West’s Selective Humanitarianism: Syria Earthquake Falls on Deaf Ears
Orinoco Tribune, February 8, 2023 — The devastating earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria and the suffering of the two nations that are still struggling to search the survivors as the death toll is rising by the hour shocked the whole world.
In these defining moments and amid this humanitarian catastrophe, it was expected that all political rifts and rivalries would be pushed aside for a short while at least, mainly because the destructive event has directly affected civilians.
The international community, along with its organizations and institutions, should have declared a moment of “silence” to help facilitate access to basic needs and supplies to all countries impacted by this event in order to assist them to respond to their citizens’ dire need of help.
However, this has not been the case.
Following the earthquakes, several Western countries mobilized rapidly to send aid and rescue workers to Turkey but decided to exclude Syria and neglect it, and only offer condolences and merely express readiness to support the affected Syrians, with nothing done on the ground, in a clear act of hypocrisy and double standards.
US President Joe Biden on Monday said he was “deeply saddened” and promised his country’s assistance after a major 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 2,300 people.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria,” Biden tweeted. “I have directed my team to continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkey and provide any and all needed assistance.”
“Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake,” he said in a statement released by the White House.
The statement said Biden had called on US officials to reach out to their Turkish counterparts to coordinate assistance.
With regard to Syria, Biden hinted at what he called US-supported “humanitarian groups” responding to the destruction in Syria, possibly in reference to NGOs operating in areas outside the control of the Syrian state, which perhaps excludes the rest of the country from any such aid, knowing that some of these organization are infamous for staging false flag attacks to implicate the Syrian government in crimes it did not commit.
What is feared the most is that other Western countries are most likely to follow in the US’ footsteps of depriving Syria of much-needed aid.
The following countries and blocs ignored Syria’s appeal for international aid to help face the devastating earthquake, leaving thousands of Syrians alone to face their fate:
European Union offers Syria “preconditioned” help:
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said the European Union has mobilized 10 search and rescue teams for Turkey after Ankara requested EU assistance, claiming that the bloc was ready to support those affected in Syria too, if asked, despite knowing that Syria did call on the international community for help.
EU humanitarian aid Spokesperson Balazs Ujvari claimed the bloc is ready to assist Syria’s quake relief efforts if needed.
“When we are talking about the civil protection mechanism, we are able to provide this help because Turkey has come to us for assistance,” Ujvari told reporters in Brussels. “Turkey has activated the mechanism for now. We don’t have such a request from the Syrian side. However, if this occurs, we will do our utmost to mobilize assistance in that direction as well.”
Germany to help a NATO ally:
Germany will “mobilize all the assistance we can activate,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.
Faeser said Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief is coordinating closely with the Turkish civil defense and “can set up camps to provide shelter as well as water treatment units.”
Hinting only at Turkey, she said the country activated the EU civil protection procedure and requested salvage and rescue teams, adding that Berlin is coordinating closely and will help with any means at its disposal that are most needed now.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Turkey’s historic rival Greece, whose relations with Ankara have suffered from a spate of border and cultural disputes, pledged to make “every force available” to aid its neighbor.
On Monday, February 6, Mitsotakis telephoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to offer “immediate assistance” after the deadly earthquake, his office reported.
Erdogan “thanked” Mitsotakis for the support and the immediate dispatch of rescuers and supplies on board a C-130 military plane, the Greek prime minister’s office added.
Syria was not mentioned in the Greek minister’s vow of help.
NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced “full solidarity” with ally Turkey, saying he was in touch with Turkey’s top leadership and “NATO allies are mobilizing support now,” completely leaving Syria out.
Polish firefighters flew from Warsaw to the Turkish city of Gaziantep. “Our team will be working non-stop, 24 hours a day, in two locations,” said Andrzej Bartkowiak, chief commandant of the state fire service.
Unlike Gaziantep, Hama, Aleppo, and Lattakia are Syrian cities that are not meant to be helped despite the devastating destruction.
British Foreign Minister James Cleverly said the UK was sending Turkey a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment, and rescue dogs. Britain was also sending an emergency medical team to assess the situation on the ground. Cleverly, the UK FM left Syria out, just like other Western allies.
The government of Japan, a country that frequently suffers earthquakes, is dispatching the Japan Disaster Relief Rescue Team to Turkey.
Qatar announced that it would send 120 rescue workers to Turkey, alongside “a field hospital, relief aid, tents, and winter supplies.”
Those that expressed solidarity, did not mention a side
Meanwhile, the UN, Ukraine, and Canada have so far expressed readiness to provide assistance but have not sent humanitarian aid to Syria.
The UN General Assembly observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the earthquakes.
“Our teams are on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance. We count on the international community to help the thousands of families hit by this disaster, many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was “ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones. Canada stands ready to provide assistance.”
