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Syria Today – Egyptian FM in Damascus, Racism Spreads in Turkey

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Egyptian FM in Damascus, Racism Spreads in Turkey

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has arrived in Damascus on what is the first visit by a top Egyptian envoy to Syria since its civil war began in 2011 and another sign of possible warming ties between President Bashar al-Assad and Arab states.
According to the Syrian state news agency (SANA), Shoukry was received at Damascus airport by his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad on Monday.
Al-Assad has benefitted from an outpouring of Arab support for Syria since the February 6th earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people there and in neighbouring Turkey.
Earlier, following the earthquake, the foreign minister of Jordan, which once backed the Syrian opposition, also visited Damascus for the first time since the civil war began.

Assad- Shoukry
During a meeting with President Assad, Shokry conveyed a message from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to President Bashar al-Assad, SANA reported.
He conveyed the greetings of President El-Sisi to President al-Assad and his pride in the historical relations binding Syria and Egypt, expressing Cairo’s keenness to strengthen these relations and develop joint cooperation between the two countries.
Assad thanked the Arab Republic of Egypt for the assistance provided to support the efforts of the Syrian government in providing relief to those affected by the earthquake, stressing that Syria is also keen on the relations binding it with Egypt.
Minister Shoukry considered that Syrian-Egyptian relations are an essential pillar in protecting the Arab countries, stressing that Egypt will always be with everything that could help Syria and will move forward in everything that would serve the interests of the brotherly Syrian people.
He referred to the ties binding the Syrian and Egyptian peoples, noting that the Syrians residing in Egypt showed a great ability to adapt to Egyptian society and achieved great success in their work in various fields.

‘Disaster diplomacy’
Over two weeks since Syria was hit by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, aid has poured into the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, long isolated by a decade of international sanctions.
And accompanying the aid has been an outpouring of support for the Syrian president — followed by a chain of calls for his reintegration into the Arab fold.
“It has given Assad hope to re-engage with the international community,” Jordanian political analyst Amer Sabaileh told The New Arab.
“Assad is trying to instrumentalize and exploit the earthquake to reach political gains,” Joseph Daher, a Swiss-Syrian researcher, told TNA.
The regime is “trying to break its political isolation and advance its process of normalization, which is partially succeeding, although at a very small path,” he added.

Assad takes ‘driver’s seat’
Human rights groups have decried the UN for its slow response in opposition-held northwest Syria, hit hard by the earthquake. The already war-ravaged region has witnessed over 4,500 deaths and 8,500 injuries.
Outside aid did not enter the region until days after the quake, leaving a handful of volunteers without proper equipment or supplies to rummage through the rubble.
The UN waited over a week for Assad’s authorization to enter the besieged territory through additional border crossings from Turkey. The only authorized crossing, Bab al-Hawa, was disrupted for four days following the disaster.
When it comes to the border crossings, the UN has “put Bashar al-Assad in the driver’s seat”, Syrian political economist Karam Shaar told TNA.
“Assad will try to manipulate the aid, hold some of it, redirect it to some of his own supporters. Or allow it to flow but only if politic

In the wake of Turkey’s earthquake came an aftershock of anti-Syrian racism

With over 47,000 confirmed fatalities in the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria, as well as over 300,000 displaced and an astonishing 26 million people left in need of assistance, the situation is beyond tragic.
Sadly, however, victims are still being made, according to The New arab.
One particularly vicious addendum to this catastrophe is that it has led to an exacerbation of already intense anti-Syrian racism within Turkey. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, claims began to emerge of the mass looting of damaged shops and homes in earthquake-stricken towns by Syrian refugees.
” In the city of Mersin, where displaced Syrians like Turks had fled to a shelter set up in a student dormitory, just a few days after the earthquake, authorities removed and herded them onto buses where they were unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road 40 miles away in Adana.”
This was entirely false, driven by the now familiarly anti-Syrian voice of Umit Ozdag, a well-known anti-refugee demagogue and leader of the Kemalist neo-fascist Zafer (Victory) Party. Ozdag has a long history of attempting to stoke up anti-refugee sentiment and violence, including his call for the mass expulsion of Syrians from Turkey. Authorities even had to block Ozdag from placing a mine on the border with Syria as a violently symbolic gesture towards his view that border crossings should be terminated.
Since the earthquake, Ozdag has been active on the ground in quake-stricken areas, openly exploiting the disaster to drum up hostility. He has also been preaching hate on social media and organizing protests to expel Syrians from shelters. Hashtags like #Nolongerwelcome and #WedontwantSyrians, have been trending since the earthquake.
Ozdag is sadly not a lone voice. Over the past few years, anti-Syrian sentiment has reached fever pitch, with the media, mainstream opposition parties and even the ruling AK Party using Syrians as a scapegoat for rapidly deteriorating economic conditions.
In combination with this, Turkey has been edging towards normalization with Assad, to the end of being able to expel, or “resettle”, Syrians in the Baathist rump state. The result of this has been the arbitrary and involuntary deportation of hundreds of Syrians by increasingly hostile Turkish authorities, as well as escalating racist violence against them.

