9 Years of War in Syria: $530 Billion in Losses, 40% of Infrastructure Destroyed

Children ride in carts past a damaged building on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in the opposition-held Idlib city in northwest Syria, May 24, 2020. (Reuters)
Children ride in carts past a damaged building on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in the opposition-held Idlib city in northwest Syria, May 24, 2020. (Reuters)
TT

9 Years of War in Syria: $530 Billion in Losses, 40% of Infrastructure Destroyed

Children ride in carts past a damaged building on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in the opposition-held Idlib city in northwest Syria, May 24, 2020. (Reuters)
Children ride in carts past a damaged building on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday in the opposition-held Idlib city in northwest Syria, May 24, 2020. (Reuters)

Nine years of war have cost Syria more than 530 billion dollars, vastly exceeding estimates by United Nations and Syrian experts two years ago. Forty percent of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed, incurring losses of 65 billion dollars, while poverty reached 86 percent of Syria’s 22 million people.

The fatalities from the conflict have reached 690,000, including 570,000 who were directly killed in the fighting. Thirteen million people have been forced to leave their homes for safety and 2.4 million children are out of school.

These were some of the alarming findings of a report prepared by the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR). Co-founder of the center, Rabie Nasser told Asharq Al-Awsat Tuesday that confronted with these numbers, “we cannot talk about Syria’s reconstructions without first tackling the cause of the conflict, primarily the injustice tied to political, economic and social injustice.”

“Overcoming the conflict is more important than construction,” he added. “This can be achieved through a long-term and gradual process that eliminates injustice and allows society to remove traces of the conflict and build a new future.”

Two years ago, Russian officials said the war cost 400 billion dollars. No doubt today’s new figures pose a major challenge for plans to rebuild Syria, especially given the internal situation in the country and the global economic crises caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

One researcher said: “These figures make reconstruction more of a pipedream.”

Economic injustice

The conflict led to the emergence of different economies within the “fragmented state”. A common strategy used by the various warring parties was the misuse of economic resources to fuel the conflict rather than productive economic activities, said the report.

The resources were used to “sustain the violence”, it noted.

Up until the end of 2019, the conflict cost Syria 530.1 billion dollars or 9.7 times the country’s GDP in 2010. The figure covers the loss in local production, estimated at 420.9 billion dollars and a rise in military spending by around 37.8 billion dollars. Government subsidies dropped from 20.2 percent in 2011 to 4.6 percent in 2019.

The Syrian pound also took a hit. It traded at 46 pounds to the dollar in 2011 and lost 43 percent of its value between July 2018 and September 2019. It continued to drop even further between October 2019 and January 2020. The pound now trades at 1,700 to the dollar. The labor force was also largely depleted by the war, dropping from 5.184 million to 3.058 million worker. Unemployment rose from 14.9 to 42.3 percent. The labor market lost 3.7 million jobs.

Social injustice

Syria’s population rose 0.9 percent in 2018 and 1.1 percent in 2019 to reach 19.584 million people. The conflict has led to the displacement of 5.6 million people to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and other countries. As of August 2019, the internally displaced are estimates at 6.14 million, the highest such figure in the world.

Millions of Syrians continue to lose years of academic education. According to 2019 estimates, 2.4 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 are out of school. Nasser described the situation as a “disaster” because millions of children will now suffer from a lack of skills and knowledge, as well as the traumas of war.

The involvement of various parties in the conflict has led to the emergence of six different curricula adopted at schools throughout the country.

The report found that 4.4 deaths were reported for each 1,000 people in 2010. That rose to 9.9 per 1,000 and 7 to each 1,000 in 2019. Some 570,000 people were killed by the direct fighting and 120,000 by the lack of medical equipment and necessary living conditions.

Poverty reached its peak at 89.4 percent at the end of 2016 and it has since dropped to 86 percent in 2019. The stifling economic crisis in Lebanon has only exacerbated the economic situation in Syria. The country is in store for even more hardships as the United States moves to implement the Caesar Act in mid-June.

European countries and the US have been demanding the implementation of a political solution in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 2254 to end the crisis. On the other end, Moscow and Damascus have been demanding that sanctions be lifted off the regime. A donor conference on Syria is scheduled to be held in Brussels at the end of June, which may offer the people a glimmer of hope.



