The Syrian Parliament announced that presidential elections will be held next month. In a move likely to keep power in the hands of President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad is not expected to face serious competition, despite the continuing armed conflict and worsening economic crisis plaguing the country.
After 10 years of fighting, the government controls most of Syria’s major population centers.
Some 400,000 people were killed in the armed conflict. More than half of the population displaced due to this conflict.
The duration of presidency
The speaker of the Parliament, Hamouda Sabbagh, announced that the process of electing a president for a new 7-year period would take place on 26 May.
Syrians living abroad are scheduled to cast their votes at embassies on May 20.
This is the second presidential election since the beginning of the armed conflict.
The first elections held in 2014 and ended with Assad winning 92 % of the vote.
But the Syrian opposition called it undemocratic and illegitimate. And the United States and the European Union rejected its results as well.
The 2014 elections were the first in decades for candidates outside the Assad family. But the other two candidates then were not popularly known personalities, and they did not have much publicity.
Assad is running for a new presidential term
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad submitted his candidacy papers for a new term in elections scheduled for May 26.
The speaker of the Syrian parliament told state media. Washington and the opposition denounced the ballot as a” farce aimed at entrenching Assad’s rule.
President Bashar al-Assad is expected to remain in office. Assad, who took office in 2000 to succeed his father Hafez al-Assad, has not yet officially declared his candidacy.
He won the last presidential election in June 2014, by more than 88 percent.
Syrian opposition: presidential elections is a play
Syrian opposition has considered the presidential elections in Syria as a “play
Nasr Hariri, head of the” National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and opposition forces”, which forms the backbone of the Riyadh platform and the High Commission for negotiations, said via Twitter:
“The announcement by the Assad regime of the date of the election will be supervision by the security services, as usual, confirms the misery of this regime and its continued separation from the reality of the Syrian people.”
Hariri accused Assad of being a “war criminal”, saying that Syrians are waiting for them during his rule “more killing, destruction, displacement, displacement, begging, poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease and occupation.
Furthermore, the head of the Political Bureau of the Syrian National Army, Mustafa Seger, said:
“We in the opposition and the forces of the Syrian Revolution are not concerned with this declaration, and we consider Assad’s Parliament to be illegitimate, and his call is invalid”
Closing the door to opponents
Those who wish to apply for the elections must have resided in Syria continuously for the past ten years, closing the door to the possibility of any opposition resident abroad.
Not only that, but to accept his nomination, a candidate needs the approval of at least 35 members of the parliament, which the Al-Assad government controls.
Unlike in 2014, the presidential elections are taking place today with support from the Russian forces. Which retook large areas following massive attacks against opposition factions, and now control about 2/3 of the country.
Washington and European countries are calling for a boycott.
During a UN Security Council meeting last month, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that “these elections will be neither free nor fair”.
The Assad regime will gain no legitimacy, and does not meet the criteria of Resolution 2254, which requires to conduct it under UN supervision or under a new constitution.”
No hope in sight
there is no glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, where there is no hope for Syrian Salvation
Indeed. The regional situation has also changed. The rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf states means Syria is now less of a priority
As the world struggles with the social and economic impacts of coronavirus, President Bashar al-Assad is preparing to run for a third presidential term that will keep him in power for another seven years.
There is a generation of children born during the war, some born in Syria, others in Europe, and in refugee camps.
Unless there is a renewed international commitment, the real change in Syria may not happen as long as he’s alive.
26 Million People Affected By Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
Powerful earthquakes and aftershocks struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on the 6th and 20th of February, 2023.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 26 million people need humanitarian assistance. The death toll is climbing above 50,000 and is expected to rise as many victims remain missing.
Furthermore, the WHO calls the Turkey-Syria earthquakes the “worst natural disaster” in the region in 100 years.
Turkey-Syria Earthquake: What Happened?
On February 6th 2023, the first earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and the northern Syrian border, measuring a magnitude of 7.7. Within minutes entire cities turned into rubble. Following this, a second earthquake measuring a magnitude of 7.6 hit the same region a little later.
Two weeks later, on February 20th, another earthquake of 6.4 magnitudes struck the same border area previously hit. Moreover, there have been more than 9,000 aftershocks recorded since.
