Syria, Right Now

Whether we’re down a conspiracy rabbit hole or trying to make sense of the real thing, we’re so stuffed up to our eyeballs with news these days it hurts. So I bet you hadn’t heard of the flooding in Idlib.

Syria has been such an amoral, deadly conflict, though conflict may not be the right word. It’s an all-out assault on the citizenry by the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF) and their partners, and enemies. Almost all the main arms manufacturers, including local players, have used the country for target practice. The SDF, eschewing the high-tech ordnance of their allies/foes, have just cut the crap and filled barrels with explosives and chucked them out of helicopters wherever they think unlucky civilians might be cowering below. It’s so low-tech it’s reminiscent of Greek fire. Yet deadly, and absolutely terrifying.

6,000,000-plus have fled the country, with all the attendant horror, grief, personal loss, and regional destabilization that inevitably follows this horseman of the Apocalypse. Perhaps another 5,000,000 are internally displaced persons, or IDPs.

The IDPs in Syria, and particularly those in the north-west region, are a cause of much concern. Exposed on hillsides that take the brunt of whipsawing variants of weather nastiness, many of the hundreds of thousands in the region are clinging on with their fingernails, staying close to family and friends in the displacement camps, even as their tents (25,000 of them) are washed away or damaged beyond restitution.

Covid-19 stalks still, too. The UNHCR’s response has been about as good as it could be, considering the inaccessibility of many of the camps in Syria. There is danger all around. Yet there has been some calm since March last year, with no change in front lines, and a constitutional committee has been instituted to try and hash out the political doo-doo. The Idlib region, however, was an exception to this trend, suffering attacks throughout the Autumn.

Late last year, Max Baldwin, Northwest Syria Area Director for NGO Mercy Corps, said: ‘Our teams and community partners are slogging through cold mud, helping people salvage what they can and providing essential supplies. The slow and steady uptick in violence through the autumn has forced families across Idlib to flee and return repeatedly with no abatement. There is no safe place for those in this region. The winter rains and cold on top of all they’ve lost makes every aspect of life harder.

‘While the next three months for people in the US and UK will be marked by sporadic lockdowns and vaccinations, winter in northwest Syria will likely be one of near-constant movement and a slow erosion of families’ already-limited resources.’

Despite these depredations, can we hope that the pandemic, and its worldwide disruption, has opened a window in Syria more generally? Could a resolution to this crisis be possible? This might be one place where people figure out a way to just stop the goddamned killing.

This article first appeared on Maqshosh.

John Clamp writes for Maqshosh.