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Clothes are hung up to dry at a Syrian refugee camp in Marjayoun, southern Lebanon, in November. (Aziz Taher/Reuters)

As winter approaches and the covid-19 pandemic intensifies throughout the Middle East, Syrian refugees face parallel threats of bitter cold, coronavirus outbreaks in refugee communities, and economic hardship because of widespread lockdowns. Today, after nearly a decade of war, more than 5.5 million Syrians live as refugees in neighboring countries, primarily in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

These refugees have faced enormous challenges, including stringent limitations on the ability to work legally, financial and political barriers to legal residency, and few opportunities for resettlement to a third country. In 2020, the pandemic and intermittent lockdowns exacerbated economic crises in Jordan and Lebanon, making it even more difficult for refugees to work formally or informally to pay for rent and basic needs.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bekir Kasim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Syrian National Army soldiers praying before an event mark the first anniversary of the Turkish-backed Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria Tal Abyad, Syria on October 13, 2020; many former SNA fighters are now deployed as mercenaries in Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan

“They sent us directly to the front lines. The situation is terrible. Terrible. There is fighting every day. We are charged with storming. There is no rest. There are many men missing and we can’t get to them,” explained Abdel Basit, a Syrian mercenary speaking from Azerbaijan (for their safety, I have altered the names of all living Syrians in this report). What made this former Syrian rebel, displaced from his home in Rastan, in rural Homs, decide to sign up to fight in a foreign country? His father, who is still in Rastan, had to take out a large loan because of a family emergency, but “his salary is not enough [to pay it off].…  Seguir leyendo »

Jacob (left) and Austin Tice

I was at the beach with my family when my brother Austin called. His schedule at Georgetown Law School had prevented him from joining us. I slipped into an empty room at the little house we were renting and listened, astonished, as he told me he was planning a trip to Syria that summer of 2012, and he was asking me to come with him.

To this day I'm not sure why he asked me. We had been on some adventures together, to Glacier National Park, and in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where I have made my home, but nothing approaching these stakes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syrians walk past a mural painted as part of an awareness campaign by UNICEF and WHO, bearing instructions on protection from COVID-19, in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli, Syria, on 16 August 2020. Photo by Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images.

If sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, the EU, or states unilaterally, are not sufficiently targeted, and do not include adequate safeguards for humanitarian action, they can adversely affect the very populations for whose well-being they were imposed in the first place.  This is not a new concern, but one brought starkly to the fore by their impact on responses to COVID-19.

The detrimental impact of sanctions, which can prevent the supply of medical or personal protective equipment (PPE), or the provision of technical support or training to local health authorities is evident. Sanctions can also affect remote learning if support cannot be provided to local education authorities, export licences cannot be obtained for the necessary equipment and software, or if the companies providing reliable internet coverage are designated under the sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Syrian soldier films the damage to the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, near Damascus, Syria, on April 14, 2018. The site was attacked by U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad for suspected chemical attacks against civilians. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

A chemical weapons confrontation is escalating in Syria, after an international watchdog agency concluded this month that Damascus used chemical weapons, lied to investigators and violated its commitment to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal. Syria has 90 days to respond — or face a referral to the U.N. Security Council for possible punishment.

Since 2013, the independent Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), often in coordination with experts from the United Nations, has led efforts to collect evidence on the use of toxic gas on civilian targets in Syria. Most recently, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team concluded that the Syrian government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons in March 2017, and thus lied about dismantling its entire stockpile.…  Seguir leyendo »

A displaced Syrian boy with packages of humanitarian aid at a camp along the border with Turkey in February. Credit Rami Al Sayed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Earlier this month in the United Nations Security Council, the world saw a preview of what Russian and Chinese global “leadership” looks like: a world order where the most vulnerable suffer for the political gains of those at the top.

Twice, Russia and China vetoed U.N. resolutions which would have ensured that lifesaving humanitarian aid could reach millions of suffering Syrians through vital border crossings. The remaining 13 members of the Security Council, along with U.N. leaders and nongovernmental organizations serving Syrians, strongly and publicly advocated for the renewal and reopening of three border crossings. But after days of intense negotiations, the resolution that passed allows only one northwestern crossing point to remain open for the next 12 months.…  Seguir leyendo »

Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus the bravery and selflessness of health-care workers who -- at great risk to their own health -- are on the front lines of this once-in-a-hundred-years pandemic, celebrated with nightly cheers ringing from Manhattan to Milan.

