Syrian government distributes IDPs’ aid allocations to its members – STJ

Qamishli, Syria (North Press) – In a report published on Tuesday, Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) organization said that it obtained information indicating that the Syrian government grants a part of UN aid designated for IDPs to its members in Hasakah and Qamishli, northeast Syria.

“The Syrian government and affiliated security services in the cities of Hasakah and Qamishli have been diverting a portion of UN aid to members of the Syrian army, security agencies, the ruling Ba’ath party, and sometimes their families,” the report said.

Based on the information received, the STJ called for reopening al-Ya’rubiyah (Tel Kocher) border crossing with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to the UN aid entry, guarantee the government will not use aid as a tool for political pressure or extortion, and ensure indiscriminate access to aid to the population across northeastern Syria.

The UN Security Council issued Resolution 2504, relative to UN aid delivery to northwest Syria through Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. “The resolution put another political tool in the hands of the Syrian government, used to tighten its grip over populations across northeastern Syria and local authorities alike,” the report added.

In a report the organization publicized in 2019 based on testimonies by aid workers and employees with local and international organizations operating in northeastern Syria, it disclosed that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) denied civilians in Daraa and Quneitra provinces access to UN aid.

“Deprivation of aid was grounded in several pretexts, including that some of the beneficiaries were subject to security reports,” the report read.

“Based on the data collected, the STJ estimates that the number of baskets appropriated is likely in the “tens of thousands,” according to the report on Tuesday.

“It is difficult to ascertain the percentage acquired by the government-affiliated Ba’ath Party branches, military, and security agencies because figures on the number of food baskets and medical supplies, especially those meant for combating COVID-19, which arrive in al-Hasakah province monthly, are contested,” it added.

An SARC distribution supervisor told STJ, “About 85,000 relief baskets arrived in the province as aid allocations in 2021 and 2022. About 44,000 baskets were distributed up to late 2021.”

29,000 baskets were distributed over the first quarter of 2022 given the fact that approximately 70,000 families are registered on the SARC’s beneficiary lists in al-Hasakah province.

The report also confirmed that the UN and the international “organizations it backs depend primarily on the SARC branch in al-Hasakah, Al Birr Association in al-Qamishli, and the Armenian Association, which operates under the supervision of the Relief Subcommittee of the Armenian Church, in addition to a few local associations registered with the SG’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor.”

Sources mentioned in the report said, “The politicization of aid is obvious,” since no solutions reached or alternate ports found to distribute the aid.

“Family beneficiaries have access to merely 25% of the total allocations once every three months, at a rate of 25% in al-Hasakah city and 75% in its suburbs,” according to the report.

It added, “Aid is distributed every three months at a rate of 1,255 allocations in Tall Tamr town and its suburbs, 1,600 allocations in al-Hasakah’s countryside, and 3,100 allocations channeled to over 12 neighborhoods within al-Hasakah city.”

Most of the SARC’s relief activities during the draught which hit northeastern Syria between 2005 and 2010 were concentrated in Arab-majority areas in the southern countryside of al-Hasakah and Qamishli, neglecting the Kurdish-majority areas.

This report came days after Astana Peace Talks, during which Russia confirmed the importance of allowing the UN aid access through the government-held areas.

Reporting by Saya Muhammad