The Syrian Regime Has Stolen Roughly 90 Percent of the Aid Intended for the Earthquake Victims
Press release: (Download the full report below)
Paris – the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) revealed in a report released today that it has so far documented the deaths of 7,259 Syrians resulting from the earthquake that hit northwestern Syria and southern Turkey on the dawn of Monday, February 6, 2023. Of these, 2,534 died in areas not controlled by the Syrian regime, and 394 died in regime-controlled areas, while 4,331 Syrian refugees died in Turkey. The report also reveals that the Syrian regime has stolen roughly 90 percent of the aid intended for the earthquake victims.
The 6-page report is an update of the previous recorded death toll of victims killed both by the earthquake and the late arrival of UN and international aid. The report notes that SNHR’s victims team, which normally work on documenting extrajudicial killings, does not usually record cases of natural death or deaths due to disasters. However, given the extraordinary circumstances and the inescapably dire need, and relying on the team’s extensive experience, wide network of relations, and geographical dispersion, this team was tasked with responding to this special case. The report lists some of the extraordinary challenges in this process, most notably the fact that a great number of the team’s members were themselves affected by the earthquake, with some dying as a result. The second major challenge facing the team is the massive number of victims, compared even to the largest single massacre committed by the Syrian regime, in addition to the wide geographical area across which the earthquake victims died. In this context, the report documents the bare minimum of information, with further updates to come at a later date.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Executive Director of SNHR, says:
“Delivering aid through the Syrian regime and the organizations founded by the security apparatus of the Syrian regime might take the donor states and supporting organizations away from the framework of humanitarian work to supporting and funding the terrorism and crimes against humanity that the Syrian regime has committed against its people. While we acknowledge the good intentions of the donor states and organizations, we must stress that the Syrian regime does not steal only 30 or 40 percent of the aid donated – in reality, the Syrian regime pillages up to 90 percent of the aid delivered.”
The report reveals that a total of 7,259 Syrians, including approximately 2,153 children and 1,524 women, are so far known to have died due to the earthquake, with the death toll in Syria increased by the late arrival of UN and international aid between February 6, 2023, and February 27, 2023,. This death toll is distributed according to location between 2,534 victims who died in non-regime areas in northwestern Syria, 394 who died in regime areas, and 4,331 Syrian refugees who died in Turkey. The report includes graphs outlining the distribution of the victims who died by governorate, and categorizing the victims who died in Turkey by their Syrian governorate of origin rather than the location of their deaths.
As the report further explains, the earthquake’s death toll included 73 medical personnel, five media workers, 62 humanitarian workers, and four civil defense members in northwestern Syria.
The report also stresses that the idea that ‘delivering some aid is better than nothing’, while true in ordinary circumstances, has failed miserably in Syria where these circumstances are absent. This statement was the answer given by the majority of the relief workers in the areas under the Syrian regime’s control to queries about this aid. This failure, as the report explains, stems from three main points:
First: The Syrian regime, not the victims who are effectively its hostages, is the primary beneficiary of this aid and of the vast majority of aid donated since 2014. The Syrian regime and its military forces openly steal as much as 90 percent of all aid delivered, which is then distributed to regime insiders and sold at a profit in regime-controlled areas. This being the case, delivering aid donated for earthquake victims or others via the Syrian regime is, effectively, providing support for a regime involved in terrorizing its people, using chemical weapons, and committing multiple other crimes against humanity.
Secondly, none of the organizations operating in the areas under the Syrian regime’s control have any autonomy, whether we’re talking about the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), the Civil Defense, or any other groups founded by the regime’s security apparatus. International organizations, however, are required to deal solely with these regime-controlled entities, effectively handing control of aid to the regime’s security apparatus and enabling it to pillage the vast majority of this aid. This is the same security apparatus that is involved in crimes against humanity, including torturing people to death and disappearing nearly 100,000 Syrian citizens.
Finally, the Syrian regime is exploiting the flow of humanitarian assistance and the sympathy expressed towards the earthquake victims and survivors for political gain. In reality, the Syrian regime does not care about the Syrian people, whether in the areas under its control or those outside its control.
The report stresses that there is a dire and urgent need to increase humanitarian assistance to the families of the victims and the displaced, more especially in the wake of the devastating February 6 earthquake, across all areas of Syria, especially in northwestern Syria which is suffering from severe overpopulation, with hundreds of thousands of people forcibly displaced by the Syrian regime’s violations who were already suffering terribly even before the recent earthquake.
The report adds that the noble mission of humanitarian assistance should not be perverted and debased to turn it into a tool of funding and support for a regime involved in perpetrating multiple crimes against humanity against its own people which continue to this day.
The report calls on the UN and donor states to establish an international support platform to manage the process of coordinating humanitarian assistance in northwestern Syria. Such a body would provide an autonomous alternative option, in addition to the UN, with a branch of this body being devoted to negotiating with the Syrian regime as one entity, and would oversee the delivery and distribution of aid in regime areas. The report also recommends that the quality and quantity of humanitarian assistance, most particularly shelter, designated for Syrian relief organizations that have proved their integrity and autonomy should be increased, with a special focus on the needs of women and children.