Refugees and civilians, everlasting losers from the battle in Syria

I. The Druze population faced with deprivation

An eloquent illustration of the worsening of this situation is the series of demonstrations organized in Souweidah, a city in southern Syria populated mainly by Druze, during the month of February 2022. From February 6th, hundreds of inhabitants will actually come to demonstrate to protest against corruption and the worsening of their living conditions [2]particularly following the termination by the Syrian Government of an aid program [3] for the purchase of certain essential products such as bread, diesel, cooking gas and gasoline introduced in May 2021.

The dispatch of several battalions of soldiers to Damascus will put an end to the demonstrations which, due to their relatively unheard-of nature in the regime’s territory, have nevertheless sent a message to the latter about the critical nature of the situation. Damascus, however, insisted on imposing a form of economic blockade on the region as a sanction, increasing inflation and making it more difficult for families to stock up on food products, the price of a kilo of tomato sometimes reaching 5,000 Syrian pounds (about €2 ) [4]. In an effort to demonstrate to Syrians that they have not been totally overshadowed by the conflict in Ukraine, the annual Syrian donors’ conference held in Brussels, which brought together 55 countries and 22 international aid organizations to fund aid programs for the Syrian population, manages to raise 6 .7 billion dollars for Syrians [5]compared to 6.4 billion last year [6].

II. The pocket of Idlib, a besieged fortress increasingly weakened

Critical, the situation is also critical in the territories occupied by the insurgency, in particular the insurgent pocket of Idlib [7], in northwest Syria; Surrounded by the Syrian army, which imposes an intransigent embargo on them, the population of the enclave sees their situation deteriorating day by day. A sadly evocative indicator, the number of suicides is clearly increasing according to the Syrian NGO Response Coordination Group, which counted 33 suicides or suicide attempts in the first six months of 2022, compared to 22 for the whole year. 2021 [8].

The supply of the insurgent region of Idlib also always remains subject to the great powers, in particular Russia, who use it as leverage for diplomatic blackmail: like last year, Moscow threatened to use its veto against the renewal in the Security Council of the opening of the post. Bab al-Hawa cross-border crossing [9], the only corridor through which humanitarian aid is allowed to reach the population trapped in the pocket of insurgents. Finally, on 12 July, after long weeks of concern for the people of Idlib [10]Moscow will give in and the border crossing will be kept open [11].

III. Syrian refugees in Turkey

For their part, the refugee situation remains difficult: while in Jordan the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp – the largest camp in the world with its 80,000 inhabitants [12] – celebrates its 10th anniversary, tensions mount between Syrian and Turkish refugees facing a particularly brutal economic crisis [13]. Political discourse against refugees is on the rise [14]such as Victory Party (Zafer partisi) leader Ümit Özdağ who declared in April that “any Turkish citizen who declares himself in favor of keeping refugees in Turkey is a traitor” [15]. A poll carried out by the Ankariot ORC research institute in July will establish that, among the sample of Turks questioned, 54% declared that refugees posed a problem in their neighborhood, a figure that rises to 60% in the Marmara region, where Istanbul is located. [16].

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), will call on 10 July for the return to Syria of the 700,000 Syrian children born on Turkish soil since the beginning of the war, explaining that “The largest A country’s wealth is its babies. These babies are Syria’s wasted wealth. For Syria to grow back, its children must return to their homeland.” [17]. Her ally Meral Akşener, leader of the Party for Good (İyi parti), declared a few weeks earlier, on May 11, that she wanted to “go to Syria to shake hands with Bashar el-Assad” and discuss the repatriation of Syrian refugees in your country of origin [18].

In the face of speeches urging refugees to leave Turkey – with Turkish presidential and legislative elections taking place next year, in 2023 – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will speak out to assure the 3.6 million Syrian refugees that he would not force them to return to their country. , stating that “we will protect until the end our brothers who flee the war and find refuge in our country, regardless of what the leader of the CHP says” [19].

4. Syrian refugees in Lebanon

Turkey is not the only country where the return of refugees to Syria is being discussed more and more seriously: Lebanon, which is home to 1.5 million Syrian refugees. [20] (i.e. almost a quarter of the Lebanese population [21]), announced on June 20, 2022 to study the possibility of returning Syrian refugees to their country of origin, if the international community does not do so itself. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, arguing the substantial cost Syrian refugees pose to a Lebanon hit by the worst economic crisis in its history [22]declared thus “inviting the international community to work with Lebanon to ensure the return of Syrian refugees to their country, otherwise Lebanon […] return them by legal means and with the firmest application of Lebanese law” [23]. If Minister for Displaced Persons Issam Sharafeddine declared on July 6 that “we are serious about implementing this plan and look forward to doing so in the coming months” [24]Lebanese authorities do not appear to have made any further statements on this matter in recent weeks.

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