Fake oranges filled with Captagon pills and dissimulated in boxes containing real fruit, after the shipment was intercepted by the customs and the anti-drug brigade at the Beirut port, Lebanon, on 29 December 2021. Photo: ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images.

The growing Captagon trade in Syria and Lebanon has been given much attention in recent months. The networks involved in this trade, such as the Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army and other smaller armed groups in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and networks of smugglers in both countries, help extend its reach beyond the borders of Syria and Lebanon, smuggling Captagon to Gulf countries – especially Saudi Arabia – and even to Europe. The transnational nature of this illicit activity and its link to the context of the Syrian conflict requires international policies that take into account cross-border conflict dynamics, including how people can end up involved in illicit activities to cope financially.…  Seguir leyendo »

Syria: what is Turkey’s grand plan?

As evening draws in across Turkey’s frontier with Syria, the trickle of traffic passing through the Öncüpınar border checkpoint turns into a stream. Through one channel, dusty trucks, their loads long emptied, rumble northwards back into Turkey. Through another, Turkish civil servants and aid workers head home after a day’s labour in the war-devastated neighbouring country.

SUVs ferry weary traffic police and hardy looking bomb disposal experts. Minibuses deliver health workers and teachers who disembark to show their identity documents to immigration officials. Yet more vehicles carry customs and religious affairs officials. Virtually every arm of the Turkish state appears to be present during the commute back from northern Syria into Turkey’s Kilis province — even sports ministry staff.…  Seguir leyendo »

A soldier of the Syrian government army points his weapon at a large hole whose bottom is not visible

The Syrian conflict has been at the center of a number of justice efforts in the past decade, leading to the creation of an international mechanism to collect evidence on international crimes and the opening of trials under the universal jurisdiction principle in European countries, in addition to a call for the establishment of an international mechanism for the disappeared.

The prioritization of international justice venues has been justified by the absolute resistance of the Syrian regime to address its crimes. Still, it has also led to justice actors overlooking domestic developments as irrelevant to the justice struggle. However, recent developments tell us that it is crucial to monitor how the Syrian regime is trying to insert itself within the transitional justice discourse for Syria in the international arena.…  Seguir leyendo »

A child at Al Hol camp in Syria, March 2019. Issam Abdallah / Reuters

Three years ago, a global coalition of countries led by the United States retook most of the territory in Iraq and Syria controlled by the Islamic State. Once ISIS was defeated on the battlefield, the world moved on. Left unanswered was the question of what to do about the people, including thousands of children, who had come from abroad, either voluntarily or through coercion, to live under ISIS rule and were now abandoned by their governments.

Many of the women and children, and a small number of men, ended up in two detention camps in the middle of the desert in northeast Syria, where they remain today, with no way out.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘Bashar al-Assad has continued to bomb hospitals and schools in a macabre, medieval-style scorched-earth policy.’ The aftermath of regime bombing in Termanin, north of Idlib, Syria, 22 February. Photograph: Moawia Atrash/Zuma Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

The Syria crisis continues unnoticed. It holds key lessons for the west about Putin yet it has gone virtually unnoticed by the rest of the world. War crimes and crimes against humanity continue in the Russian-sponsored dictatorship, even as some misguided leaders want to usher Bashar al-Assad, the architect of these crimes, back into acceptable society.

We can rest assured that the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, unlike Assad, is not welcoming Putin with open arms. But in responding to the Ukraine emergency, there are lessons the west can and should learn from the situation in Syria.

Since the UN removed Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile in 2014, Assad has continued to bomb hospitals and schools, and burn villages to the ground in a macabre, medieval-style scorched-earth policy.…  Seguir leyendo »

We Syrians Are Not Surprised by This Betrayal

Less than 10 years ago, the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister, Abdullah bin Zayed, spoke up against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria for massacring civilians.

In November, he hugged him.

The embrace — on the first visit of an Emirati official to Damascus since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution — felt like a blessing of the al-Assad regime’s atrocities and a stab in the back for those of us who suffered war and displacement.

Though many of us Syrians watched the hug with a sense of betrayal, we were not surprised: It’s just the latest in a wave of international moves to rehabilitate relations with the al-Assad regime.…  Seguir leyendo »

En septiembre de 2011, un grupo policial del régimen sirio vestido de civil irrumpió en la consulta en la que trabajaba como médico en las afueras de Damasco, me vendó los ojos y me trasladó a un centro de detención. Fue el comienzo de una espiral de sufrimiento.

