► Who controls Syrian territory?
On Tuesday, March 15, 2011, when Tunisian presidents Ben Ali and Egyptian Mubarak had just been overthrown by popular uprisings, demonstrations broke out in Deraa, in southern Syria. Residents protest against the arrest of young graffiti writers mocking Bashar Al Assad. The brutal and cynical behavior of the security forces is raising the tension. Within weeks, a popular uprising turns into civil war.
Ten years later, the results are appalling: the country is destroyed, half of the population has been forced into exile and Bashar Al Assad, the indestructible president, is preparing to run for a fourth term this summer. The conflict has branched out, internationalized. Today, the Syrian territory is fragmented, separated into several entities between which hostility simmers.
→ READ. Syrians are in despair after nine years of war
Thanks to the support of Russia and Iran from 2015, the Syrian regime regained control of the majority of Syria, in particular its western part which was once called “Useful Syria”, when it concentrated most of the population and the economy.
Its authority, however, remains contested by Daesh: the caliphate created in 2014 on Syrian and Iraqi territories was, in principle, defeated in March 2019 in Baghouz, but residual cells remain in the vast Badiya desert which stretches from the central province of Homs to that of Deir Ez-Zor. Their repeated attacks claim many victims within the regime’s forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.
The north of the country also remains in an extremely conflictual situation. Largely dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG, the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK created in 1978 in Turkey) and supported by the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces took advantage of the fight against Daesh to extend their area of influence along the Turkish border.
Ankara ended up taking offense. With the Euphrates Shield military operations (2016 and 2017) then Source of Peace (2019), Turkey took control of a territory along its border called the “security zone”. The Kurdish forces were dislodged from it and replaced by Turkish auxiliaries: the Syrian National Army.
Finally, Turkey supports at arm’s length the last rebel enclave of Idlib, in the northwest, dominated by the jihadists of Hayat Tahrir Al-Cham. Damascus dreams of regaining control, but Ankara fears having to welcome on its soil the 3 million Syrians who live there.
► What is the situation of the Syrians?
The conflict is said to have left around 400,000 dead, the vast majority of them civilians in aerial bombardments or chemical weapons attacks. Tens of thousands of Syrians have also disappeared from the regime’s prisons. And the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs counts 2.9 million people living with permanent disabilities.
To the destruction caused by the war is now added a violent economic crisis, synonymous with soaring energy and food prices. According to the World Food Program, three quarters of the 17 million Syrians today live in food insecurity.
→ REPORT. In Syria, there is “no electricity, no bread, no gasoline”
The situation is catastrophic in the government area, where you have to queue for several hours to get some subsidized bread, but also in northeastern Syria and Idlib, where many displaced people live. It is just as difficult for some of the 6.6 million Syrian refugees around the world. But donor countries are getting bored. At the conference in Brussels on Monday March 30, they pledged to pay 6.4 billion dollars (5.3 billion euros) in support of the Syrians while the UN had set a target of 10 billion dollars .
UN agencies and NGOs are struggling to reach all populations in need. The Syrian regime demands control over aid distributed in government areas and would even like all international aid – including that intended for rebel areas – to transit through Damascus and no longer directly through Turkey or Iraq.
At the opening of the conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken curtly called for the reopening of two border crossings closed in 2020 and demanded the renewal of the Bab Al-Hawa deal, which expires in next july: “Respect for the sovereignty of a State has never aimed to guarantee it the right to starve its population, to deprive it of health care, to bomb hospitals or to commit any other violation of fundamental rights”, he said.
► Where are the political negotiations at?
The inter-Syrian negotiations organized from 2012 under the name of the “Geneva process” have all come to an end. And the rare UN Security Council resolutions that escaped a Russian veto have never been implemented, in particular resolution 2254 passed in 2015, which called for “A political transition” and the holding of elections “Free and regular”.
At the end of 2019, after two years of efforts, a Syrian Constitutional Committee was created under the aegis of the UN “To allow dialogue between the regime and the opposition”. The idea was validated by Moscow during the Sochi conference, organized at the initiative of Russia, Iran and Turkey, three key countries in the resolution of the conflict which meet regularly within the “process”. of Astana ”. Composed of 150 members from both camps and civil society, the Constitutional Committee is tasked with drafting a new Constitution or amending the existing one, and paving the way for presidential elections in 2021.
Today, negotiations under the aegis of the UN like the so-called Astana process – paralyzed by the disputes between Iran and Turkey – are at an impasse. Part of civil society is now focusing its efforts on the legal fight against impunity, by trying to have the crimes of the Syrian regime condemned in Europe.
The EU as the main donor
The European Union is by far the largest donor of aid to Syrian refugees and displaced persons.
Member States and the European Commission have mobilized 24.9 billion euros since 2011.
At an international conference on March 29 and 30, Europeans pledged 3.7 billion euros (two thirds from Member States, one third from the Commission), out of a total of 5.3 billion euros allocated for 2021 and beyond.
The United States has pledged to bring 510 million euros to Syrians remained in their country or refugees in neighboring countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt).
The United Kingdom announced aid of 240 million euros, that is to say a third of what he gave in previous years.
Russia claims to spend “about $ 150 million per year on various programs to support the Syrian people.”