Siria

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 »

En Idlib se está desarrollando un nuevo desastre humanitario, uno de los peores de la crisis siria que, en casi una década, ha causado demasiados desastres para llevar la cuenta. El régimen sirio continúa su estrategia de reconquistar militarmente el país a cualquier precio, sin consideración hacia las consecuencias para los civiles sirios. Desde diciembre, sus operaciones en la zona noroeste han aumentado de intensidad, contando con el respaldo de la aviación rusa. Los incesantes ataques aéreos y el bombardeo con bombas de barril han obligado a casi un millón de sirios a huir en apenas unas semanas. Las infraestructuras de asistencia están saturadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Displaced Syrians and a Turkish military armoured vehicle in Idlib, Syria. Photograph: Burak Kara/Getty Images

Outsiders can be forgiven for being tired of the Syrian conflict. After all, the violence has lasted for nearly a decade and the worst chapters – for outsiders, at least – have come and gone: Islamic State (Isis) seized almost half the country, in addition to one-third of Iraq and launched a global network of terror in 2014. But the world has now caught its breath and the threat has all but ended. Refugees, too, flooded Europe some years ago but the influx has been contained.

Also, expert warnings about a resurgence of violence or extremism did not materialise and the return of state control seems to be the steady trajectory of the conflict despite persistent problems.…  Seguir leyendo »

My father had dementia. He also had Parkinson’s disease. He died at age 85, a week after the Parkinson’s pills arrived, their having taken more than 5,000 miles and two weeks to get to Syria. I am not sure that the lack of medicine is what caused his death, but it might as well have.

Until eight years ago, my father was a pharmacist in Homs, Syria. During the war, his pharmacy was destroyed, as was the town center. My father and his wife were forced to stay mostly at home for almost two years to avoid the shelling and gunfire exchanged by the Syrian government and the rebels.…  Seguir leyendo »

Omar Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images Ruined buildings in the village of Ma’arrat al-Nu’man after a weekslong regime offensive against rebel-held areas in Syria’s Idlib province, February 12, 2020

In response to:

“And the Oscar Goes to… A Simplified Story of Syria’s Civil War,” NYR Daily, February 6, 2020.

To the Editor:

Since December 1, when the Syrian regime and Russia resumed their assault on Idlib, 832,000 civilians have been displaced, most of them children. Two hundred and eighty-six civilians were killed in the month of January alone. The last bastions of the revolution, Saraqeb, Kafranbl, and Ma’arrat al-Nu’man, have fallen. This is the biggest displacement of the war yet—and the majority of those fleeing were already refugees, once, twice, even six times over.

Still convulsed from the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, the West worries about migration, but less so about its causes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Qui s’intéresse encore à la Syrie ? Quelques belles âmes sans doute, ou ceux dont c’est le métier dans les chancelleries ou les rédactions, mais plus grand monde parmi les responsables politiques. L’agonie de la province d’Idlib est à cet égard caractéristique. On sait par les journaux que depuis la mi-décembre 2019 une offensive combinée des forces du régime de Damas et de l’aviation russe a jeté sur les routes plus de 600 000 personnes, principalement des femmes et des enfants ; ces personnes viennent souvent d’autres régions du pays reconquises par le régime dans des conditions comparables. Dans cette province d’Idlib comme ailleurs, des villes entières sont rasées.…  Seguir leyendo »

National Geographic Dr. Amani Ballour, working in an underground hospital operating room in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, in a scene from the documentary The Cave

Syria’s unfinished civil war may be the most amply documented conflict in history. Much of it has been broadcast live, with participants and observers posting breathless, hand-held footage from the first ecstatic protests in 2011 to the many lurid horrors that came afterward. Yet this tsunami of images seems often to obscure rather than clarify a complex war with many sides. The fact that photos and video clips have been so often adopted and brandished by Syrian partisans in defense of their warring narratives, which contend both online and in the streets, has further numbed our senses. “I was there,” all these witnesses seem to shout.…  Seguir leyendo »