Palestinian Olympic Team Greeted with Cheers and Gifts in Paris

Palestinian athletes Yazan Al Bawwab and Valerie Tarazi try a date offered to them by a young supporter upon arriving to the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 25, 2024, in Roissy, north of Paris, France. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)
Palestinian athletes Yazan Al Bawwab and Valerie Tarazi try a date offered to them by a young supporter upon arriving to the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 25, 2024, in Roissy, north of Paris, France. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)
TT

Palestinian Olympic Team Greeted with Cheers and Gifts in Paris

Palestinian athletes Yazan Al Bawwab and Valerie Tarazi try a date offered to them by a young supporter upon arriving to the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 25, 2024, in Roissy, north of Paris, France. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)
Palestinian athletes Yazan Al Bawwab and Valerie Tarazi try a date offered to them by a young supporter upon arriving to the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, at the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 25, 2024, in Roissy, north of Paris, France. (AP Photo/Megan Janetsky)

Palestinian Olympic athletes were greeted with a roar of a crowd and gifts of food and roses as they arrived in Paris on Thursday, ready to represent war–torn Gaza and the rest of the territories on a global stage.

As the beaming athletes walked through a sea of Palestinian flags at the main Paris airport, they said they hoped their presence would serve as a symbol amid the Israel-Hamas war that has claimed more than 39,000 Palestinian lives.

Athletes, French supporters and politicians in the crowd urged the European nation to recognize a Palestinian state, while others expressed outrage at Israel's presence at the Games after UN-backed human rights experts said Israeli authorities were responsible for “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

“France doesn’t recognize Palestine as a country, so I am here to raise the flag,” said Yazan Al-Bawwab, a 24-year-old Palestinian swimmer born in Saudi Arabia. “We're not treated like human beings, so when we come play sports, people realize we are equal to them.”

"We're 50 million people without a country," he added.

Al-Bawwab, one of eight athletes on the Palestinian team, signed autographs for supporters and plucked dates from a plate offered by a child in the crowd.

The chants of “free Palestine” echoing through the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport show how conflict and the political tension are rippling through the Olympic Games. The world is coming together in Paris at a moment of global political upheaval, multiple wars, historic migration and a deepening climate crisis, all issues that have risen to the forefront of conversation in the Olympics.

In May, French President Emmanuel Macron said he prepared to officially recognize a Palestinian state but that the step should “come at a useful moment” when emotions aren’t running as high. That fueled anger by some like 34-year-old Paris resident Ibrahim Bechrori, who was among dozens of supporters waiting to greet the Palestinian athletes in the airport.

“I'm here to show them they're not alone, they're supported," Bechrouri said. Them being here “shows that the Palestinian people will continue to exist, that they won't be erased. It also means that despite the dire situation, they're staying resilient. They're still a part of the world and are here to stay.”

Palestinian ambassador to France Hala Abou called for France to formally recognize a Palestinian state and for a boycott of the Israeli Olympic delegation. Abou has previously said she has lost 60 relatives in the war.

“It’s welcome that comes as no surprise to the French people, who support justice, support the Palestinian people, support their inalienable right to self-determination,” she said.

That call for recognition comes just a day after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a scathing speech to Congress during a visit to Washington, which was met with protests. He declared he would achieve “total victory” against Hamas and called those protesting the war on college campuses and elsewhere in the US “useful idiots” for Iran.

Israel's embassy in Paris echoed the International Olympic Committee in a “decision to separate politics from the Games.”

"We welcome the Olympic Games and our wonderful delegation to France. We also welcome the participation of all the foreign delegations," the Embassy wrote in a statement to The Associated Press. “Our athletes are here to proudly represent their country, and the entire nation is behind to support them.”

The AP has made multiple attempts to speak with Israeli athletes without success.

Even under the best of circumstances, it is difficult to maintain a vibrant Olympics training program in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem. That's become next to impossible in nine months of war between Israel and Hamas as much of the country's sporting infrastructure have been devastated.

Among the large Palestinian diaspora worldwide, many of the athletes on the team were born or live elsewhere, yet they care deeply about the politics of their parents’ and grandparents’ homeland. Among them was Palestinian American swimmer Valerie Tarazi, who handed out traditional keffiyehs to supporters surrounding her Thursday.

“You can either crumble under pressure or use it as energy,” she said. “I chose to use it as energy.”