The Aftermath of the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
These earthquakes caused immeasurable devastation for an estimated 26 million people damaging and destroying homes and infrastructure, including approximately 214,000 buildings across both countries.
An estimated 240,000 rescue workers continued working in quake-hit provinces in Turkey. They persevered for weeks to find survivors trapped under rubble despite no survivors found for long periods of time. An estimated 1.9 million people are in temporary shelters, hotels, and public facilities.
As of February 25th 2023, in Turkey alone, 44,218 people died due to the earthquakes, while the announced death toll in Syria was 5,914 people.
Selective Humanitarianism During Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The international response to the Turkey-Syria earthquake has disproportionately overlooked the Syrian people’s suffering. Syria has faced 12 years of civil war, and with international borders blocked, many Syrians received no help in the first few days after the earthquakes.
It took over a week after the earthquakes for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to issue a three-month authorization for United Nations (UN) aid deliveries to pass through two more border crossings. These significant aid delays resulted from the regime’s influence over affected regions.
These unacceptable delays entirely defy the principles of humanitarian law. As a result, Syrians have limited access to search-and-rescue reinforcements and lifesaving aid, unnecessarily costing many precious lives. The UN has failed the people of northwest Syria, highlighting inadequacies within the current system.
The slow humanitarian response to the earthquakes severely affecting northwest Syria illustrates the inadequacy of the UN Security Council-mandated cross-border aid mechanism in Syria. Thus, this crisis highlights the urgent need for alternatives to be put in place.
The UN Pledges a $1 Billion Appeal For Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
The UN launched a $1 billion fundraising appeal to support the humanitarian needs of those affected. This appeal fund will support Turkey’s “once in a generation disaster” for three months and a $397 million appeal to help 4.9 million people in Syria.
So far, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund has donated $11.7 million. The UN held that so far, Denmark is the only country recorded to donate aid worth $1.5 million.
Human Rights Concerns Following Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
Health infrastructure was destroyed in many places, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases like cholera, diarrhoea and typhoid. In Gaziantep, a major city in south-central Turkey, hundreds of people are sleeping in tents in different parts of town, and trash has begun to pile up in public parks where some of these tents are located.
Therefore, hygiene problems, as well as inadequate housing, are some of the biggest problems in the region. In addition, the inadequacy of public toilets and the lack of infrastructure to use these toilets increases the risk of epidemics in the region.
Children’s Rights in the Aftermath of the Earthquakes
According to UNICEF, the recent earthquakes have affected an estimated 5 million children. Natural disasters such as earthquakes have severe consequences for vulnerable groups in society, such as children.
As the recovery efforts in Syria and Turkey continue, children’s rights must be a priority. All children must have access to fundamental rights such as food, clean water, and housing. Furthermore, children’s access to education and protection from exploitation and abuse is imperative. Many children in the region are unidentifiable as they are too young to know their full names, while hundreds of children’s parents remain missing.
Implementing the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is of fundamental importance, especially in times of crisis.
Syrian refugees in Turkey Face Forced Return to Earthquake-Strikken Regions
An estimated 1.7 million Syrian refugees lived in the ten southern Turkish provinces devastated by the earthquakes. Unfortunately, these refugees rely on temporary or international protection status. Without prior authorization, these refugees cannot travel to other provinces.
However, following the earthquakes, Turkish authorities issued a directive allowing refugees in these ten provinces to travel to other regions, except Istanbul, for up to 90 days if they could secure their accommodation.
However, in the first few days following the disaster, many fled to Istanbul, resulting in the Directorate General of Migration Management revising its decision to a case-by-case basis due to Turkey’s economic difficulties. There has been a growing anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkey which has become the host of the world’s largest refugee population.
Following this, a second directive provided refugees with a 60-day exemption to travel to other provinces without prior authorization. The question remains as to where these Syrian refugees will return to following the expiration of the directive.
A Committed and Sustained Global Humanitarian Response is Needed
The aftermath of these devastating earthquakes requires a committed and sustained international humanitarian response. Thousands are missing, and 1.5 million are homeless without shelter, food, clean water, and access to healthcare.
