Weekly Media Digest June 19, 2020

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

19 June 2020


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

Two views of Caesar (Al-Jumhuriya)

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“Even outside Syria, in neighboring Lebanon and Jordan, the talk in business circles turned to Syria’s post-war reconstruction, and the colossal sums of money it would rake in. In reality, two years on, flagship projects of this reconstruction, such as Damascus’ luxury “Marota City” development, have gone nowhere. 

Neither Russia nor Iran, nor the Gulf states, let alone China or the West, have proven willing to plough significant sums into regenerating Assad’s Syria economically. That Lebanon has now entered a financial crisis of its own, with banks no longer providing US dollars, has deprived Syria of yet another economic lung; one of the very last it still possessed.”

Syria’s economic meltdown (Center for Global Policy)

“Rustom was sitting in a park, his new home after he was kicked out by his landlord in Damascus. He had not paid rent in two months and then lost his source of income – temporary jobs in construction – after the COVID-19 work stoppages came into force. He lost contact with his family because his father had to sell the family’s phone to buy food. Rustom could not feed himself, let alone send them any money.

‘Syria is a graveyard for its people before it is for any invader,’ he said bitterly, referencing the common threat made to foreign forces by the Baath regime. ‘I am living like a dog in the streets. I have not eaten in two days because of the people in charge.’” 

Syria’s economy collapses even as civil war winds to a close (The New York Times)

“An estimated 80 percent of Syrians live in poverty. About 40 percent were unemployed at the end of 2019, the latest figures available, and joblessness has only increased because of government restrictions to control the coronavirus.

The collapse of Syria’s currency has compounded the crisis.

Worth about 50 to the United States dollar before the war, the Syrian pound traded in the hundreds per dollar in recent years, but began plummeting last fall in connection with a financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon, where many Syrians kept their money. Unofficial capital controls aimed at stopping a run on Lebanese banks have also blocked Syrians who bank there from withdrawing dollars.”

Rival Kurdish groups in Syria reach breakthrough agreement (The New Arab)

“Rival Kurdish groups in Syria have reached a breakthrough agreement on a joint political vision following a series of US-backed talks that aim to achieve Kurdish unity, a statement said Wednesday.

The Kurdish National Council (KNC)—a member of the Turkey-backed Syrian opposition National Coalition—is a main rival of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which dominates a Kurdish-majority region in Syria's northeast.

On Tuesday, representatives of the KNC and a PYD-led coalition of Kurdish parties ‘concluded the first stage of Kurdish unity negotiations and reached a binding and unified political vision,’ said a statement signed by both sides.”

A world redrawn: Novelist says Syrians will remain unheard (Agence France-Presse)

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“The novel coronavirus pandemic briefly gave Syrians a sense of belonging to the rest of the world after years of isolating war, Syrian author Khaled Khalifa said.

But the international community is too busy to look their way and the planet will continue to be as barbaric as ever, with no lessons on the value of nature learnt, said the award-winning writer of the novel No Knives in the Kitchens of this City.

Khalifa spoke to AFP in his home in the Syrian capital Damascus, where the government has announced 144 cases of the COVID-19 disease and six deaths in areas it controls.”

France sentences Syrian leader's uncle for money laundering (Associated Press)

“An uncle of Syrian President Bashar Assad was sentenced to four years in prison in France on Wednesday for illegally using Syrian state funds to build a French real estate empire.

The anti-corruption groups that launched the legal proceedings against Rifaat Assad hailed the Paris court’s ruling as a new victory in long-running efforts to prosecute foreign leaders accused of hiding stolen money in France.”

Turkish currency begins to spread in Syria in blow for crisis-hit Damascus (Middle East Eye)

“Recent weeks have the Syrian pound plummeting in value, provoking rare anti-government demonstrations in the south of the country.

The increasing demand for the Turkish lira in rebel-held areas, however, is beginning to create chaos in Idlib, according to Muhammad Bahjat al-Eis, a displaced activist from the region.

‘In the morning there was a man wandering around carrying a million Syrian pounds, trying to exchange it for the dollar or the Turkish lira, without finding someone to buy it,’ he said.”


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