En el centro de detención de al-Khatib, una de las cárceles más brutales del país, un oficial de alto rango en la Dirección General de Inteligencia de Siria, Anwar Raslan, era el responsable de la sección de interrogatorios. Durante estos interrogatorios, en los que me acusaron de apoyar el levantamiento popular contra Bashar Al-Assad, emplearon diferentes métodos físicos y psicológicos para torturarme.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los personajes Cho Sang-woo (Park Hae-soo), Lee Jung-jae y (Seong Gi-hun) Jung Ho-yeon (Kang Sae-byeok) en una escena de de 'El juego del calamar', serie producida por Netflix en Corea del Sur. (Youngkyu Park/Netflix vía AP)

Mucha gente que conozco ha estado viendo el show de Netflix El juego del calamar, un drama distópico en el que los jugadores participan en versiones surrealistas de juegos infantiles tradicionales coreanos. Los perdedores son castigados con la muerte hasta que solo queda una persona con vida.

Mis amigos ven El juego del calamar como una especie de película de terror, una crítica grotesca sobre la brecha entre ricos y pobres en las sociedades capitalistas de hoy. Para ellos es una fantasía, una fábula aterradora.

Pero a mí el show me tiene fascinado por diferentes razones. Para mí, es un recordatorio de los tres años que pasé en las cárceles sirias.…  Seguir leyendo »

A local woman photographs a US soldier with her children while on patrol near the Turkish border in northeastern Syria. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

The Biden administration has already given indications it is willing to look away from Gulf Arab states reviving relations with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad rather than actively prevent them from doing so. This marks a slight but significant shift in US policy, as represented by the 2019 Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act.

With Washington showing a diminished appetite for enforcing Syria’s isolation – including through military means – some Arab countries are starting to bring Syria in from its diplomatic isolation.

In recent months, Gulf Arab states – notably, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia – have deepened their engagement with the Syrian government, though to varying degrees and in pursuit of different goals.…  Seguir leyendo »

It was in this region of Deir ez-Zor in July 2012 that the jihadist Al-Khedr and his comrades filmed themselves executing the government soldier Al Ali. © Delil Souleiman / AFP

Al Mohassan, 10 July 2012. A clique of men sits in an extended pick-up truck. The guys are edgy and excited. Except Qussai Mahmoud Al Ali. Sitting mid-row, he glares down. His face is dotted with black spots and contusions. He is ridiculed because he is Alawite, the ethnic group of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Ahmad Al Khedr, who is behind the wheel, pulls over at a rubbly school building. Joined by another group, they march Al Ali over a cracked concrete courtyard, heading to a river bank.

Al Ali balances on his feet in the Euphrates. “Can I pay you money?”…  Seguir leyendo »

Un camp de déplacés syriens au nord-ouest de la province d’Idleb, en Syrie, le 11 juillet 2020. Photo d’archives AFP

Le 28 mai dernier, la Syrie est devenue l’un des 34 membres du conseil exécutif de la 74e Assemblée mondiale de la santé de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS). Douze pays se sont présentés pour occuper les douze sièges (sur 34) disponibles, la Syrie ayant été nommée – avec l’Afghanistan – par le Bureau régional pour la Méditerranée orientale de cette organisation (EMRO). Cette procédure s’est déroulée sans vote et sans qu’aucun des membres donateurs siégeant déjà dans cette enceinte ne conteste ce choix, alors qu’ils en avaient la faculté.

L’admission de la Syrie n’est qu’une des nombreuses erreurs de jugement et de gestion dans les approches humanitaires et diplomatiques de la Syrie et du Liban.…  Seguir leyendo »

A worker unloads humanitarian aid from a truck in Idlib, Syria, on June 9. (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters)

A missile attack last weekend in northern Syria left a hospital in ruins and further casualties in a residential area. But these types of attacks have become less common in Syria. Although this civil war remains among the most devastating global conflicts, the number of fatalities has decreased over the past couple of years, and in 2020 in particular.

What prompted this decline? The ACLED data on fatalities in Syria reveals a sudden decline after March 5, 2020, and a relatively low level of violence since. That’s the date on which Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to a cease-fire in Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian military police armoured personnel carrier (APC) passing through Amuda in Hasakeh province, Syria. Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images.