The Syrian government urged the international community to come to its aid after thousands died in the country following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Turkey.
“Syria appeals to member states of the United Nations… the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups to support efforts to face the devastating earthquake,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad said the Syrian government was ready “to provide all the required facilities to international organizations so they can give Syrians humanitarian aid,” after meeting with UN representatives and aid groups.
This comes as the death toll from the earthquake that struck areas in Syria has risen, with more than 1,400 people killed and over 2,400 injured.
Al Mayadeen correspondent reported that the death toll in Aleppo governorate has reached 161 with 512 injuries, and 18 centers were opened to shelter those affected by the earthquake in the governorate.
In Hama, at least four buildings collapsed, and the death toll reached 37, with a total of 80 injured, and four shelters were opened for the public.
In Lattakia, the number of collapsed buildings reached 75 and the death toll rose to 232 victims. The province also recorded the highest rate of injuries, close to 700. At least 12 shelters were opened in the area.
Due to the war that weakened the infrastructure in Syria, the draconian Western sanctions imposed on the country, the US occupation of a third of the Syrian territory, as well as the looting of billions of dollars of its resources, Syria is unable to fully respond to the tragic catastrophe. As a result, the number of victims of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake is rising.
It is noteworthy that in 2020, then-US President Donald Trump signed into law the so-called Caesar Act, under which the US Congress authorized severe economic sanctions against Syria. In accordance with the sanctions, anyone doing business with the Syrian authorities is potentially exposed to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.
The US claims that “the Caesar Act and other US Syria sanctions do not target humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people” and that Washington will continue sending its so-called humanitarian assistance to Syrians. However, this was not the case following the devastating earthquake that struck Syria, and the country was not mentioned anywhere in Biden’s remarks.
To add salt to the wound, Damascus International Airport is still undergoing repairs and maintenance following the most recent Israeli airstrike on the facility on January 2. The airport has been the target of repeated Israeli occupation assaults and airstrikes that put it out of service. This fact cannot be ignored as any humanitarian aid to land in the country will definitely be hindered.
Nevertheless, the following countries have responded to Syria’s urgent request for humanitarian aid:
The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates offered its deepest condolences to the government and people of Syria and to the families of the victims, expressing Lebanon’s readiness to extend a helping hand to Syria in facing the repercussions of the earthquake.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati also informed his Syrian counterpart Hussein Arnous of placing Lebanon’s logistical capabilities at the service of the ongoing relief efforts in Syria.
The Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered its sincere condolences to the Syrian government and people and to the families of the victims.
In a statement, the Ministry stated that Algeria affirms its full solidarity and expresses its aspiration to overcome this ordeal with much determination and steadfastness.
Algerian aid flights have already started landing in Syria.
China expressed its readiness to send urgent humanitarian assistance to Syria to face the effects of the earthquake.
“Beijing is ready to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to Syria according to the needs,” Xinhua news agency quoted a spokesman for the China International Development Cooperation Agency, Xu Wei, as saying.
The country is dispatching aid and rescue teams to Syria. Its government has also called upon the US to end the illegal sanctions on Syria to help it during these difficult times.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi affirmed that Iran is ready to provide “immediate relief aid” to Syria and Turkey, offering condolences on the “heartbreaking incident.”
Al Mayadeen correspondent in Damascus reported that an Iranian aid plane has already arrived at the Damascus International Airport.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to send Russian teams to Syria and Turkey in telephone calls with his Syrian and Turkish counterparts.
“In the next few hours, rescuers from the Russian emergency ministry will take off for Syria,” the Kremlin announced. The Russian Defense Ministry also noted that 300 military personnel deployed in Syria were helping with the rescue effort.
Russian aid flights have already reached Syria.
On Twitter, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel expressed his condolences to the people and government of Syria “as well as our solidarity and readiness to cooperate in providing assistance to those affected.”
India’s Foreign Ministry said two of India’s National Disaster Response Force teams comprising 100 personnel with dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the affected area. Doctors and paramedics with medicines were also being readied.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” and “deeply pained” by the deaths in Turkey and Syria.
An Indian aid flight landed in Damascus International Airport already.
Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan offered “assistance” in telephone calls with his Syrian and Turkish counterparts, the official WAM news agency reported.
The Emirati Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum “directed urgent humanitarian aid to those affected in Syria,” the official news agency WAM reported, pledging humanitarian assistance worth around $13.6 million to Syria.
Occupied Golan expresses solidarity
The citizens of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan have expressed their sympathy for the people of their homeland, Syria.
“Our people are together with the homeland, with hearts that believe in God’s will and destiny,” an organization of the Syrians of Golan announced in a statement. “We share the painful affliction of our dear homeland, Syria, following the earthquake that hit the country’s provinces, and its results were catastrophic on the humanitarian and economic levels. We request God to take the victims in His eternal glory and to heal the injured.”