It has also laid bare the contrast with decimated health systems in places like Syria, where doctors have, for far too long, been targeted with violence and where hospitals have been bombed.

The truth of this pandemic is that it cannot be defeated anywhere unless it is defeated everywhere. This is why an attack on health care anywhere is an attack on health care everywhere -- and why the targeting of health workers and their facilities globally must be brought to an end and the perpetrators held accountable.…  Seguir leyendo »

A member of a nongovernmental aid organization measures residents’ temperatures as a preventive measure against covid-19 in Kafr Takharim, Syria, on Tuesday. (Ghaith Alsayed/AP)

This week, President Trump announced that he is suspending U.S. funding for the World Health Organization. He accused the organization of taking “China’s assurances at face value” and pushing “China’s misinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak there.

He’s not wrong. On that count, the WHO is guilty as charged. But the WHO’s penchant for cozying up to dictatorships at the expense of public health is not limited to China. Just look at its shameful track record in Syria.

The WHO has done the same things and worse when it comes to the regime led by Bashar al-Assad. Its behavior is emblematic of a greater problem in United Nations organizations that argue that their need to work with terrible governments justifies actions to further those regimes’ agendas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syrians wearing face masks walk past billboards with messages about the coronavirus in Damascus on April 1. (Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images)

“You can’t expect your torturer to care about your health.” This simple truism was told to me by torture victim Omar Alshogre, who spent more than three years in the worst of the Bashar al-Assad regime’s dungeons, beginning when he was 15 years old. But if the tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Assad’s prisons catch the coronavirus, this contagious and potentially deadly disease will surely spread to their jailers. The only way the jailers can save themselves is by releasing their victims now.

As of Wednesday, the Syrian government had reported only 19 cases of the coronavirus in the entire country, including two deaths.…  Seguir leyendo »

Libyan Army soldiers wear masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus during a military operation in Tripoli, on March 25. Credit Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

On a recent visit to Libya, I met a family living in an improvised shelter in a displaced persons camp east of Tripoli. One of the tens of thousands Libyan families uprooted by war, the family of seven was living in a room barely 20 paces long and half as wide. A clothesline, a pile of mattresses, a hot plate and the stench of body odor filled the room. Outside, they faced a shortage of potable water and abusive taunts from locals.

The spread of the novel coronavirus will have a devastating effect on the Middle East’s communities of refugees and migrants.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syria reported its first covid-19 cases a week ago — and has now reported its first coronavirus deaths. But many analysts say the total of cases is much higher, noting independent reports of coronavirus-like cases in Damascus, Tartus, Latakia, Homs and Deir-Ezzor.

How does a country engaged in civil war for the past decade face the coronavirus challenge? The United Nations special envoy called for an immediate cease-fire to prevent an outbreak of the virus in the conflict-ridden country — but no single authority can implement a cease-fire. And Syria’s fragmented and limited health services may leave many regions with little or no outside assistance to fight covid-19 outbreaks.…  Seguir leyendo »

While Washington's focus is on coronavirus and the race for the White House, a devastating humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Syria's last rebel-held region. It's time for the US political establishment to do something about it.

On March 15, the Syrian civil war will enter its 10th year. In the days ahead of this sad anniversary, the US announced Tuesday an additional $108 million aid package to provide essentials like food, medical care and safe drinking water to the estimated 3 million people trapped in the province.

However, not only is the $108 million too little to make a major difference, but President Donald Trump's administration has not put forward a plan that will enable effective delivery of this aid, given Russia and China's December veto of a UN Security Council plan on cross-border aid to Syria.…  Seguir leyendo »

While Russia appears to have prevailed in its latest showdown with Turkey in Syria—helping Damascus to blunt Turkey’s operations around Idlib and securing an advantageous cease-fire afterward—Moscow’s longer-term strategy for Syria has become murkier after the crisis. This uncertainty is primarily due to Russia’s new oil price war with Saudi Arabia, which seems to strike at one of the pillars of Moscow’s approach by undermining the prospects for Saudi financial support for Syrian reconstruction and raises new questions about the Kremlin’s motives and objectives.

Western analysts have long generally believed that Russia’s goal in Syria has been to force a political settlement to the fighting that would guarantee President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule, at least for the time being.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rebel fighters walk amid rubble in the village of Nayrab, southeast of the city of Idlib in northwestern Syria, on March 7. (Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images)

I am a Syrian American, and I have an urgent message. You do not have the full story on Syria. The truth will shake you to the bone.

The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, is committing genocide.

