Rights group says Syria co-opting humanitarian efforts

Many Syrians rely on aid to survive amid poverty and lack of food and medicine in parts of the country that had a pre-war population of 23 million. (AFP)
Updated 28 June 2019

Rights group says Syria co-opting humanitarian efforts

  • “The Syrian government’s aid framework undermines human rights, and donors need to ensure they are not complicit in the government’s human rights violations”

BEIRUT: The Syrian government is co-opting humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance and sometimes using it to “entrench repressive policies,” an international rights group said Friday, calling on donors and investors to ensure their contributions are used for the good of the Syrian people.
Human Rights Watch said in the 91-page report released in Geneva that the Syrian government has developed a policy and legal framework to divert “reconstruction resources to fund its atrocities, punish those perceived as opponents, and benefit those loyal to it.”
Syria’s civil war, now in its ninth year, has killed some 400,000 people, wounded more than a million and displaced half the country’s population, including 5 million who fled as refugees, mostly to neighboring countries. Large parts of the country are totally destroyed and the government estimates reconstruction will cost some $200 billion dollars and last 15 years.
Many Syrians rely on aid to survive amid poverty and lack of food and medicine in parts of the country that had a pre-war population of 23 million.
“While seemingly benign, the Syrian government’s aid and reconstruction policies are being used to punish perceived opponents and reward its supporters,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“The Syrian government’s aid framework undermines human rights, and donors need to ensure they are not complicit in the government’s human rights violations,” Fakih said.
The report notes one case in which an unnamed UN agency decided to partner with a local group founded by a member of the pro-government National Defense Forces — which the opposition blames for major atrocities — to implement a project. HRW says despite warnings, the UN agency moved forward only to discover six months later that the local partner never implemented the project, despite receiving money from the UN
It also mentions, without giving names, senior government officials who own stakes in various businesses and are known to fund “abusive entities,” such as the pro-government NDF. The report warns investors and donors that there is a risk to becoming involved in these sectors because they might indirectly be working or funding abusive individuals or entities.
“As the number of international humanitarian organizations seeking to register and transfer their operations to Damascus increases, the risk of a slippery slope is increasingly significant,” the report warned.
The report found that in extreme cases, reconstruction projects that rehabilitate infrastructure of “abusive government agencies can facilitate abuses by empowering them to continue forcibly displacing, torturing, and arbitrarily detaining individuals.”


Turkey’s Erdogan says no agreement yet on four-way Syria summit

Updated 25 February 2020

Turkey’s Erdogan says no agreement yet on four-way Syria summit

  • Turkey has sent thousands of troops and equipment to Idlib to head off the campaign driven by Russian air raid

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that there was not yet full agreement on holding a proposed March 5 summit with Russia, France and Germany on the conflict in Syria’s Idlib, but he may meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin on that date.
Syrian government forces are pushing to retake the last large rebel-held region in Syria after nine years of war and nearly a million Syrians, mostly women and children, have been displaced by the fighting since early December.
At a news conference in Ankara before departing on a trip to Azerbaijan, Erdogan said that a Russian delegation was set to come to Turkey on Wednesday to discuss the Idlib situation.
“There is no full agreement yet between (French President Emmanuel) Macron ... (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel, and Putin,” he said. Macron and Merkel have both urged Putin to end the conflict, concerned about the humanitarian situation.
On Saturday, Erdogan said that Turkey had set out a “road map” for Syria after calls with the three leaders, while the Kremlin has said it was discussing the possibility of holding a four-way summit.
Turkey has sent thousands of troops and equipment to Idlib to head off the campaign driven by Russian air raids and 17 members of the Turkish forces have been killed. Turkey already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot handle another wave and has closed its borders.