FEEDBACK – Launch of the new report “Everywhere the bombing followed us” in Geneva

Posted by: on Oct 10, 2017 | No Comments

On 5th October 2017, the Government of Ireland together with Handicap International presented the new report “Everywhere the bombing followed us” in La Pastorale Press Club in Geneva.

The audience of 25 attendees included members of the Swiss government, representatives of Australia, Austria, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, of development and humanitarian non-governmental organisations, and also of UNMAS, ICRC, Geneva Call and ICBLCMC. The event deliberately took place ahead of the UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security in New York, where another presentation of the report is planned.

Everywhere the bombing followed us”: giving a voice to the victims.

Martina Vohankova, project manager for Health and Mine Action activities of Handicap International in Syria, presented the major outcomes of the report based on a survey of 205 Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in-depth interviews with 14 Syrian women refugees. She emphasized that the report’s findings confirm the findings of the previous report, issued in 2016: bombing and shelling and their effects are forcing people to leave their home – and the majority of all respondents had been displaced within their own city or to several other cities within the country prior to seeking external refuge.

Martina mentioned the striking testimonies of several women, included in the report, such as Sara, who had to flee with her family when her house was bombed and destroyed. She left wounded and without even shoes or any other belongings. She quoted Layal who described the catastrophic and scary state of the hospital in her hometown that was deliberately hit by bombing. Or Nadia, who found that even the harvest was spoiled by the chemicals contained in the explosive weapons used on her land.

After the presentation of the report, Susanne Brunner, Swiss radio moderator, opened a lively round of questions and answers with Martina Vohankova, the Ambassador of Ireland Breifne O’Reilly, INEW legal advisor Maya Brehm and HI arms advocacy manager Alma Al Osta. All panelists and also several attendees from the audience emphasized how important it is to give victims a voice and how such reports support the political process of addressing the harms of explosive weapons used in populated areas.

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Raising awareness on the harm caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Ambassador O’Reilly thanked HI for the report and mentioned that supportive governments needed studies like that to get others engaged. “We can only be responsible for our own state’s policy, but we can call on states for efforts on a political declaration addressing the harm of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. (…) Ireland is one of the growing numbers of countries to join in raising awareness on this harms.” The ambassador also emphasized that compliance with IHL is crucial but can go in tandem with the Austrian lead process for a political declaration.

This aspect was supported by Maya Brehm who explained that the IHL rules of distinction and proportionality were abstract enough to allow interpretation: “That is why INEW asks for more specific standards.” She added: “What the report shows is a pattern. It is not only Syria or non-state-actors. But I have to add that historically we have reason for optimism, because the level of bombardment like in the Second World War is no longer acceptable.”

Moderator Susanne Brunner mentionned that reports like “Everywhere the bombing followed us” stay in media for only few days. Politicians, but also media might argue that the cruel realities depicted in the report are just the reality of war. “But we also know there are certain rules,” replied Alma Al Osta,”Living in a conflict today is a hell. And this should not be.” Alma underlined as well the aspect of specific female suffering in war: “The report shows this pattern that women are losing their identity through war. It is frustrating to see, myself a woman survivor of a war, how it takes years until they get back to live.”

The panel was followed by a series of interesting comments and questions from the audience. The Irish ambassador was supported by the attendees of the Austrian mission emphasizing that getting voices of people and not only numbers and facts was so important for the ongoing process. A representative from the Swiss mission mentioned that the report was not only pointing on a severe humanitarian crisis but was also putting forward “several ideas to move this forward”. The ICBL-representative finally asked Martina for more details on specific support to refugees with disabilities that gave her the chance to also present the humanitarian response carried out by HI in Syria and its neighboring countries.


Dr. Eva Maria Fischer
Head of advocacy and development education – Handicap International Germany