Turkey, Syria earthquakes: Helping the Syrian people more important than politics

In times of crisis, such as when a humanitarian disaster takes place, the importance of saving lives and helping fellow human beings must rise above politics. The recent earthquakes that hit Turkiye and Syria have caused death, destruction and homelessness affecting thousands of our fellow human beings. But while aid has poured in from all over the world to Turkiye, only a handful of countries have sent support to Syria. 

According to the UN, the earthquakes affected more than 1 million Syrians, with hundreds of thousands in need of aid and assistance. The disaster also caused widespread damage to infrastructure and housing, making it even more difficult for those affected to access necessities such as food, water and medical supplies. 

In addition to the earthquake, the humanitarian crisis in Syria has been exacerbated by years of conflict and the economic sanctions imposed on Damascus by the international community due to the leadership’s repeated violations of the basic human rights of its own citizens. These sanctions, which target the Syrian government and its supporters, have made it difficult for aid organizations and foreign governments to provide support to the affected population. 

Sanctions on Syria, especially the Caesar Act, which was passed into law by the US during the Trump era, have had a devastating effect. But it has been the people, not the regime, who have paid the highest price for these sanctions. The Syrian people are again paying a high price for the inaction and hesitation of many countries. 

Although the sanctions that have been imposed on the Assad regime due to its harsh treatment of fellow Syrians provide an exception for humanitarian support, most countries have refrained from providing such support. Those countries are either unaware of this exception or are avoiding cooperation with the Syrian government from a position of exaggerated concern that they may be breaking international sanctions. 

The Syrian people are again paying a high price for the inaction and hesitation of many countries 

Daoud Kuttab 

Despite the overall boycott of Syria, several countries — largely its neighbors — have provided aid to the Syrian people. But as of the time of writing, not a single Western country has offered direct support. 

The countries that have offered support include but are not limited to: Saudi Arabia, which has flown medical and humanitarian supplies to the affected areas and has pledged to continue to support the relief effort through its aid organizations; Jordan, which has sent a team of aid workers and medical supplies and has pledged to continue to support the relief effort as needed; Russia, which has dispatched emergency teams and aid supplies; Turkiye, which has sent search and rescue teams as well as aid supplies; Iran, which has sent medical and humanitarian aid; Qatar, which has pledged financial support for the relief effort; Egypt, which has sent five military transport planes loaded with large quantities of medical supplies to Turkiye and Syria; and Algeria, which has sent planes loaded with about 115 tons of food and medical supplies, tents and blankets. 

In addition to these countries, several international organizations have also offered support, including the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and various nongovernmental organizations. These organizations have provided essential supplies such as food, water, shelter and medical supplies to those affected by the earthquakes. Religious groups, including mosques and churches, and private charities from Jordan, Palestine and other countries have also launched fundraising efforts for affected Syrians. 

It is important to note that the aid provided by these countries and organizations has been coordinated with the Assad government with the assurance that it will reach those who need it most. By working together, all parties involved are hoping the affected population receives the support and assistance required in the wake of this disaster. 

Despite the challenges posed by the sanctions, the international community and aid organizations must work closely with the Syrian government to address this humanitarian crisis. This requires a coordinated effort to ensure that aid is distributed efficiently and effectively and that those in need receive the support and assistance they require. 

It is important to note that the Caesar Act sanctions are intended to pressure the Assad government to end the conflict and respect human rights. However, in the wake of Monday’s earthquakes, it is essential that these sanctions do not undermine the ability of the international community and aid organizations to provide support and assistance to those affected. The Biden administration needs to revisit this act, which has hurt the Syrian people much more than the Assad regime. 

The current situation in Syria has highlighted the importance of cooperation with the Syrian government in addressing the humanitarian crisis it has caused. Despite the challenges posed by the US sanctions and the ongoing conflict, it is crucial that all parties work together to provide support and assistance to those in need. The well-being of the Syrian people should be the top priority. It is time to set aside political differences in the face of this disaster. 

  • Daoud Kuttab

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