Govt to evacuate RI nationals from Syria
The Indonesian government has decided to take emergency measures against the worsening condition in Syria, where the regime of Bashar al-Assad is ramping up its attacks against civilian populations.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that the government was readying plans to evacuate Indonesians from Syria, especially after the brutal massacre in the town of Houla, where 108 civilians, including 49 children, were killed.
Marty said on Wednesday that the government was finalizing a contingency plan to evacuate Indonesians out of Syria.
“According to our latest data, there are 12,000 Indonesians residing in Syria as students, workers, and migrant workers. Of these people, 193 have already left the country, while 40 others will be evacuated on May 30. Additionally, 139 migrant workers are now sheltered at the Indonesian Embassy in Damascus to be later evacuated out of Syria, and we will continue to evacuate the rest as soon as possible,” Marty said at a hearing with members of the House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees information, defense, and foreign affairs.
The government has also decided to reassign Indonesian ambassador to Syria Wahib to coordinate the evacuation effort. Wahib was recalled four months ago to express the government’s concern over the violence in Syria.
“The President had therefore assigned the Indonesian Ambassador to Syria to head back to the country ... last Sunday to guarantee all Indonesians would be safely evacuated. He would also be in charge of the 16 observers,” he said, referring to the 16 police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel the government deployed to Syria as United Nations mission observers.
As part of its diplomatic efforts, Marty said the government would also summon representatives of the Syrian government in Jakarta to discuss the escalating violence as well as the future of ties between the two countries.
“Since Syria doesn’t have any envoys here, we therefore will arrange a meeting with the country’s representatives in Jakarta to get explanation from them. This is an option that the government will take to deal with the situation there. We have been monitoring [the event] and we strongly denounce the massacre. As part of the United Nations’ observer team, we consistently demanded — not just asked — the Syrian government to stop its violent acts against innocent civilians,” he said.
Indonesia has raised concerns about Syria after reports of brutal killings in Houla, a collection of farming villages in Syria’s Homs province.
The massacre is considered as one of the deadliest single events in the 15-month uprising against the Assad regime.
According to the UN’s Office for Human Rights, most of the victims of the massacre, many of whom were children and women, were shot at close range. The Associated Press reported that the victims were gunned down in their homes.
The brutality of the Houla killings has sparked international outrage, and governments around the world have expelled Syrian ambassadors and diplomats in a coordinated blow to President Assad.
Chairman of House Commission I Mahfudz Shiddiq said Indonesia does not need to follow suit.
“Our government just needs to safely evacuate all of the Indonesians there, and give an official warning to the Syrian government [on the escalating violence],” the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker said.
Mahfudz added that as the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia should be able to rally members of the Arab League and other UN member states to unite and punish the Syrian government.
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