With the beginning of winter and coronavirus outbreak, the USA has announced amendments to the sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime, allowing NGOs to deal with the regime and provide assistance to residents in regime-held areas, especially since they are struggling with dire living conditions.
At a time when several powers try to take advantage of the protracted war to achieve their narrow interests, experts expect that Syria’s economy will collapse and the living situation will deteriorate further due to the current siege and sanctions.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has been all along warning against the repercussions of the disastrous situation in regime-controlled areas and elsewhere in Syria and called all international actors to intensify their efforts to provide much needed support and aid to all Syrians, especially those in refugee camps.
SOHR activists have confirmed that the unaffordable prices of fuel have forced the residents to turn to coal for heating in tents with plastic covers. The coal smoke chemically reacts with plastic, causing serious respiratory diseases in children, women and people with chronic diseases.
With many organizations preoccupied with imposing precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, humanitarian assistance and support remained “timid”. In addition, humanitarian organizations are concerned about not being able to reach many remote areas in winter, as many roads are blocked due to storms and bad weather. Accordingly, some urgent supplies, including food, medicine and material used for heating, are delivered very late to refugee camps in these areas. Moreover, some organizations are forced to deduct allocated assistances to refugee camps in winter, which may lead to a real disaster.
In an interview with SOHR, “Jihan Barembi”, a human rights activist working for humanitarian organization, says “the situation throughout Syria is disastrous and worrying, and it requires urgent intervention by the international community.”
Mrs. Jihan has appealed to all human rights organizations, including SOHR, to highlight the plight of the poor and needy.
“The catastrophic situation in regime-controlled areas is worsening, whether food baskets are delivered or not, especially with the lack of job opportunities, escalating poverty and prevalence of infections due to the poor services provided by the humanitarian institutions which are struggling with the little support which does not meet the needs of the large number of displaced people and poor residents. Children are deprived of the minimum levels of rights, including healthcare and education. I call upon all relevant bodies to intensify their efforts to secure the essential needs of these people and put an end to conflicting powers’ use of the Syrians as pawns to achieve their own goals and interests,” said the activist.
Economists have been monitoring the astronomically inflated prices of basic products in regime-controlled areas, where employees get 20 USD a month, less than one USD a day, at a time when the international average of minimum level of expenses per day reaches 1.9 USD.
In recent times, SOHR activists have monitored an increase in the sales of private properties by civilians in regime-held areas in order to be able to secure their essential needs. Syrian civilians started to sell their properties a few months after the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution and the start of conflicts, military battles and crises, exactly after 2012. However, the sale of such properties alarmingly increased recently, especially in areas which experienced military operations.
The opposition researcher and political activist Dr. “Jamal Al-Shoufi” has shared his point of view with SOHR saying, “the deteriorating economy is a major factor behind the chronic crises, famine and poverty in areas under and outside the Syrian regime’s control. Although some sanctions imposed by Washington on the Syrian regime have been lifted, the situation on the ground has not changed and the conflict and bloodshed have not neared an end, while the international resolutions to reach a peaceful settlement in Syria remained unheeded. If a real political settlement based on the 2015 UN Resolution No. 2254 is reached, the situation in Syria will become much better at all levels, including economic, political and security. However, the problem is and will remain out standing as long as the political, economic and security authorities are totally dominated by the Syrian regime.”
The politician sees that the Syrian crisis is not related to the economy and its collapse alone but also to the political structure that is ‘dogmatic’ and ‘closed’; and therefore the crisis cannot be solved by adopting traditional economic theories and measures.
Al-Shoufi has also stressed the fact that the collapse economy is related to the political authorities which refuse to negotiate with any oppositionists to reach a workable political settlement. The activist also states “the economic sanctions on the Syrian regime have not affected the ruling class and its affiliated parasites and cronies. On the contrary, these sanctions have made these tycoons richer and impoverished ordinary Syrians. The lifting of economic sanctions does not help the Syrian crisis to reach an end, as the reconstruction of Syria needs a different political ideology from that of the regime. In addition, the deteriorating living conditions can never be improved with the current political authoritarianism and monopoly of the economy which is at the heart of the regime policy.”
On the other hand, the opposition politician Suleiman Al-Kfiri believes that there are “inhumane” objectives serving the USA and Russia’s interests behind the amendment of sanctions which allows humanitarian organizations to provide support in regime-held areas. Mr. Suleiman says, “the sanctions imposed on the Syrian regime serve the international agenda and all understandings between international actors which seek to achieve their own political and economic interests. In addition, a Russian-US agreement is expected within reach anytime, and that may lead to reconciliation with the Syrian regime and it rehabilitation or to rehabilitate it.”
“The previous experiences in Syria confirm that announced outcomes of the secret negotiations and understandings are always untrue. Washington and Moscow do not want a political settlement in Syria. However, they may reach understandings to enable them to achieve the largest possible political gains at the expense of the Syrian people,” added Al-Kfiri.
Al-Kfiri also advises the Syrian oppositions to benefit from their experience and not to allow agreements that do not serve the Syrian people’s interests to be done, so that the Syrian regime will have no chances to take advantage of such agreements for its own interests.
The Syrian politician has emphasized the important role of the Syrian national opposition which experiences a complex situation in Syria in this period of time, stressing that a strong and firm opposition can make a real change and achieve the Syrian people’s aspiration.