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Syria Today – U.S. Sends Reinforcements to Hassakeh; Jordan Calls for Maintaining Aid; Syria Refugee Flagged As Threat in Canada

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – U.S. Sends Reinforcements to Hassakeh; Jordan Calls for Maintaining Aid; Syria Refugee Flagged As Threat in Canada

The United States has sent military and logistic reinforcements to its bases in Syria’s north-eastern al-Hassakeh province. At the same time, Jordan’s foreign minister called on the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday to reverse a decision to cut food subsidies to Syrian refugees Meanwhile, a Syrian torture survivor was flagged as a national security risk in Canada.

US Army sends military, and logistic reinforcements to Syria

The United States has sent military and logistic reinforcements to its bases in Syria’s north-eastern al-Hassakeh province, MEMO reported.

Local sources said two convoys of military vehicles entered al-Hassakeh on Tuesday, after crossing into Syria through the Al-Waleed border terminal with Iraq.

They consisted of about 100 vehicles and headed to the US army bases in the towns of Rmelan, TalBeydar and Ash-Shaddadi in al-Hassakeh province, according to witnesses.

The convoy included armoured vehicles, oil tanks and artillery equipment, in addition to large quantities of ammunition.

In January and June 2023, the US forces sent military and logistic reinforcements to their bases in the areas in Al-Hassakeh.

About 900 American soldiers are deployed within the coalition forces in the areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and they are located in several bases in the governorates of Hassakeh, Raqqa and Deir-ez-Zor.

UN expert cancels visit to Syria due to lack of cooperation

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, has cancelled his visit to Syria due to the Syrian government’s lack of cooperation, North Press reports

The visit, scheduled to begin on July 9, was intended to assess the conditions of water and sanitation facilities across different areas of the country and identify challenges and positive practices regarding access to these rights. 

Despite the rapporteur’s efforts, the authorities failed to provide the necessary information and take steps to facilitate the visit, demonstrating a lack of goodwill. Access to safe drinking water and sanitation systems is severely limited in various locations in Syria, with the Hasakah Governorate in northeast Syria particularly affected by a water crisis caused by periodic cutoffs of water supply by Turkey and Syrian opposition factions. 

The cancellation of the visit prevents an independent assessment of the situation and potential measures to address the water crisis in Syria.

Jordan urges WFP to reverse subsidy cuts to Syrian refugees

Jordan’s foreign minister called on the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday to reverse a decision to cut food subsidies to Syrian refugees by Aug 1, according to Reuters.

“This is not on Jordan. It is on those who are cutting support. We can’t carry this burden alone,” Ayman Safadi said in a tweet.

“We urge WFP and others cutting subsidies to Syrian refugees to reverse the decision,” he wrote.

Representatives of the World Food Programme did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

The United Nations humanitarian agencies and other aid groups are struggling to keep up aid to Syrians as needs skyrocket and funding streams dry up.

More than 15 million people need aid across the country – a record number – and malnutrition rates are at an all-time high. But the U.N. said in June that its appeal for humanitarian work in Syria this year – $5.4 billion – had only been 11% funded.

At the time, the WFP announced it would cut food aid to 2.5 million of the 5.5 million people it supports. It was not immediately clear if those figures included refugees outside of Syria’s borders.

Safadi said on Thursday that the UN “must work to enable voluntary return. Until then, its agencies must keep sufficient support.”

What next for Russia’s Wagner Group?

New Arab published a long analysis showing that the recent revolt in Russia led by Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has raised questions about the future of the notorious mercenary force in Syria. 

The mutiny was swiftly quelled, leaving Wagner fighters with the choice of Belarusian exile or joining the Russian military. The implications of these events on Wagner’s presence in Syria are unclear. While tensions between Wagner and Russian military personnel in shared bases may arise, each group has separate responsibilities and objectives. 

Redut, another Russian private military company (PMC), is also active in Syria and competes with Wagner. The rivalry between the two entities is unlikely to be resolved, and the mutiny in Russia further strains their relationship. The auditing of Wagner’s overseas presence presents challenges for Moscow, but the group’s close relationship with the Kremlin and its role in protecting Russian interests cannot be underestimated. 

Despite tensions and potential grievances, the Russian army appears united, and Syria could serve as a strategic location for plotting or creating problems for Moscow. 

The future of Wagner remains uncertain, but its influence and impact in Syria and beyond should not be dismissed prematurely.

Syrians still endure poverty despite the relative calm and renewed Arab ties

Reuters recently highlighted the case of Nesma Daher, a widow from Douma, a town in Syria that was once held by rebels until government forces regained control in 2018. 

Despite the relative calm in her area and a slight easing of Syria’s regional isolation, Daher describes life as increasingly difficult. She struggles to provide her four children with even one meal a day, relying on monthly cash assistance of approximately $7 from an NGO. 

Her youngest son, aged 12, had to quit school to work at a factory. The situation reflects the widespread poverty that has plagued Syria throughout its over 12-year conflict, which began as protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule in 2011. With at least 350,000 lives lost, millions displaced, and public infrastructure in ruins, humanitarian needs have reached unprecedented levels. 

