Fayez Sara

The Earthquake and the Syrian Reality Uncovered

The Syrian earthquake appeared in its few days and limited geography as an amplification of what has afflicted the people of Syria and their country over the past twelve years.

In less than one week, more Syrians were killed, wounded, and displaced, and their property destroyed, than in any other week in the past years. Indeed, the overall outcome - the clear picture of which will be defined with the completion of the rubble removal operations and the end of the search for the missing - could see the number of Syrian losses from the earthquake double.

However, human pain and suffering, and the colossal material losses, are some of the results, to which is added the political outcome of the earthquake, and the impact it has on the Syrians and their cause at different levels, especially on the positions and policies of the Syrian parties over what happened.

Needless to say, scrutinizing the positions and policies of the Syrians begins with the stance and approach of the Assad regime. The latter has not diverged from its usual tendency to politically employ any event and development, and place it at the service of its policies before anything else. The regime has always confirmed that it is not interested in the deterioration of the situation of the Syrians, especially in areas outside its control.

Therefore, the regime sought to make international aid pass through it, which opens the doors to normalizing its ties with countries and organizations, some of which still refuse any such relations. This will also allow it to dispose of the aid in its own way and distribute it to its entourage, at the expense of the rest of the Syrians with urgent needs.

Social media in the regime-controlled areas referred to many crimes committed by regime supporters in stealing aid and selling it openly in cities under its influence.

Unsurprisingly, the regime dealt with the struggles facing the Syrians with the least amount of responsibility for the earthquake and its repercussions, even in the areas under its control. It did not announce national mourning, nor did it declare any region as a disaster area, nor did it invite the government and its agencies to initiate the adequate response.

Moreover, the visit that the head of the regime made to Aleppo seemed like a picnic, during which Assad, his wife and his bodyguards did not stop laughing, as if they were celebrating, or rejoicing that the devastating earthquake came to replace the barrel bombs and missiles, which the regime used for years for the killing of Syrians and the indiscriminate destruction of property.

The earthquake and its repercussions confirmed the regime’s policies and its well-known stances towards the Syrians. It showed the whole world that the regime has not and will not change in all circumstances. This also applies to its main supporters, the Iranians and the Russians, who have renewed their positions on the file of the crossings – a topic that will be soon discussed on the table of the UN Security Council.

When exposing the Syrian reality, we take a look at the other side, which includes the Syrian political and armed opposition forces, and the de-facto forces, foremost of which is Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and its base, Al-Nusra Front, the branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria, and the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The opposition organizations remained silent. Those are led by the National Coalition, which is described as the “representative of the Syrian people.” Its main response was a visit to the earthquake-affected areas, which came days after Assad’s visit to Aleppo.

The position of the armed groups in the north was not better than those of the Coalition. They chose silence, and refrained from participating in rescuing the victims and providing them with aid in the face of difficult weather conditions.

What’s more, the Syrian Interim Government, which is affiliated with the Coalition, prevented the entry of relief aid coming from east of the Euphrates.

A distinctive position was seen by the political-military formations in the areas outside the control of the Assad regime. It was the response of the Syrian Democratic Forces in the east of the Euphrates, led by the Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYd), which dealt with the earthquake within its areas of control, and sent aid to west of the Euphrates, in a step involving political objectives.

Another position, this time by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, whose leader, al-Julani, appeared to console the victims of the earthquake. Its platforms circulated pictures showing its members participating in rescue efforts, attempting somehow to improve the image of the organization and the affiliated Salvation Government in the eyes of the Syrians.

Amid a black scene that included the Assad regime, the political and military opposition groups, and the de-facto forces in the east of the Euphrates and in Idlib, we saw the striking absence of political and moral responsibility, the perpetual negligence and misbehavior, and above all the intended corruption in dealing with the earthquake and its repercussions, especially with all sides’ failure to provide relief to the population through the use of the available capabilities.

Those areas encompass hundreds of thousands of military and security forces, militants, and tens of thousands of vehicles that could have made a difference in the response and its results.

Some misunderstood the role of international sanctions, while others used them as a pretext for the delay in providing aid. Türkiye, for its part, intercepted the aid path to the northwest in an incomprehensible move, as the country had the main control over the crossings.

However, amid the intense darkness surrounding the Syrian catastrophe, two rays of light appeared.

The first was represented by the White Helmets, a civil organization with about 3,000 volunteers. They worked with limited capacities and capabilities in the past years on rescue missions, in the face of the attacks of the regime and its allies on northwestern Syria. They achieved great successes, which qualified them to assume a role, albeit a limited one, with other small organizations that are not specialized in earthquake response, saving what can be saved.

The second ray of light was seen in the broad Syrian initiatives, which included the places where Syrians are scattered, both inside and outside Syria. Extensive solidarity campaigns were organized, in addition to financial and in-kind donations aimed at covering as much as possible of the needs of Syrians in both Türkiye and Syria.

The most important thing in the campaigns is that they focused on two types of discourse: a unifying rhetoric for the Syrians on the one hand, and a call on countries, organizations, and public opinion to expedite the provision of aid, to overcome the consequences of the earthquake.

The first part of revelations was negative and emphasized the deteriorating reality of the regime, the political and military groups, and the de facto authorities. The second part, however, confirmed the good aspects of the Syrians’ response, through their civil and relief groups. It also shed light on the positive spirit of solidarity among the Syrians, wherever they were.

In both cases, the matter is presented to the Syrian elite, especially the youth among them, who are required to build on the facts for the sake of the long-awaited change, by forming and modernizing new and independent political forces that respond to the interests and needs of the Syrians, and help them achieve peace, and a system that provides freedom, justice, and equality for all the population.