The true impact of this disaster will not be fully understood for decades. The international community must step up and provide aid and relief to the earthquake victims. Most importantly, human rights protections must be at the heart of the response.
Bashar Assad should be tried for crimes against humanity not Rehabilitated
The world is holding trilateral talks aimed at rehabilitating Bashar Assad who is believed to have been responsible for crimes against humanity.
Bashar Assad is undoubtedly an indelible badge of dishonour and shame, not only for Arabs but for the entire humanity. Indeed, the fact that this contemptible beast is still alive, free and even accorded respect in some quarters, constitutes a clarion indictment of our world, especially ourselves as human beings.
Russia, Iran and Turkey, yes Turkey, are holding trilateral talks aimed at rehabilitating Bashar Assad, who is believed to have been responsible for crimes against humanity comparable to genocidal atrocities carried out by notorious mass killers like Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler prior to and during the Second World War.
Indeed, ever since 2011, when some Syrians took to the streets rather peacefully, demanding free elections, Assad promptly ordered his security forces to strafe them with machine-gun fire, killing and maiming hundreds of mostly school children.
This is how the mass murder of more than a million Syrians, including hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians started.
Rehabilitating Bashar Assad: A badge of dishonour
Assad, army, tightly controlled by his esoteric Shiite sect known as Alawis, employed the regime’s entire death machine including poisonous chemical gases, to exterminate entire neighbourhoods and population centres.
The regime also inflicted incalculable deaths and widespread mass destruction by dropping explosives barrels from high altitudes, flattening largely populated areas, and causing thousands of casualties.
Aside from denunciations by western powers, especially the United States, Assad’s Russian-supplied arsenal continued to spread death and destruction throughout Syria. In 2014-15, when Syrian rebel forces were marching to Damascus, Russia formally decided to intervene by dispatching dozens of military personnel and military equipment including advanced warplanes.
For its part, Iran, in coordination with the Russians, deployed dozens of Shiite militias to protect the only nominally Shiite regime from his mostly “Sunni opponents.” The powerful Lebanese Shiite militia known as Hezbullah also deployed several thousand fighters to protect the terrorist regime from falling. In the meantime, the West refused to supply the rebels with purely defensive weapons to defend themselves from deadly Russian airstrikes. Numerous massacres were perpetrated and hundreds of thousands of civilian homes were destroyed. In short, a majority of Syrian towns and villages came to resemble German towns at the end of the Second World. War.
The scorched-land policy which Russia employed in Syria forced as many as 15 million Syrians to leave their homes or what had remained of them.
Assad warmly welcomed the expulsion of the bulk of Syrians, saying rather gleefully and shamelessly that Syria didn’t need disloyal citizens. In other words, the Stalinist Butcher considered as treacherous and disloyal to every Syrian demanding democratic rights, human rights, free elections and basic civil liberties such as freedom of speech.
The criminal Iranian role
Iran’s determined support for Assad’s sectarian regime is believed to be motivated by Iranian Mullacracy’s religious hatred of Sunni Islam, to which a majority of Syrians adhere to. Iran’s ultimate goal in Syria is to proselyte considerable numbers of Syria’s Sunni majority into the Twelver Shiite sect, the official religion of Iran. It is really sad and lamentable that a regime that prides itself on fighting and toppling the defunct repressive regime of Shah Muammed Reza Pahlavi has been embracing an even more murderous and evil regime, namely the thuggish Assad regime.
Rehabilitating Bashar Assad: a message of Betrayal
There is no doubt that Rehabilitating Bashar Assad represents a message of Betrayal to the forces of democracy, liberty and human rights in the Middle East and beyond.
The message states in a clarion manner that it is futile to try to depose criminal tyrants and evil dictators no matter what they do and how many millions of people take to the streets demanding their departure.
I am not going to elaborate much on the Russian role in Syria. Russia under the Putin dictatorship accords no value to liberty and wouldn’t really care how many Syrian children are exterminated by Bashar Assad.
Russia is Russia and Putin is Putin, and expecting the evil tyrant to morph into something more humane or more civilized would be a futile exercise in naivety, wishful thinking and gullibility.
Just look at what he is doing in Ukraine. He has simply destroyed Ukraine just as he had destroyed Syria.
