Weekly Media Digest May 15, 2020

SyriaUntold brings you the latest edition of our digest. We want to share with you the features, investigative pieces and long-form essays that we're reading this week.

15 May 2020


An independent media platform advancing critical perspectives on Syria and Syrians.

Bowing to Russia, U.N. Halts Funding for Pandemic Relief in Northeastern Syria (Foreign Policy)

“Facing pressure from Russia, the chief ally to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.N. relief agencies have been instructed to stop funding programs by private charities transporting lifesaving health services across the Iraqi border to northeastern Syria, dealing a blow to international efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in opposition-controlled territory, according to diplomatic and relief sources and confidential U.N. guidance.”

The Baath Party, Local Notables and Coronavirus Community Response Initiatives in Southern Syria (Abdullah al-Jabassini, Middle East Directions)

“On 22 March 2020, the Syrian Ministry of Health announced the country’s first case of the new coronavirus. As fears mounted in the war-ravaged country, the government introduced a plethora of precautionary measures in anticipation of an eventual outbreak of the pandemic.

As in other areas controlled by the Syrian regime, these precautionary measures were implemented and monitored in Daraa governorate in southern Syria. In parallel, small-scale community-based initiatives emerged mobilising resources and cross-border networks to introduce preventive measures and mitigate the economic impact of the crisis.”

A Position of Syrian Civil Society Organisations on The Sanctions Imposed on Syria (Syrian Network for Human Rights)

“The issue of the sanctions that are imposed on Syria, such as the American and the European sanctions, is considered one of the most controversial matters on the Syrian scene at the present time, especially amongst Syrian civil society organisations. This is due to the fact that, ever since these sanctions were imposed in 2011 and until now, there were only a few attempts to determine the extent of their effectiveness in achieving their intended objectives, and to measure their impact on the daily life of Syrians, which in turn made it difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is fabricated by the Syrian authorities in the context of the current economic and humanitarian crisis that Syrians are living through. Moreover, the topic of the sanctions is a complex one, and it has many dimensions; economic, political, social, humanitarian and legal, and all these aspects must be considered when adopting any position, with regards to the sanctions, by the Syrian civil society.”

Fact Sheet: Rami Makhlouf (Syria Report)

“The rise of Rami Makhlouf as Syria’s most prominent businessman coincided with the ascent to power of Bashar al-Assad in 2000. Given his long history of influence within the ruling elite, Mr. Makhlouf’s recent side-lining raises many questions about the potential implications of his fall from grace.”

Rami Makhlouf's wealth becomes the focus of deep differences within the Assad family (Asharq al-Awsat, AR)

“The empire of Makhlouf, the Syrian regime’s main financier for decades, has been shaken, and his shaky relationship with President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting a battle to restore his full authority and revive his economy after nine years of war, has emerged into the open.”

Brothers in Arms (Diwan, Carnegie Middle East Center)

“In a recent study written for the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, I underlined that every single one of the top 40 posts in the Syrian armed forces was held by a member of President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite sect. My study also showed that the officers hailed from a narrow geographical region.

The entire Syrian military is not built on one particular sect. But in recent years the institution has been characterized by an unprecedented degree of sectarianism. This follows from decades of Alawite domination of the officer corps. There are historical reasons that have brought the army to this level of dependency on one sect to the exclusion of all others. Where does the problem lie, and what are the ways of reforming the Syrian military?”

Turkey’s Recruitment of Syrian Mercenaries to Fight in Libya: Process and Legal Consequences (Syrians for Truth and Justice)

“In this extensive report, Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) presents evidence, supported by witnesses’ direct statements, of Turkey’s recruitment of Syrians to fight in Libya alongside the Government of National Accord, under the leadership of Fayez al-Sarraj, and against the Libyan National Army, headed by the Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Syrian news networks started publishing reports, denied by the Syrian opposition, of Syrian fighters sent as mercenaries to Libya in December 2019. Thus, on 25 December 2019, the Ministry of Defense of the Syrian National Army issued a statement in which it categorically denied sending any forces or military formations to Libya, stating: ‘Our priority in the National Army is to protect our Syrian people’.”


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