PETALING JAYA, June 10 — Malaysia must take a strong stand and condemn the torture and killings of thousands of Syrians under the current regime of Bashar al-Assad, Opposition lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar said today.
Though Malaysia is not a direct party to the ongoing civil war in Syria, she said the government can still play a role as the country will be impacted by the Middle East refugee crisis.
“I’m asking for a bipartisan select committee on Syria,” the Lembah Pantai MP said at a special one-day exhibition of photographs here smuggled out by a former Syrian military policeman that showcase the horrific tortures and deaths of thousands of his countrymen between 2011 and 2013.
She said there have been many past bipartisan initiatives to condemn atrocities elsewhere in the world, from the Sri Lankan civil war to more recently the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority in their own country.
She later confirmed that she will make a formal request in writing for for Parliament to set up a bipartisan committee the next time it sits, scheduled from July 24 to August 10.
“I’m confident many politicians across the divide being part of this effort because Malaysia is a proud country, we will always be abiding to a moral compass and Syria is a friend to us,” Nurul Izzah said.
While Malaysia practises a non-interference policy on the sovereign affairs of another country, Nurul Izzah said issues like genocide are a “clear-cut exclusion” and that when it happens, “it is really incumbent on us to do something about that”.
The PKR vice-president also urged Parliament to host the photography exhibition shining a light on torture in Syria and the al-Assad regime.
“For me, the fact that the EU, UN, UK, even the Italian Parliament has done so, I can’t stay silent until my government, the Malaysian Parliament does their best to address the atrocity,” she said.
She added that there will be efforts to continue the exhibition in other states.
Nurul Izzah was upbeat that there will be greater awareness initiatives, saying she has had “useful encounters” with the deputy foreign minister on the Syrian crisis and will work to arrange meetings between minister and advocacy group Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF).
The SETF was once hosted by Nurul Izzah’s father, PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the US-based SETF, said it was important to create awareness of the Syrian crisis among Malaysians.
“It’s a bipartisan, non-political issue. It’s a humanitarian issue, it’s the obligation of everyone to do everything that we can to help bring an end to targeting and killing and torture to death of civilians in Syria,” he said.
According to SETF, over 500,000 Syrians have died since the civil conflict started seven years ago in 2011.
Mouaz said 14 million, more than half of Syria’s 23 million-strong population, have been forcefully displaced from their homes and made refugees.
Today’s photography exhibition titled “Caesar’s Photos: Inside Syria’s Secret Prisons” is the SETF’s first in Asia and features a select 19 out of 55,000 smuggled photos of Syrians tortured to death just over the course of two years from 2011.
The Syrian photographer, known only by his pseudonym “Caesar”, had been tasked with forensically recording the corpses of his people allegedly brutalised and killed by their country’s military. He had since fled his homeland.