The international community, which has shown strong opposition to Russian attacks on Ukraine, must also denounce Moscow’s actions in Syria, said the head of the White Helmets civil defense group, Raed al-Saleh.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, al-Saleh said that the Syrian political landscape and new developments in northwestern Syria are intimately linked and linked to the Russian war against Ukraine, including political intersections and similarities of influential actors.
“The Russian war against Ukraine has clearly changed the map of the international alignment. This became clearer when the Syrian cause began to take center stage again. However, the international attention that has reached Syria has been limited to the comparison between the Russian war in Ukraine and the Russian military intervention in Syria.
Al-Saleh criticized the international community for only caring to compare military tactics and the brutal Russian attacks in Ukraine targeting vital infrastructure and public facilities protected by international humanitarian law, as well as the deadly disinformation campaign that the Russia leads against Ukraine, to those same tactics implemented in Syria.
“The international community has only talked about the strategic error of keeping silent about Russian crimes and violations in Syria, without advocating for an end to those same tactics in Syria,” he said.
Al-Saleh pointed out that keeping silent and not taking any serious action allowed Russia to launch cross-border attacks.
“The Syrian situation has become an arena of conflict, maneuvering and pressure for influential actors in the Syrian crisis and the Russian war against Ukraine. Russian military and economic exhaustion in Ukraine could open the door for Russia to seek a new balance of power in Syria.
“Although Syria and Ukraine vary by context, they are never divorced,” he stressed, indicating that the link cannot be ignored.
He added that Russia’s recent military escalation and attacks in Jisr al-Shughur, west of Idlib, in July are part of Moscow’s policy to support Bashar Assad’s regime in killing Syrians. .
“This recent massacre came after a period of relative calm in the northwestern areas of Syria over the past three months. This can perhaps only be explained as a political message from Russia to the world about its ability to turn the situation around at any time and reshuffle the cards in Syria, once again forming a humanitarian pressure that affects the region and the European continent,” he added. Saleh underlined.
Russia joined Syria’s 10-year conflict in September 2015, when the regime’s military seemed on the verge of collapse, and has since helped tip the balance of power in favor of Assad, whose forces now control much of the country. Hundreds of Russian soldiers are deployed across Syria and they also have a military air base along Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
The region of Idlib, bordering Turkey, is home to around 3 million inhabitants and is one of the last pockets to oppose Damascus.
The Idlib de-escalation zone was forged as part of an agreement between Turkey and Russia. The region has been subject to multiple ceasefire agreements, which the Assad regime and its allies have frequently violated.
“This policy is concrete proof that Russia will never be part of the peace process, nor can it be a party that brings security to Syrians. What Russia does on the ground completely contradicts what it says in the media,” al-Saleh said.
Claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin violates international law and humanitarian values, al-Saleh warned that if Moscow is not held accountable, another Russian invasion could be encouraged.
The regime joins forces with terrorists
Al-Saleh also referred to the presence of terrorist groups in Syria and said that the regime has sometimes allied itself with such groups.
“The Syrian regime is not alone in killing Syrians, displacing them and destroying their cities. Since the beginning of the uprising, the regime has forged alliances with militias, making them carry out the brutal repression against the peaceful movement. He gave the terrorist parties the green light and allowed them to enter Syria.
Claiming that the White Helmets have documented dozens of terrorist attacks, al-Saleh said there is strong coordination between the regime and its loyal terrorist militias.
“It proves, one way or another, that these terrorist groups and militias deployed in certain parts of Syrian territory belong to the Syrian regime, implementing the regime’s programs.”
On the other side, when asked about reports that the Assad regime planned to hold local elections, al-Saleh said it was an attempt and the first step to regain his lost legitimacy. and that elections were also a way to achieve more gains.
He said that there are three main reasons why the regime is pushing for these elections, namely that “the regime wants to send a message that its existence is legitimate after the thousands of massacres, the use of chemical weapons and the destruction of Syria”.
The Assad regime has greatly exaggerated the number of Syrians in the polling areas, al-Saleh said, since the UN relies on government statistics when it comes to providing aid.
“The fabricated increase in population means an increase in the amount of aid, to be used, exploited and plundered. The Syrian regime lives off aid and the politicization of its distribution in regions and communities loyal to it,” he stressed.
Another reason is that the regime tries to give the impression that it still controls state institutions and provides services to citizens, with the aim of contributing to its image and being seen as a developing state. recovery, al-Saleh added.
Turkey’s efforts appreciated by Syrians
Speaking about Turkey’s continuous efforts to improve living conditions in the northern regions of the country, al-Saleh said that the Syrian people appreciate these measures.
“We highly appreciate the ongoing formal and popular efforts by Turkey, the government and the people, to alleviate the tragic suffering of the displaced people in the displacement camps,” he said, also calling on the international community to take “real” steps to implement a political solution, stop attacks by the Assad regime, Russia and militias loyal to them, and take concrete steps towards justice and accountability to deter attacks and facilitate the safe return of displaced persons to their homes and villages.
“The root cause of the Syrian humanitarian crisis is political and it will not end without the implementation of a fair political solution,” al-Saleh stressed.
Al-Saleh referred to the latest situation in the Rukban camp and said that the regime and Russia had imposed a “suffocating siege” on the camp.
“This seat is not new. It is the continuation of a series of sieges that have resulted in either forced displacement or return to regime areas, where those who return will face torture and arbitrary detention.
Al-Saleh said many camp residents traveled to areas controlled by the Syrian regime and human rights organizations documented numerous cases of enforced disappearance or death.
The nearly 10,000 displaced Syrians still living in the Rukban camp, established in 2014 on the berm between Jordan and Syria, are the last vestiges of the nearly 50,000 people who lived there a few years ago.
But Jordan has largely sealed the border since 2016, leaving residents dependent on scarce aid deliveries from the UN. Not a single humanitarian convoy has entered the area since September 2019.
Driven by hunger, disease and deplorable living conditions, tens of thousands of people have flocked to government-held areas, risking detention and enforced disappearance by government forces.
The camp residents mainly depend on smuggled goods, which are often sold at extremely high prices. Many have had to sell their properties such as cars, farms or real estate to get cash as the UN has been unable to send humanitarian aid convoys since 2019, he said. he explains.
Stating that the health conditions are also worsening, al-Saleh reiterated that the only medical point was closed.
“Since the beginning of the summer, the displaced have suffered from a severe water shortage, which has worsened with the current high temperatures and especially after the UN reduced the amount of water reaching the camp. “
“I cannot understand how the international community accepts that more than ten thousand civilians are threatened with death in the desert. It is immoral and unacceptable. It is a flagrant violation of all the values of humanity. There is more than one way to help them, but there is no international will to do so.