Source of the photo: Wikipedia; Collapsed building in Syria
As most countries that possesses natural resources or find themselves at the intersection of big interest, Syria is one of the most sanctioned countries in the world on long term.
In the wake of the earthquakes from February 6th, 2023, many entities have mobilized to help the two affected countries Türkiye and Syria, but apparently in a different manner. While helping Türkiye has become another goodwill demonstration crusade carried out on TV, in newspapers and on social media, helping Syria is a rather discrete process, that takes places in the background and is completely different described as well.
First of all, the term Syria, that should encompass what is legally described as the country and territory called the “Syrian Arab Republic” is utilized by various groups in different manners.
As of March 9th, 2022, Syria was the third most sanctioned country (individual or entities, excluding sectorial sanctions) in the world according to Statista (1). At this date, 2,608 sanction were in place, with Russian Federation on first place (2,754 sanctions before Ukrainian conflict and new 2,807 sanctions afterwards, leading to a total of 5,581 sanctions) and Iran with 3,616 sanctions. The number of sanctions exceeds traditionally sanctioned countries like North Korea (2,077 sanctions) or Cuba (208 sanctions), although in comparison to North Korea, Syria has never held or tried to acquire nuclear weapons.
After 2011, Syria was not only deprived of its supposedly free rights to trade and develop economy, but its population decreased and its infrastructure was deteriorated significantly: Syria was not able to significantly improve construction technologies, transportation infrastructure (needed in case of a catastrophic event like an earthquake) or institutions and procedures for emergency action. The propaganda machines from the West suggest us that White Helmets, probably a covert ops organization, is “helping” Syria in emergency cases, some of which are man-made and should have never happened in the first place.
A preliminary conclusion is that Syria’s situation was extremely difficult on a daily basis since 2011. As the quakes stroke, the starting point or search, rescue and eventually reconstruction efforts were very much behind when compared to world average: Syria is being sieged and attacked in a proper multidimensional war that is presented in various forms to different societies across the world. Hence, a systematic support from what some politicians call “the global community” was and is not to be expected.
However, isolated/punctual support actions have been carried on a smaller scale. Among these, one can mention:
a) At state level, Venezuela, Cuba, China (2), Iran, Algeria, UAE appear to have worked with Syria’s government in order to dispatch help (the list is not exhaustive);
b) Countries like Qatar also dispatched helped, but it is not clear in the article cited what “Northern Syria” means: regions which Türkiye controls or parts of Syria for which Qatar worked with the Syrian government;
c) United Nations and related NGOs organized campaigns to raise funds.
PR campaigns like US’ alleged sanctions relief have been downplayed by the Syrian administration recently, being characterized as “misleading” .
Consequently, besides the tragedy from Türkiye, Syria’s newest tragedy is seen by profiteers as an occasion to advance profiteering and by genuine help organizations to help out. But a new international consensus and action direction becomes pronounced: the countries oppressed in the past by former colonial powers and hegemons of the 20th century become to collaborate more and more. Otherwise, we would witness a systematic multidimensional destruction of countries like Syria, and experience associated propaganda campaigns that inform us how Syrians “harmed themselves” since 2011.
Finally, the extent and success in helping to tackle earthquake consequences of third-party entities that neither attack nor defend Syria is difficult to assess based on open sources, since the stage is generally largely occupied by fully active parties. This is not to be underestimated, but a precise assessment requires more extensive research.
1. https://www.statista.com/chart/27015/number-of-currently-active-sanctions-by-target-country/, accessed 11.02.2023.
About the author:
She is the Program Director at the Middle East Political and Economic Institute.