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Syria: Sanctions Plunging the People into Suffering

Church representatives criticize ongoing embargo politics of the West

Just ten years after the Syrian War began, the project partners of the international pontifical charity, 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.”

Refugee children in the Al-Sakhour district of Aleppo

However, all the more devastating are the effects of the 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 the people are no longer able to take out loans to finance larger purchases. “The sanctions have no result other than to make people suffer, poor and miserable.”

“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.”

Archbishop of Aleppo, Jean-Clément Jeanbart
Archive photo: Syria (Aleppo) 2016, January 10,
Kitchen for the IDPS and poor families, both Muslims and Christians

“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.

Wartan Kaakaji Family in Aleppo.

According to the religious, the precarious situation was created not only by the conflict that has been raging for ten years, but 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.”

Archive Photo: Syria, Marmarita January 28, 2016
Mother, 22 old daughter Amar (Moon) who finished study but decided to stay home to take care of a her terminally sick mother with cancer.

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.”

Photo Archive Picture: Syria, June 2018
A destroyed building in the Maysaloon district of Aleppo.

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