Yesterday, 23 deputy ambassadors and senior diplomats from EU countries, and the EU delegation, visited Majdal Shams, one of the five remaining Syrian villages in the occupied Golan. The visit was to learn about the serious human rights situation of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan due to the Israeli occupation and the conflict in Syria.

At the office of Al-Marsad, the only human rights organisation in the occupied Golan, the delegates were briefed on the background to the Israeli occupation and some of the major human rights issues affecting the Syrian population. These include: discriminatory housing and planning policies, and home demolition orders; the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the exploitation of natural resources; landmines and Israeli military bases in Syrian residential and agricultural areas; family separation; and discriminatory educational policies.

The delegates then visited the fortified ceasefire line fence separating the occupied Golan from the rest of Syria. They also saw minefields behind people’s back gardens, an Israeli military base in the centre of Majdal Shams, and the overcrowded housing situation in Majdal Shams.

Later, they met with representatives from an agricultural cooperative to learn about the serious challenges faced by Syrian farmers in the occupied Golan. These include discriminatory Israeli policies, which mean that Syrian farmers can pay up to four times as much for water as Israeli settlers, and the loss of crucial markets in Syria for apples due to the Syrian conflict.

The delegates also learned about the difficulties that Syrians from the occupied Golan face with international travel, including to Europe. They were informed that visa applications to many European countries are frequently a costly and lengthy process, and – of most concern – that visa applications are regularly denied.

The lack of scholarships to EU countries for Syrian students from the occupied Golan and the unavailability of EU funding for NGOs in the occupied Golan was also discussed.

Al-Marsad welcomes this important visit and thanks the delegates for their interest in and concern about the human rights situation of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan.

Following this visit, Al-Marsad calls on the EU and its members to take concrete action to improve the daily living conditions of the Syrian population under occupation and ensure that Israel complies with its obligations under international law.

Al-Marsad is an independent, not-for-profit, legal human rights organisation – it is the only human rights organisation operating in the occupied Syrian Golan. For additional information, please contact or

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[Note – this press release has been updated after initially stating that deputy ambassadors and senior diplomats from 24 EU countries, plus the EU, visited Majdal Shams.]

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