The United Nations estimates that over 15 million Syrians require aid, a record high. Meanwhile, the country’s GDP has plummeted by over 50% from 2010 to 2020, and the devaluing of local currency contributes to soaring inflation. Despite the urgent situation, the United Nations has struggled to secure sufficient funding for its humanitarian support in Syria. 

As of June, its appeal for this year’s humanitarian efforts, totalling $5.4 billion, was only 11% funded. The devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey earlier this year further exacerbated the suffering. 

Despite some Arab states providing aid and welcoming Assad back to the Arab League, there has been a lack of the anticipated Arab investment to help revive the economy in government-held areas.

Scapegoated by Everyone, Wanted by No One

The New York Times published a long analysis on the challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Turkey, who are scapegoated and unwanted by both the host country and their home country. Blamed for various problems in Turkey, Syrian refugees experience rising hate crimes and hostility. 

According to the article, despite the prolonged conflict and the isolation of President Bashar al-Assad, neighboring countries are motivated to normalize relations with Syria by pushing for the return of refugees. However, many refugees are unwilling to return to a country still under Assad’s rule. The article highlights the limited options and uncertain future faced by Syrian refugees, raising questions about their plight and whether their voices are being heard.

The article discusses the plight of Syrian refugees in Turkey, who face blame and discrimination while being unwanted by both their host country and their home country. The story follows the experience of Seyfeddin Selim, a Syrian refugee whose shop was looted during an earthquake, and highlights the challenges he faces in trying to rebuild his life. Turkey, hosting the largest number of refugees globally, initially had an open-door policy and received praise for its emergency care. However, over time, the mood has changed, and hate crimes against Syrians have increased. Syrians are accused of various problems in the country, including economic and social issues. The article also explores the situation in Hatay, a province with a significant Syrian refugee population. Despite the desire of neighboring countries to normalize relations with Syria, many refugees are unwilling to return due to the ongoing rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The article raises questions about the limited options and uncertain future faced by Syrian refugees and highlights the lack of attention given to their voices and struggles.

The article highlights the challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Turkey who are unable to afford the high costs of smuggling themselves to Europe and find themselves trapped in a state of limbo. It also discusses the recent political developments in Syria, with President Bashar al-Assad making a comeback and efforts being made to normalize Syrian-Turkish relations, including the repatriation of refugees. The initial welcoming stance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards Syrian refugees has shifted, and there is now a plan to repatriate one million Syrians to northern Syria. The changing dynamics and policies leave Syrian refugees in a precarious situation, unsure of their future and caught between the desire to move on and the reluctance to return to their war-torn homeland.

Despite reports of coerced returns and forced repatriation, many Syrian refugees expressed relief when President Erdogan won the second round of elections. Some still view him as an ally who initially welcomed them into Turkey. However, the plan to repatriate one million Syrians, including those in Hatay province, has created anxiety among the refugees who are now desperately seeking Turkish citizenship or other alternatives to avoid being sent back to Syria. The article also highlights the story of Om Luay, a widow who applied for resettlement to Germany after losing her daughter and family in the earthquakes. Her wait for a better future reflects the limited options available to Syrian refugees in exile, with returning to a country still ruled by Assad being an unimaginable choice. The article raises questions about whether their voices and concerns are being heard.

Why was a Syrian torture survivor flagged as a national security risk in Canada?

The Globe and Mail, a Canadian leading newspaper, highlighted the case of Noura al-Jizawi, a Syrian torture survivor flagged as a national security risk in Canada, which underlines the need for improved transparency, accountability, and support for human rights defenders, as well as a reconsideration of national security measures to ensure the protection and inclusion of individuals with lived experiences of state repression.

The case of Noura al-Jizawi, a Syrian torture survivor who was flagged as a national security risk in Canada, raises significant concerns. Noura, a senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, has not only studied state repression but has also personally experienced it. She was kidnapped and forcibly disappeared in Syria in 2012 for participating in anti-government protests. Despite arriving in Canada as a student in 2017, her application for permanent residency was inexplicably flagged on national security grounds.

The lack of clarity from Canadian authorities regarding the nature of the security risk posed by Noura is troubling, according to the paper. It has prevented her from building a stable life for herself, her husband, and their child in Canada. If deported to Syria, Noura would face imprisonment, torture, or even death at the hands of the Syrian government or its allies. Although she has since become a permanent resident, she remains vulnerable to deportation under Section 34 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Noura’s research on digital transnational repression, shedding light on how brutal regimes target their citizens abroad, is invaluable. Her work helps us understand the impact of authoritarian state harassment on victims, diaspora communities, and Canadian democracy. Despite the risks and trauma she has endured, Noura continues to speak out against human rights abuses.

The Globe and Mail adds that it is essential for the Canadian government to recognize and support brave individuals like Noura, who contribute to peace, justice, and women’s rights. Her case is particularly perplexing in light of Canada’s commitment to a “feminist international assistance policy” and the importance placed on women’s involvement in conflict resolution and peace efforts.

To rectify this situation, it is crucial for the Canadian government to apologize to Noura, conduct an independent investigation into her case, and ensure her safety and that of her family. Steps must be taken to prevent other human rights defenders from enduring similar trauma, unfounded suspicion, and delays. Canada should continue to provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals like Noura, who dedicate their lives to peace and justice.

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