Hence, there is no point in rebuking Putin for his gargantuan evil crimes.
Nor will I expect any positive change on the part of the Iranian regime. A regime that claims to carry a sublime divine message while showering demonstrators with bullets is a murderous regime par excellance, very much like Israel and the Syrian regime itself. It is a hopeless regime.
I don’t wish to lump Turkey with Iran and Russia. At the very least Turkey doesn’t indiscriminately spray demonstrators with machinegun bullets as the Syrian and Iranian regimes do. Moreover, Turkey has hosted more than five million Syrian refugees who fled the Russian-backed and-Iranian-funded Assad’s holocaust against his own people, so that he would remain President forever against his people’s desire.
Turkey gave these Syrians accommodation, education and in many instances employment. This is why, it would be unfair to lump someone who gives refugees shelter, food, protection and accommodations with someone who gave Bashar Assad the weapons and financial means to brutally oppress them, slaughter their families and rain bombs and explosive powder barrels on their homes and neighbourhoods. The difference is very vast, indeed.
Turkey: Vital Strategic Asset for Muslims
Moreover, Turkey remains an important strategic asset for the Muslim world, a fact ignored and dismissed by Iran and Assad.
None the less, the Turkish involvement in efforts aimed at reanimating the Hitler of Damascus is making Turkey’s friends and supporters anxious and gravely worried. This is because Assad must under all circumstances be given the chance to commit a greater holocaust than the one he has already carried out.
Undoubtedly, Assad and his murderous regime will remain a badge of dishonour for the entire humanity. This is what the Turkish leadership must realize.
True, restoring relations with Assad, might bring some tactical benefits for Turkey, especially with regard to Kurdish rebels in northeastern Syria.
However, initiating any measure of strategic cooperation with Bashar Assad would immensely harm Turkey’s image. Assad and his Iranian masters should belong to the past, not to the future.
Moreover, Turkey which was on the verge of war with Russia in order to protect Syrian refugees in the Idlib region from the devastating Russian airstrikes and savagery of Assad’s sectarian army must make sure that these refugees will not be the target of Assad’s revenge attacks. (end)
The Humanitarian Crisis in Syria 2023: A Forgotten War
Has the World Forgotten Syria?
2023 marks almost 12 years since the peaceful uprising in Syria turned into an aggressive conflict provoking a regional humanitarian crisis. Since the offset, parties to the conflict have flagrantly violated human rights and international human rights law protections. 15.3 million people are expected to require humanitarian aid in 2023. This is a 1.9 million increase from 2021.
The estimated death toll is 400,000 people. However, reports suggest that this number underestimates the actual death toll. 12.3 million have been forced to flee the country, according to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with 6.7 million currently internally displaced in Syria. As a result, Europe and neighbouring countries have endured significant pressure.
What is happening in Syria in January 2023?
Authorities Unlawfully Violate Civilian’s Rights
Syrian security forces and government-affiliated militias continue to detain, disappear, and mistreat civilians arbitrarily. Vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities, and the elderly living in retaken areas have signed so-called “reconciliation agreements”. However, their rights continue to be violated. Moreover, authorities unlawfully confiscate property and restrict freedom of movement to areas of origin for returning Syrian refugees.
In September 2022, the chair of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Syria warned that larger-scale fighting might return.
Syria is Unsafe For Returning Refugees
Syria remains unsafe for returning refugees. Even though intelligence services are not bombing some parts of Syria daily, at any moment, the regime can attack any house and kill, arrest, rape, torture or steal money from any family.
Syrians cannot fight back as the regime will not be held accountable for their actions. Despite this, countries such as Turkey and Lebanon began advocating for large-scale returns of Syrian refugees in 2022.
Millions Face Starvation and Denied Basic Human Rights
Currently, Idlib stands as the last anti-government territory in Syria. Despite a ceasefire, the Syrian-Russian military alliance still poses a threat to over 3 million civilians trapped in this territory. The anti-government armed groups continuously restrict their freedoms and deny the people their fundamental human rights.
