Syria: revolution reborn

The Free Syria flag again flew high in villages, towns and cities across the country, as thousands filled the streets, reviving the chants of the revolution. Protests first erupted in the regime-held south of the country, especially the Druze-majority city of Suwayda. They were triggered by a recent increase in fuel prices as the regime has yet again cut subsidies. But the protests soon escalated to renewed calls for the downfall of the Bashar Assad dictatorship, and spread to other regime-held cities—including Aleppo, the country’s largest, which was savagely bombarded by regime and Russian warplanes in 2015-6. Demonstrations in support of the new uprising were also mobilized in the opposition-held northern pocket of the country. (Photo of Idlib demonstration by Omar Albam, via Leila’s blog)


Turkey intransigent on Syria occupation zone

In his drive for “normalization” of his regime, Syran dictator Bashar Assad has been welcoming meetings with regional leaders in recent months. However, in comments to a reporter, he set a withdrawal of Turkish troops from northern Syria as a precondition for any meeting with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Erdogan’s objective in meeting me is to legitimize the Turkish occupation in Syria,” Assad said. Turkey’s Defense Minister Yasar Guler responded by saying: “It is unthinkable for us to withdraw without ensuring the security of our borders and our people.” Ankara continues to demand the establishment of a 30-kilometer deep “buffer zone” cleared of any Kurdish armed groups. (Photo: Mark Lowen via Wikimedia)


UN: halt indefinite detention at Syria camps

UN Special Rapporteur for human rights Fionnuala NĂ­ Aoláin released a statement urging the cessation of “indefinite mass detention without legal process,” particularly of children, in northeastern Syria detention centers. Around 52,000 people are held in the camps at al-Hol and al-Roj in Syria’s northeast. Around 60% are children, of whom 80% are under 12. Most children are there due to their parents’ supposed links to ISIS. Many are separated from their parents, with NĂ­ Aoláin asserting that boys are often forcibly separated from their mothers upon reaching adolescence. Both camps are under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a primarily Kurdish organization which has fought ISIS since 2014. (Photo: Abdul Aziz Qitaz/UNOCHA)

Idlib displaced

Syria: grim reality behind Assad’s new aid offer

The Security Council has failed to renew the resolution allowing the UN to deliver aid across the border from Turkey to rebel-held northwest Syria, throwing into question the future of a relief effort that is crucial for millions of people. The day after the resolution expired, Russia vetoed a new resolution that would have allowed access through one border crossing into the region, Bab al-Hawa, for nine months. Two days after that, The Assad regime said it will allow UN aid into the northwest via Bab al-Hawa for six months—if it is done “in full cooperation and coordination with the government.” But this is unlikely to be welcomed by many Syrian and international aid groups, given that the current system was set up back in 2014 largely because of the Assad regime’s obstruction of aid. (Photo: UNHCR)

Jisr al-Shughur

Russia, Israel both still bombing Syria

At least 13 people, nine of them civilians, were killed in Russian air-strikes within the so-called “de-escalation zone” in northern Syria’s Idlib province, with some of the strikes hitting a crowded vegetable market. The area targeted in the raid, already suffering a severe displacement crisis, is controlled by the Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) Islamist faction. Meanwhile, sporadic Israeli air-strikes on regime-held Syrian territory also continue—with apparent tacit approval from Russia, as long as they target the Iranian military presence in the country. (Photo: @SyriaCivilDef)

syria refugees

EU donor conference for Syria falls short

Donors and diplomats met for a seventh straight year in Brussels to raise money for Syria’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. They pledged a total of 5.6 billion euros ($6.1 billion) for “2023 and beyond,” including 4.6 billion euros ($1 billion) for this year. The money will be used to support people both inside Syria and in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees. Aid groups say the amount isn’t enough given growing needs within Syria and for Syrian refugees, many of whom face pressure to return to a country still at war. The UN has only received 11.6% of the $5.41 billion it says it needs for aid to Syrians in 2023, and that doesn’t include assistance for refugees. Low funding levels have led to cuts in aid, including food rations in a place where millions are struggling to get by. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Planet Watch
refugee camp

Number forcibly displaced worldwide 110 million: UN

The United Nations released the Global Trend Report 2022, on refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people worldwide. It finds that the number of forcibly displaced people stands at 108.4 million, with 29.4 million falling under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Both figures are at an historic high. The increase in forcible displacement within a single year is also the largest since UNHCR started tracking these statistics in 1975. In light of the continuing significant increase, the report says forcible displacement likely exceeds 110 million as of May 2023. (Photo: Afghan refugee camp in Shinkiari, Pakistan, via Pixabay)

Planet Watch

Migrant fatalities surged in 2022: UN

The UN migration agency reported that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration‘s Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year. (Photo: Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee via InfoMigrants)


Seek World Court ruling on Syria torture claims

The Netherlands and Canada jointly submitted a case against Syria to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing the Damascus regime of committing numerous violations of international law, including torture, since the start of the country’s civil conflict in 2011. The primary objective of the application is ICJ action compelling Syria to desist from any future use of torture. If the ICJ finds that it holds authority to rule on the matter, it will mark the first instance of an international court judging Syrian torture allegations. (Photo: ICJ)

Watching the Shadows
Randi Nord

Podcast: ‘tankies,’ ‘false flags’ & the ‘gray zone’

A tankie agent carried out “false flag” vandalism of a synagogue and other Jewish targets in Detroit, attempting to blame it on the Azov Battalion and tar Ukrainians. She turns out to have been a member of the retro-Stalinist Workers World Party and a staff writer for openly dictator-shilling MintPress News—which has itself engaged in “false flag” disinformation, blaming the Syrian rebels for chemical attacks against their own strongholds by the Bashar Assad regime. MintPress has also received funding directly from the Assad Lobby. In Episode 176 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines this ultra-cynical propaganda nexus, and asks whether such agents are mere “useful idiots” for the Kremlin or actual conscious assets operating in the “gray zone“—the sphere of “hybrid warfare” in which the line between state and non-state actors is blurred. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Bob from Brockley)

syrian refugees

Lebanon: halt ‘refoulement’ of Syrian refugees

The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) joined with 20 other human rights organizations to issue a joint statement protesting Lebanon’s summary deportation of Syrian refugees. The rights organizations say the deportations violate the international law principle of non-refoulement, which protects individuals from being returned to a country where they may face torture, cruel or degrading treatment, or other irreparable harm. “The Lebanese Armed Forces have recently summarily deported hundreds of Syrians back to Syria, where they are at risk of persecution or torture,” the statement charges. “The deportations come amid an alarming surge in anti-refugee rhetoric in Lebanon and coercive measures intended to pressure refugees to return.” (Photo: EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid via Flickr)


Syria: regime ‘normalization’ —amid war and hunger

At a closed meeting in Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers approved a measure to readmit Syria after more than a decade of suspension—a critical victory for the normalization of Bashar Assad’s genocidal regime. This diplomatic coup, however, cannot mask the reality that Syria’s war is not over. Assad may have retaken most of the country, but various rebel and Kurdish forces still control much of the north. Civilians are still being killed in shelling and other violence. Even before earthquakes devastated large parts of northern Syria three months ago, continuing conflict and a debilitating economic crisis meant deepening hunger. Humanitarian needs in Syria were already at a record high. But amid mounting global crises, the UN-coordinated appeal for Syria in 2023 is only eight percent funded. And food prices are still rising, making it harder still for aid groups to meet the urgent and growing needs of millions of Syrians. (Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti/UNICEF via UN News)