SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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Canada has a reputation as a welcoming haven for refugees. But for some Indigenous Canadians, public support and funding for displaced people stands in stark contrast to their own communities, which remain impoverished and overlooked.

Last year the nation welcomed 300,000 newcomers, including about 43,500 refugees and asylum seekers. Faced with President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies, thousands of migrants have left the United States to seek asylum in Canada.

Many arrived in Manitoba, whose capital Winnipeg has the largest Indigenous population of any Canadian city. The city also faces problems with violence, drugs and homelessness.

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On June 5, 2018 Amnesty International issued a report entitled “War of Annihilation:” Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria. A shockingly painful account of the experiences of four Syrian families during the June-October 2017 military campaign to oust ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State, IS) from its self-declared “capital” in Syria, the report (based largely on a February 2018 on-site investigation) alleges that the anti-ISIS Coalition took insufficient steps to protect civilians. Specifically:

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In early May, CBS confirmed that the US administration had frozen aid to the Syrian Civil Defense organization known as the "White Helmets." The US State Department said the aid–which is part of a $200 million assistance package–has come under close review since March. Unexpectedly, the freeze came after the State Department hosted a White Helmets delegation that same month, which sparked strong positive signals afterward. Senior US officials even committed to US support for the Syrian Civil Defense until 2020.

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The passage of a new property law in April by the Syrian parliament grants the regime the power to reclaim and redevelop land across the country. Law No. 10—which could impact millions of displaced Syrians—was issued under the pretext of governmental efforts to counter terrorism and rezone illegal housing areas across Syria.

Recent Developments

The overall stated purpose of Law 10 is to allow the government to reclaim private property, with the goal of reconstructing destroyed neighborhoods. The law also extends to illegal housing–a long standing problem the regime sought to rectify with various laws, both prior to and after the outbreak of war.

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Recent reporting gives the impression that Moscow and Tehran are parting ways in Syria. The Kremlin has called on all foreign military forces—except for its own—to leave the country. Tehran has loudly and indignantly rejected the Russian invitation. American officials might be tempted to feel encouraged: a temptation that should, for the time being, be resisted. Moscow knows that without Iran and its Shia militias the Assad regime is bereft of ground combat forces. The point of this supposed contretemps may be to lull Washington into complacency; to consign Syria to Russia, to implement President Trump’s stated desire to leave quickly, and to secure Bashar al-Assad in his place indefinitely.

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For seven years a chilly, arms-length relationship between the US government and the Syrian opposition has worked to the profound disadvantage of both. Washington has often deprived itself of timely information and informed advice at key junctures of the Syrian crisis, leaving it vulnerable to policy reversals and even disasters. And blindness has been contagious. The opposition—both inside and outside Syria—has typically been clueless about American intentions, as it has struggled with internal indecision, dissension, and disunity fed by the conflicting priorities of regional actors seeking to control the Revolution in the absence of American leadership.

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Thousands of civilians trapped in a Palestinian refugee camp south of Damascus are bearing the brunt of a fierce government campaign targeting so-called Islamic State (ISIS) militants holed up in the area.

It remains unclear exactly how many civilians are currently caught in middle of the fierce clashes between Syrian government forces and ISIS militants in the besieged Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, the country’s largest. But an estimated 6,000 Palestinian refugees lived in Yarmouk and about 6,000 others lived in surrounding areas before the government’s latest offensive began 10 days ago.

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The southern Damascus markets are devoid of essential food items; much like other areas currently under siege by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which led to mass displacement of the population. The regime is now targeting Yarmouk Camp in southern Damascus and the surrounding areas; it launched a military campaign on April 19 and continues to impose a siege to control the area.

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Amran lives in Raqqa. He travels more than 30 miles twice a month to get his diabetes medication from a pharmacy in Ain Issa, north of the city of Raqqa. He also travels west to the city of Tabqa another 25 miles to get treatment for his family. Imran is forced to travel each time this far because there are no pharmacies in Raqqa offering these medications for free and he can’t afford to pay for them. He’s not alone; he is usually accompanied by neighbors on his trips needing to secure medication for chronic diseases and other illnesses.

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After US-missile strikes in Syria on April 13, 2018, that targeted manufacturing components for the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal, the initial outcome of the attack was unclear. The response of the Syrian regime, Iran, and Russia was immediate condemning the attacks. A month later, and most analysts counter that the impact was limited, and a comprehensive US-Syria strategy is still missing. SyriaSource interviewed Nasr Hariri, head of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee that represents the opposition, about Iranian influence in the region, the relationship with Russia, and the developing US-Syria policy. 

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