While over 20 countries have been sending cargo planes to the Assad regime, containing hundreds of tons of aid for the victims of February’s devastating earthquakes a recent report by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) documents the extent to which the Assad regime has been stealing aid to line its pockets and those of its supporters and loyalists.
The document begins with the declaration that “the regime does not steal only thirty or forty percent of the aid donated – in reality, the Syrian regime pillages up to ninety percent of the aid delivered.” According to the report no earthquake aid has been sent to areas outside of Assad regime control, despite them being the hardest hit in Syria and accounting for more than 70% of the affected areas, while only around 10% has been distributed to earthquake victims in Assad regime areas, with the majority being stored by the regime or taken by militias and Assad’s inner circle.
The report also highlighted the extent to which the regime utilizes the earthquake to attempt to whitewash its crimes noting that Assad, “has also used the earthquake as an opportunity to cover the destruction caused by its military operations in the areas where the regime regained control, where the regime carried out demolitions of hundreds of buildings under the pretext that they were cracked due to the earthquake,” when in fact they were the results of Russian and Assad regime bombing of civilian infrastructure including residential buildings, hospitals and schools. Assad’s Minister of Education, Ghassan al-Shaghri, claimed that over 2,000 schools were “affected by the earthquake,” while many are believed to be in ill repair due to Russian and regime bombings and lack of funding.
US Secretary of State spokesman, Ned Price, commented about the dire humanitarian situation in Syria saying it is, “a humanitarian situation that, in large part, has its roots in the Assad regime’s treatment of its own people.”
The Assad regime’s systemic heft of aid is by design, as no organizations in Assad’s areas “have any autonomy” and even the “Civil” Defence is under the direct authority of the Ministry of Defence, and run by military officers, with the same level of control exercised over the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC). Entrusting aid to these organizations is “effectively handing control of aid to the regime’s security apparatus and enabling it to pillage the vast majority of this aid.”
Fadl Abdul Ghani, SNHR Executive Director, cautions that, “Providing aid through the Syrian regime and organizations established by the security services may move the supporting countries and organizations from the framework of humanitarian work to supporting and financing terrorism and crimes against humanity, which the Syrian regime has practiced against its people, and we know the intention.”