The summit between US president Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva is the optimal setting for Washington to begin to broker a deal on Syria.

Russia has been craving US recognition of its rise in geopolitical status, partly gained through its intervention in support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Biden’s initiation of the summit is a nod to Russia’s ego, which can pave the way for future US-Russian engagement on Syria beyond the ministerial-level talks that have been taking place behind closed doors.

Only Washington can steer the Syrian conflict towards resolution – if it steps up bilateral talks with Moscow.…  Seguir leyendo »

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, examines aid materials at a border crossing between Turkey and Syria on June 3. (U.S. Embassy in Turkey via AP)

When Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet for the first time as presidents in Geneva next week, Syria will be on the agenda. If the two leaders make progress on humanitarian aid there, that could send a positive signal regarding cooperation between the two countries and raise hope for millions of suffering people. But if Putin insists on starving the Syrian people, Biden must step in to help them.

More than 3 million Syrians, most of them internally displaced refugees, are massed in the northwestern province of Idlib. They are hungry and desperate, constantly dodging bombs dropped by the Syrian regime and the Russian military.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad celebrate last week in Damascus after it was announced that he won another term in office. (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife cast their ballots in the May 26 presidential election in the town of Douma, a suburb of the capital city of Damascus. The location was not coincidental — Assad’s forces lost control of Douma in 2012 and regained it only after years of bombings, a starvation siege and the deployment of chemical weapons in April 2018 finally subdued the city.

Voting in Douma sent a specific message to Syrians — one of reconquest and domination. The regime made no attempt to present the election as free and fair, further stressing its ability to lie and force others to parrot the lie.…  Seguir leyendo »

The scene of an Israeli air strike in Syria’s Latakia region is pictured on 5 May 2021 (SANA/AFP)

The explosion of a  Syrian anti-aircraft missile in southern Israel on 22 April, followed by Israeli attacks  around the northern city of Latakia on 5 May, were only the latest episodes of the shadow war that Israel and Iran have been fighting in war-ravaged Syria for several years. They will not be the last.

Neither side wants these occasional flareups to grow into a fully fledged confrontation. But the risk of escalation is real due to potential miscalculations or technical errors in both sides’ attempts to achieve tactical gains.

The involvement of Hezbollah, Tehran’s most important non-state ally, in the Syrian theatre carries a further risk that comparatively low-level altercations in Syria may spill over into Lebanon and trigger a destructive conflict between the heavily armed Shia group and Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Depuis dix ans, la vie des réfugiés syriens est surréelle

Le Liban est en passe de s’effondrer : frappé de plein fouet par la pandémie de Covid-19, une explosion d’une puissance « quasi nucléaire » ayant détruit un tiers de la capitale, et une crise économique, financière et sociale sans précédent font que plus de la moitié de la population est désormais piégée dans la pauvreté. Le nombre de familles ayant basculé dans l’extrême pauvreté représente ainsi 23 % de la population résidente en 2020 selon l’ONU, soit trois fois plus qu’en 2018.

Alors que, bien avant les crises de ces dernières années, les autorités libanaises ont activement privé les populations vulnérables résidant dans le pays de toute véritable assistance, ces dernières sont désormais confrontées à des défis d’une ampleur jamais imaginée auparavant : des multiples privations qu’elles doivent endurer à la détérioration profonde de leur environnement social, en passant par le manque d’opportunités d’améliorer leurs conditions de vie.…  Seguir leyendo »

Residentes de Alepo entre los escombros tras un bombardeo.H. Katan / Reuters

Recuerdo la primera vez que estuve en Damasco. Fue en 2006. Sus calles eran una mezcla fascinante de imágenes bíblicas y de una dinámica capital moderna. Alepo, en aquella época la localidad más poblada, era una ciudad culta y muy bien conservada. Sus habitantes se vanagloriaban de contar con el bazar más antiguo de Oriente. Hoy cuesta reconocer el país en las imágenes recogidas con drones sobrevolando Alepo y Guta oriental que han dado la vuelta al mundo. Imágenes que ilustran la destrucción después de una década de guerra civil.

Pero una guerra no son solo edificios destruidos. Entre 400.000 y 550.000 personas han fallecido.…  Seguir leyendo »