A recent report delves into the profound effects of the enduring conflict and economic hardships in Syria on the romantic relationships of its residents, particularly in regions under regime control. Love and courtship rituals have adjusted to the challenging economic conditions, characterized by economic researchers as a “war economy.”
Iran strikes Syria, Iraq and Pakistan as Middle East tensions spike
Within 24 hours, Iran launched missile and drone strikes on targets in three countries — Iraq, Syria and Pakistan — and took the extraordinary step of announcing its responsibility for the attacks, triggering anger from its neighbours, CNBC reported.
The developments have heightened concerns over the possibility of a wider Middle East conflict, as the Israel-Hamas war and daily Israeli bombardment of the Gaza enclave passes the 100-day mark.
Baghdad recalled its ambassador to Iran after the Monday night attack on its northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region killed four civilians and injured at least six. Tehran said the strike targeted an Israeli spy hub near the U.S. consulate in Erbil, the Kurdistan regional capital city. Iraqi Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani rejected the Iranian claim, describing the attack as a “crime against the Kurdish people.”
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, called the attacks a “violation of international law” and said it would file a complaint with the U.N. Security Council. France’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Iran was “contributing to the escalation of regional tensions — and it must stop.”
Speaking to CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday night, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian defended his country’s actions.
The Iranian forces’ strikes were “in line with combating terrorism and legitimate self-defence,” the minister said, adding, “We have no reservations when it comes to securing our national interest with any other country.”
Tehran also hit what it said were Islamic State targets in northern Syria in tandem with its strikes on Iraq. It then went on to target the headquarters of a Sunni armed group in Pakistan’s western Balochistan province near the Iranian border.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it “strongly condemns the unprovoked violation of its airspace by Iran” which it said killed two children and injured three more. It added that “it is even more concerning that this illegal act has taken place despite the existence of several channels of communication between Pakistan and Iran.”
While the attacks on Syria and Pakistan were not related to Israel — Tehran said the strikes were targetting anti-Iran terror groups — they signify bolder direct action from Iran, which funds and supplies forces opposing Israel like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen.
“This shows that Iran will not stop now from targeting such groups across its eastern border and will use missiles and drones,” Umar Karim, an associate fellow at King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, told Middle East news outlet Al-Monitor, referring to the Pakistan strikes.
French court upholds crimes against humanity in Syria charge against Lafarge
The French Supreme Court confirmed the charge of complicity in crimes against humanity against French cement manufacturer Lafarge on Monday, thwarting a May 2022 appeal by the multinational company, The New Arab reported.
Lafarge, now part of the Holcim group, stands accused of paying up to US$13 million to several armed groups in Syria, including the so-called Islamic State (IS), between 2012 and 2014 to keep its factory running during Syria’s civil war.
The court had previously confirmed charges against the multinational of financing terrorism and violating an EU embargo.
The court’s confirmation of the complicity in crimes against the charge is a historical precedent, as Lafarge is the first company in the world ever to face such a charge.
“Businesses that fuel or profit from armed conflicts can no longer claim that their activities are neutral,” Cannelle Lavite, co-director of the business and human rights program at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), said.
The Supreme Court, however, struck down the charge against Lafarge of endangering the lives of its former Syrian employees, as it argued that safety protections provided by French labour law did not apply to Syrian employees.
Syrian workers of the cement firm allegedly were exposed to grievous harm, including death, injury and kidnapping. Sixty former employees are plaintiffs in the court case against LaFarge.
The court’s dropping of the charge of endangering the lives of its former Syrian employees was a “blow to the victims,” Anna Kiefer, the advocacy and litigation officer of French NGO SHERPA, which fights for economic accountability and filed the complaint against LaFarge, told The New Arab.
“That charge was the main basis for the employees if the case is sent to trial, to obtain compensation. It is just such a disappointing decision for them,” Kiefer said.
War and economy govern lovers’ behaviors in Syria
Enab Baladi published a report which explores how the ongoing war and economic challenges in Syria have significantly impacted the romantic relationships of its citizens, particularly in areas under regime control. Love and courtship practices have adapted to the harsh economic realities, as described by economic researcher Dr. Firas Shaabo as a “war economy.”
Lovers in Syria are finding creative ways to maintain their relationships despite financial constraints. Instead of expensive outings to cafes and restaurants, many are opting for walks in parks or strolling through the streets. Yasmine, a graphic designer from Damascus, and “Suad,” a content writer, shared how they and their partners spend time in more affordable settings like parks and old Damascus alleys.
Even simple expenditures like a cup of coffee or a falafel sandwich from street vendors are carefully considered due to their cost. The report highlights the significant inflation in Syria, with the US dollar trading at 14,700 Syrian pounds compared to 47 pounds at the start of the conflict in 2011.
The report also touches on the challenges of gift-giving in romantic relationships, with even modest gifts like flowers requiring a significant portion of a person’s salary. Shaimaa, a dental assistant, and Ashraf, an economics student and part-time accountant, shared their experiences of the financial strain in buying gifts for their partners.
Moreover, the report discusses the limited options young Syrians face in securing their future, including mandatory military service, paying an exemption fee, or emigrating. These choices often act as barriers to continuing romantic relationships. The uncertain future and the economic crisis have led to the end of many relationships and delayed plans like engagement and marriage.
Despite these challenges, the report concludes that love stories in Syria continue to exist, sustained by patience, clarity about the future, and support from the community. However, the increasing number of Syrians leaving the country due to the ongoing economic crisis and lack of a political solution reflects the persistent hardships faced by the population.