One MRI for 4.7 million people: the battle to treat Syria’s earthquake survivors
Hospitals in Northwestern Syria have been overwhelmed as they attempt to accommodate thousands of injured people in spaces with severely limited beds, medical supplies, surgical equipment and intensive-care facilities, according to Nature.
More than 8,500 injured people need to be accommodated in only 66 functional hospitals providing 1,245 beds for short hospital stays, according to the WHO. Moreover, all of northwest Syria has just 86 orthopedic surgeons, 64 X-ray machines, 7 computerized tomography (CT) scanners and one magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine across the region, according to WHO-compiled data published towards the end of 2022. Gynaecologist Ikram Haboush, director of Idleb city’s sole public maternity-hospital, says, “the medical situation in northwest Syria is catastrophic”.
“The supply of antibiotics ran out from day three” after the earthquake, says Abdulkarim Ekzayez, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, who now fears widespread infections. “We have used the medications and serums that would have lasted us for four to six months in two to three days,” adds Haboush. The WHO has started airlifting medicines and medical supplies but says northwest Syria also needs essential diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines.
The region’s critical lack of health care is partly caused by hospitals and medical staff being targeted during the war, explains Ekzayez, who is a co-investigator on a UK-funded project called Research for Health System Strengthening in Syria. In a separate study, Ekzayez estimated that as of June 2021, 350 medical facilities had been attacked and 930 healthcare personnel killed.

Nearly 60 Migrants, Including Syrians, Drowned Off Italian Coast
At least 59 people, including 12 children, were found drowned off the southeastern Italian coast early on Sunday after a wooden boat carrying the migrants had sunk, Italian authorities said.

The Italian authorities are expecting that the death toll could top 100 since some survivors indicated the boat was carrying about 250 passengers when it took off from Turkey four days ago.
Italian media outlets published footage showing wooden debris strewn across the beach, rescuers handling a body bag at the site of the incidents, the bodies of the victims in white death bags, and other survivors wrapped in blankets.
Only 80 people survived, while the fate of at least 50 others is still unknown, according to the Italian coast guard.
The boat was believed to be carrying migrants primarily from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

ISIS 2015 Attack On Syria’s Khabur Assyrians Casts Long Shadow
February 23 marked the eighth anniversary of the Islamic State (ISIS) 2015 attack against the Assyrian Christians of Tel Tamr, west of the city of Hasakah, in northeast Syrian, North Press reported.
In the early morning hours, ISIS fighters descended from Mount Abdul’aziz (Kurdish: Kezwan) on the Assyrian villages located on the southern banks of the Khabur River. The attack came mere months after ISIS’ genocide against the Kurdish-speaking Yazidi ethnoreligious community in Sinjar (Shengal), northern Iraq.
Millennia ago, the Assyrian empire stretched across Mesopotamia; its fighters were feared across the region. However, the last century of the Assyrian people’s history has been marked by persecution and migration.
The Assyrians living in Tel Tamr originally hail from the Hakkari region (Turkey). During World War II, they escaped persecution to Iraq. However, in the aftermath of the Simele Massacre carried out by the Iraqi army in the summer of 1933, large masses of Assyrians fled to the Syrian Jazira (North and East), which at the time was administrated by the French Mandatory authorities.

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