Uncategorised 18 Feb 2021

Syria: “The sanctions have no result other than making people suffer and become poor and miserable”

Church representatives criticise ongoing embargo politics of the West.

Just ten years after the Syrian War began, the project partners of the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) sharply condemn the ongoing sanctions of the West. They have fallen far short of their actual objective of weakening the Assad regime, the Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, explained to ACN: “They will have no effect on the government and their policies because the government is away from the effects of the sanctions.”

A destroyed building in Maysaloon district, Syria. Photographer: Ismael Martinez Sanchez. Copyright: Author/Aid to the Church in Need.

However, all the more devastating are the effects of trade and foreign exchange restrictions on the civilian population. “People no longer have enough food, fuel, gas to heat their homes, and electricity,” Archbishop Jeanbart said. He further explained that people are no longer able to take out loans to finance larger purchases. “The sanctions have no result other than making people suffer and become poor and miserable.” 

“The people are on the verge of starving to death”

In an interview with ACN, Sister Maria Lucia Ferreira described the actual implications of the West’s sanction policies. The religious sister is a member of the Order of the Unity of Antioch and lives in the monastery of Mar Yakub in Qara, close to the Lebanese border. “The situation is growing ever more dire; the people are on the verge of starving to death. Some have already died,” Sister Lucia explained. 

According to the religious, the precarious situation was created not only by the conflict that has been raging for ten years but also by the sanctioning policies and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The prices are just going up and up. It is difficult to survive.” She believes that the most pressing problem at the moment is the scarcity of raw materials, which has made it impossible for many to heat their flats. “The people are queuing to buy petrol or heating oil, but often leave empty-handed. Fuel is very scarce because there is little wood in this region,” Sister Lucia explained. She also talked about the severe shortages in electricity supply that have yet to be resolved. “There are times when we are without power for 12 hours – and when it works, then often only for half an hour.” 

Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart in his bomb-damaged cathedral Old City, Aleppo, Syria. Photographer: John Pontifex. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need.

A call for negotiations instead of sanctions

Instead of placing economic pressure on the Syrian government, Archbishop Jeanbart calls on the Western states to enter into negotiations with President Assad. “There needs to be a fair dialogue. The West can bring pressure that these will be given if the government agrees to find a way to peace and to change some of its behaviour.”

Main Featured Image: Family from Aleppo displaced by the war. Photographer: Ismael Martínez Sánchez.

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