Syria regime representatives accused of stealing earthquake aid

Syria regime representatives accused of stealing earthquake aid
Authorities in regime-held parts of Syria have reportedly stolen aid meant for survivors of the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the area last week.
3 min read
15 February, 2023
Earthquake aid has been slow to reach war-torn Syria [Getty]

Syria regime representatives have stolen aid sent to the country in response to last week's devastating earthquakes for resale on the black market, local activists and war monitors have alleged.

Authorities have allegedly stolen the aid in areas under the control of Bashar al-Assad, leaving many Syrians without the assistance they desperately need following the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on 6 February, The New Arab’s Arabic-language service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.

The earthquake has claimed at least 41,000 lives in Turkey and Syria. Supplies were slow to reach Syria, which continues to reel from the effects of an almost 12-year-long war.

Authorities allegedly stole aid received by the Red Crescent in the western city of Jableh, with only old blankets and small food baskets reaching those affected, sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Aid theft was also reported in the Jableh area by Lattakia News.

"When the Red Crescent left the aid was being filmed next to people, and after filming, [the aid] was pulled into cars and they gave old blankets and a loaf of bread to each family… when one of the residents tried to start a live broadcast, his device was confiscated," the local outlet wrote on Thursday.

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British-based war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also told The New Arab that people who work within the regime have stolen some aid, citing activists on the ground.

"The regime could obtain a share of the assistance [aid] which later was sold on black markets," SOHR founder Rami Abd Al-Rahman told The New Arab.

Reports of aid theft and its sale on black markets have spread across social media, to outrage from activists.

Images and videos posted by activists on social media show earthquake aid marked with Red Crescent and United Nations logos being sold in markets in the Syrian capital Damascus.

The New Arab was not able to verify these videos.

In the days immediately after the quake, Moeen Ali, an activist from Latakia who helped distribute aid to affected families, posted videos on social media in which he criticised the regime for forcing aid distributors to present aid to the provincial governorate centre, according to Baladi News.

"Why should aid be delivered exclusively through the governorate building?... the world doesn’t trust you… do we betray [peoples’] trust and give you aid so that you can steal them?," the Syrian news outlet quoted Ali as saying in the videos.

In another video, Ali said that a large number of people had left their homes to obtain aid even though they were not affected by the quake.

Ali was arrested after posting the videos, Baladi News reported on 9 February.

The United Nations has already provided $50 million of aid to Syria through its central emergency response fund and launched an appeal on Tuesday for an additional $397 million to help earthquake victims in the country.

The New Arab has contacted The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for comment.