Throughout 2022 the government diverted humanitarian aid from civilians as Syrians faced the worst economic crisis since the conflict began in 2011. Thus, millions face starvation and are malnourished with minimal access to food and clean water. Shockingly, an estimated 90% of Syrians lived below the poverty, and more than 600,000 children were chronically malnourished in 2022. A deadly cholera outbreak spread across northern Syria, leading to fears that it may reach other parts of the country.
Furthermore, electricity and fuel shortages resulted in millions of people without access to essential healthcare services. Moreover, the Syrian pound fell to record lows resulting in many state agencies being closed for several days at a time.
ISIS’s Territorial Defeat
Turkey and local factions continuously violate human rights in Turkish-occupied territories with impunity. Following ISIS’s territorial defeat in northeast Syria, Kurdish-led authorities and the US-led coalition have yet to provide compensation for civilian casualties, offer support for identifying the fate of those kidnapped by ISIS, or address the tens of thousands of former ISIS family members that are trapped in camps and prisons. Consequently, this has led to a deteriorating security situation and higher risks of re-radicalization of those who escape.
Bashar al-Assad Continues to Violate Human Rights
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, has emerged militarily victorious from the ongoing war. In May 2021, Bashar al-Assad secured a fourth term as president, meaning he will serve until 2028.
Moreover, the presidential elections did not occur under the auspices of the United Nations-led political process. Thus, the elections failed to adhere to standards for free and fair elections.
The Assad regime caused brutal repression, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Assad has used chemical weapons such as chlorine gas against civilians and conducted torture and extrajudicial killings. Assad used disproportionate aerial bombardment and shelling, resulting in millions of civilian casualties and trauma. There are ongoing international condemnation and widespread calls to convict Assad in the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, Syria has become a forgotten conflict in which the Assad regime’s crimes go unpunished.
Pederson’s “Six-Point Agenda”
Geir O. Pedersen of Norway, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, has appealed to the UN Council to shift these worrying dynamics by outlining a “six-point agenda” moving forward in 2023.
- Point 1: Stepping back from escalation and restoring relative calm on the ground.
- Point 2: Renew its framework to provide unfettered humanitarian access to all Syrians who require assistance.
- Point 3: Resume the meetings of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.
- Point 4: Pushing for the release of detained, disappeared and missing persons.
- Point 5: Improving and increasing dialogue towards identifying and implementing initial step-for-step confidence-building measures with Syrian stakeholders and international actors.
- Point 6: Increasing engagement with Syrian civil society, including the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board.
Western Media’s Selective Empathy to Humanitarian Crises
The Western media portrayed “selective empathy” towards various countries facing war and violence. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is classified as “different”. Europeans considered Ukrainians as more “civilized” than those suffering in countries like Yemen, Libya, Ethiopia, Palestine and Syria. People on social media are now classifying the 2015 “refugee crisis” as a “racist crisis”.
The despicable selective empathy, double standards and discrimination have uncovered a deep-rooted undertone of injustice across Western media. The West has ethnicity, “whiteness” and location as driving forces behind the amount of empathy shown.
Read more: Children in Syria with no Future.
International Actors Influencing Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis
Russia, Turkey, the United States, and Iran willingly provide military and financial aid to warring factions and allow the hostilities to continue with impunity across Syria.
Israel frequently conducted aerial strikes in Syria, in places such as Aleppo and Damascus airports, in 2022. According to the UN, the Israeli attack on Damascus International Airport in June 2022 disrupted the UN aid supply for approximately two weeks.
After nearly 12 years of conflict, Syrians need hope for the future. Syria’s forgotten conflict must be addressed before a catastrophic deterioration is reached in 2023.
Millions are desperately in need of humanitarian aid and are suffering. Syria is on the verge of another “flare-up” that could lead to the return of a large-scale war. Millions are dying in displacement camps as resources are becoming scarcer. Furthermore, donor fatigue is rising as other conflicts, and wars like Ukraine dominate media headlines.
We must continue to support UN cross-border humanitarian assistance in Northwest Syria and urge the members of the UN Security Council to renew the cross-border resolution. Moreover, as mentioned above, Pederson’s six-point agenda is imperative in alleviating the desperate humanitarian disaster that has been unfolding in Syria for many years.
Syria’s forgotten conflict must be of top international concern, and international human rights protections must be respected.
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