DSA IC calls for lifting US sanctions on Syria to aid earthquake relief efforts

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the DSA International Committee demands the immediate lifting of US sanctions against Syria. Devastated by more than a decade of war and an illegal and punitive sanctions regime by the US and its allies, the Syrian people are unable to receive proper humanitarian aid to recover from the earthquake or rebuild their war-torn economy and infrastructure.

Although the Biden Administration has issued a General License, temporarily exempting humanitarian aid related to the earthquake from sanctions, issues of overcompliance and de-risking ensure that this 180-day reprieve will fall far short of the breathing room needed for Syrians to recover from the military, economic and natural disasters they face. US sanctions have exacerbated inflation, unemployment, food insecurity and hastened the spread of disease, strangling the most vulnerable sectors of Syrian society.

The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck on February 6th, 2023 has taken the lives of over 6,795 Syrians and injured at least 14,500 more across both government-controlled areas and rebel-held and Turkish-occupied areas in north and western Syria. As many as 5.37 million have been made homeless. Organizations including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the Middle East Council of Churches, and Progressive International, as well as ten independent experts at the UN, have called for lifting sanctions hampering assistance to impacted areas, highlighting a lack of fuel to send aid and rescue convoys.

A November 2022 UN report on the Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights paints a grim picture of a society under siege from the West. Sanctions against the Syrian central bank and public financial institutions have blocked the import of food, medicine, raw materials, spare parts, fuel and even paper for school books. 90% of Syrians live under the poverty line, struggling to feed their families as prices have increased by more than 800% since 2019.

Drinking water reaches most households 1-2 hours per day every few days and contamination due to an inability to import spare parts to maintain filtration systems has led to outbreaks of cholera. Only 4-7% of Syrian schools have heating and electricity in winter and less than 40% have water consistently available for drinking and hygiene. An estimated 22% of children are unable to attend school at all. Due to years of war, nearly a quarter of all Syrians are disabled, and the 14.6% of the population who suffer from rare and chronic diseases face severe sanctions-related obstacles in accessing medicines for cancer, kidney dialysis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. 

Given the obstruction of crucially needed relief efforts following the devastating earthquakes, as well as the broader humanitarian impact of US-led sanctions regimes against the Syrian people, the DSA International Committee demands US sanctions against Syria be permanently lifted.