Assad has deliberately erased at least 200,000 Syrian civilians from existence. Most of them died for the “crime” of sharing the same ethnicity, religion and neighborhood as pro-democracy protesters. It is true that the overwhelming majority of these victims come from a single ethno-religious group (Sunni Arabs), but this is not about religion. This is about a dictator who is willing to gas children to stay in power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Migrants and refugees walk near the border with Greece in Edirne, Turkey, on Monday. (Tolga Bozoglu/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

In recent months, the Syrian government has stepped up its assault on Idlib province, the last rebel-held area in the country. Turkey and Russia have implemented a fragile cease-fire, but the onslaught has already displaced nearly 1 million Syrians toward the Turkish border. As many as 3 million people are at risk of further displacement should the violence resume. While the latest battle makes it clear that the war is far from over, the Syrian government’s gains raise a pressing question: What is next for the 5.6 million Syrian refugees already in neighboring countries?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has periodically issued plans for “durable solutions” to the Syrian refugee crisis since at least 2017.…  Seguir leyendo »

The situation in Syria is catastrophic. The Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are bombarding the rebel-held enclave of Idlib, continuing their wholesale slaughter of civilians. Turkey, drawn into the conflict by the chaos along its border, is essentially at war with Damascus and, by extension, Moscow. Thousands of Syrian refugees are once again heading toward Europe, potentially destabilizing the situation there.

And yet, after nine years of war, the United States appears determined to continue ignoring what’s happening in Syria — even though there are strong incentives, both moral and strategic, to act.

As our NATO ally Turkey and Russia edge closer to a violent confrontation in northwestern Syria, the situation on the ground is getting grotesquely worse.…  Seguir leyendo »

Si l’instabilité climatique représente l’une des menaces les plus importantes pour l’avenir de notre humanité, cette considération est principalement basée sur le fait que nous vivons sur une terre dont les éléments de survie (climat, ressources naturelles, etc.) sont interconnectés et leurs souffrances sont «transmissibles» à travers les continents, peu importent les distances. En tant que médecin, il m’est difficile de ne pas faire valoir la notion de la souffrance comme «un signal d’alarme» qui doit être pris au sérieux pour sauver l’ensemble du corps. Une évidence de la responsabilité partagée et indivisible qui fait des accords de Kyoto un espoir pour les générations à venir.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Turkish army convoy drives through the Syrian village of Ram Hamdan, north of the city of Idlib, on 25 February, 2020. Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP

What happened?

An airstrike killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, in the north west of Syria, on 27 February, according to Turkish state media. The strike exacted the highest death toll upon the Turkish military in any single day’s action for more than two decades. Ankara mainly blamed the Syrian regime for the attack on what it called a two-story command headquarters, but hinted as well at Russian responsibility. Russia disclaimed direct involvement but appeared to excuse the attack, saying the Turkish soldiers were in the company of “terrorists”, implying that they were with Syrian rebels.

Whether the strike was deliberate or inadvertent, it is part of a series of increasingly bloody clashes among Turkey, the Syrian regime and Russia over Idlib.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’inaction aussi a son prix et il est plus que temps d’en sortir car… Rappelons l’enchaînement qui a conduit au chaos qui s’installe aux frontières de l’Europe. En Syrie, malgré la France, Barack Obama n’avait pas voulu faire respecter les lignes rouges qu’il avait lui-même tracées à Bachar Al-Assad. Son successeur s’est ensuite largement retiré du Proche-Orient pendant que l’Europe décidait de ne pas agir seule. La Russie s’est engouffrée dans ce vide pour reprendre pied dans la région aux côtés des régimes de Damas et de Téhéran.

La Russie est redevenue acteur mondial pendant que les démocraties occidentales se repliaient et Vladimir Poutine a alors décidé d’en finir avec le conflit syrien.…  Seguir leyendo »

Displaced Syrian children wait in line to receive humanitarian aid supplied by Humanitarian Relief Foundation's on Feb. 20 in Idlib, Syria. (Burak Kara/AFP/Getty Images)

You may not realize it from the news coverage, but we are witnessing one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. Resurgent fighting and violence around Idlib, Syria, have produced the largest wave of human displacement in Syria’s nine-year civil war. But with the rapidly emerging global crisis related to the uncontrolled spread of the lethal new coronavirus, as well as the 2020 presidential election, these refugees and displaced civilians are simply not getting the attention this humanitarian catastrophe deserves.

All of this means more misery and danger for children who have been living under chronic instability and persistent disruption for close to a decade.…  Seguir leyendo »