s health system and economy to function.

“What particularly alarms me”, Professor Douhan said, is the way the US sanctions regime “rides roughshod over human rights, including the Syrian people’s rights to housing, health, and an adequate standard of living and development. The U.S. government must not put obstacles in the way of rebuilding of hospitals because lack of medical care threatens the entire population’s very right to life.”


‘Suffering to millions’ 

It is estimated that over 80% of the population are now living below the poverty line and there are severe shortages of food, fuel, and medical supplies, with people waiting hours in queues to buy bread and gasoline. With construction materials and equipment also affected by sanctions, much-needed reconstruction efforts are impeded.  So-called humanitarian exemptions are simply not working in practice.

The international community has a moral responsibility to alleviate this humanitarian crisis. Not only are sanctions causing suffering to millions, but they will potentially further destabilise the whole region, say the signatories to the letters.

For more information:


A copy of the letters to Biden and Johnson, including a full list of signatories, can be found below. 


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