Syrian regime 'looting aid' for earthquake victims, say activists

Syrian regime 'looting aid' for earthquake victims, say activists
Syrian regime forces are reportedly looting aid entering Syria following Monday's earthquake, according to activists, which has so far killed over 4,000 people in the country.
3 min read
10 February, 2023
Allies of the Syrian regime - such as China, Russia and Iran - have rushed to send aid [Getty]

Elements of the Assad regime have allegedly stolen aid delivered to Syria delivered by Arab countries with only old blankets and modest food baskets reaching affected people, a source told The New Arab’s sister site.

Relief teams and others affiliated with the Syrian Red Cresent, which has been accused of having close links to the regime, brought aid to the Jableh stadium, filming its arrival and unloading.

Sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, that victims of the earthquake were shocked when the aid workers re-loaded the cargo after distributing only a small amount of supplies to each family.

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Many of the areas in northern Syria affected by Monday's earthquakes are under regime control, including Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia. Rebel groups are largely in control of northwest Idlib and parts of Aleppo province.

A number of countries have now sent aid to Syria and rescue workers to regime-held zones, while others have been more reluctant to send supplies to the heavily-sanctioned regime.

At least 40 planes have arrived in regime-held Damascus, Aleppo, and Latakia filled with aid, while in opposition Idlib only a few lorries with supplies have trickled in.

Some social media users have spoken about aid being stolen by militias and other elements of the regime.

One person on Twitter wrote: "The Assad regime is responsible for the catastrophe in Syria and its people in the north. He is the one who displaced them and killed their families with bullets, missiles, jets, and torture in detention centres."

"What is stopping him now from looting aid and donations and blackmailing people for their livelihood, as he has done for 12 years?" he asked.

Another user said: "The Syrian regime has robbed Syria and its people to the bone, even the aid coming in for the earthquake."

Syrian activist Haidi Hafi from Damascus called for an end to the thefts, saying the aid which has reached Syria from at least ten countries is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"It is not time to fill your pockets, officials," she said.

She added that regime-run schools, halls, and stadiums are closed and those affected have been forced to sleep on streets and in parks.

Even the regime's Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection Amr Salem acknowledged that aid was being looted.

"We sent patrols directly to [the village of] Istamo and found that two mukhtars (council officials) were distributing aid only to their relatives," he said, but claimed the problem was now "solved".

An aid convoy on Thursday reached rebel-held northwest Syria for the first time since the earthquake struck, going through the only open border crossing - Bab al-Hawa - on the Turkish side.

Russia, the key international backer of Assad, has wielded its veto power at the UN Security Council to close other crossings and authorise Bab al-Hawa only six months at a time as it tries to promote the sovereignty of the Damascus regime.

Legal experts say there is nothing stopping Turkey, under international law, from opening its borders and the UN bringing in urgently needed supplies to Idlib's besieged population.