The humanitarian crisis in the eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo has worsened due to the prevalence of Iranian forces and militias in charities and relief organizations. They control the distribution of most aid and temporary housing to affected families inside shelters and neighbourhoods.
The earthquake disaster has appeared to be a prime opportunity for Iranian militias to exploit aid at checkpoints and in their deployment sectors within Aleppo city and surrounding areas. Their actions have been aimed at promoting their own interests and expanding their popular support base.
Iran’s Rising Influence in Aleppo
The earthquake disaster has exposed the increasing influence of Iranians and the penetration of their supported forces and militias in critical areas of work, such as institutions and service directorates. Their complete domination has become evident in the areas where they are deployed and hold influence.
Syria Today – Aid Crosses into Northwest; U.S. Condemns Assad; Refugees Return from Turkey
Following the catastrophic earthquake, the Iranian consul was observed wandering around affected neighbourhoods taking pictures and videos, supposedly to coordinate rescue efforts and heavy machinery operations in the most affected areas. Their stated objective was to save victims and those trapped under rubble. In contrast, the appearance of city and governorate council officials and official rescue teams was delayed for several hours. When they eventually arrived, it was only in specific sectors of the city center, and their presence was mostly symbolic.
The Iranian consul, Nawab Nouri, seemed to emerge as the “de facto leader of Aleppo,” managing the forces and militias who pooled their resources with groups and mechanisms from Iranian military bases deployed in the vicinity of Aleppo, particularly the central base in the Jabal Azzan area to the south.
The consul’s movements seemed to serve as a propaganda prelude to the visit of Esmail Qaani, the commander of the IRGC-QF, on February 8th. During his visit, Qaani toured the eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo with several militia leaders, and his escorts took pictures of him in front of sites where Iranian vehicles were retrieving victims.
Qaani inaugurated two shelters, the first in the Nuqta Mosque (Mashhad al-Hussein) and the second near the Iranian consulate. After Qaani’s visit, the work of Iranian forces and militias expanded significantly to the point where they almost completely controlled the situation in earthquake-stricken Aleppo.
Aid shipments arriving in Aleppo through the international airport were handled by groups associated with the Baqir Brigade and the Aleppo Defenders Corps” and transported to warehouses in the city’s neighbourhoods. Families residing in shelters operated by the consulate and militias received most of the aid. At the same time, only small quantities were distributed to semi-official shelters, which are also distributed among the Iranian militias’ sectors of influence as well, meaning that the latter directly intervenes in the distribution operations.
Local popular circles accuse the Baqir Brigade of stealing aid. What it distributes constitutes only a small part of the huge quantities it stores in its warehouses in the neighbourhoods of Marjeh and Balloura and in the nearby suburbs.
After the completion of the recovery operations for the victims, extensive demolitions were carried out by Iranian mechanisms in large sections of neighbourhoods that were subjected to aerial and ground bombardment between 2012 and 2016. According to the official announcement of the Aleppo City Council, over 60 buildings were completely removed. However, local sources have confirmed to the Syria TV website that the number of buildings demolished by the Iranians has exceeded 200 in the past few weeks, with their participation in the demolitions. Special teams affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, including the 13th Brigade al-Tauf, brought in additional heavy machinery to assist with demolition.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.