With the entire world facing the increasingly perilous crisis of food insecurity and inflation, basic goods that people need to survive are increasing in price exponentially as a result of various factors, including the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has significantly disrupted the oil and wheat markets.
For Syria, economic crisis has already been the norm for years as a result of the civil war and the sanctions and embargoes that have come with it. In 2022, Syria remains as divided as ever, with various actors, including the Autonomous Administration, Syrian government, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and the Turkish-backed Opposition, backed by different foreign powers. These divisions have led to nearly every aspect of the conflict being politicized, including humanitarian aid and economic activity.
Much has been said about the Bab el-Hawa border crossing, recently debated in the United Nations Security Council and, after extensive negotiations and threats by Russia to veto the extension of the crossing’s open status, it was agreed to extend the crossing’s UN mandate by 6 months.
Bab el-Hawa has proven to be an essential lifeline for over two million Syrians in Idlib, many of whom are internally displaced from other parts of Syria and live in makeshift camps. Unfortunately, it can only provide aid to the people of Idlib, specifically, the territory controlled by the National Salvation Government, which is dominated by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US, Turkey, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The aid coming through Bab el-Hawa is important to ensure the survival of Syrians living in Idlib. However, it is the final open crossing out of several that the United Nations previously used to provide aid to Syrians.
North and East Syria is home to approximately five million Syrians, half of whom have been internally displaced from other parts of Syria, and at least 1.65 million of whom are reliant on humanitarian aid to survive. It is a region that is governed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), and is outside of the control of the Syrian government or radical terrorist groups. The AANES has been a reliable and essential partner to the US and wider Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in a military capacity, and is now focusing on a whole-of-government approach to stabilize the areas liberated from ISIS by the SDF.
Al-Yaroubiyah, on the Syrian-Iraqi border, has been closed since January 2020 due to a Russian/Chinese veto at the United Nations Security Council. The Russian government argues that any aid entering the country through the United Nations must come through Damascus, and that the Syrian government should control all of the border crossings.
The Autonomous Administration has made continuous calls for al-Yaroubiyah to be reopened to the international community and the United Nations, and demanded the end of the politicization of Syria’s border crossings. The closure of the al-Yaroubiyah crossing has affected an estimated two million IDPs and impoverished people residing in North and East Syria.