August 2023 | Rare anti-government protests erupt amid growing economic hardships
Since early August, Syria has been experiencing rare anti-government demonstrations, fuelled by economic hardship, the collapse of the Syrian currency, and widespread corruption. Protesters are demanding that the government address these issues, which have exacerbated the already dire living conditions in the country. While the majority of the protests have remained peaceful, there have been occasional instances of violence. Syria’s government has responded with a mix of concessions and crackdowns, but this strategy has failed to quell public discontent.
The protests originated in Syria’s southern regions and gradually expanded to major cities like Damascus and Aleppo, primarily taking place in areas under government control. They have been ongoing for four weeks, calling for regime change and the fall of President Bashar al-Assad.
May 2023 | Syria re-joins Arab League after 12-year suspension
The Arab League voted to readmit Syria on 7 May after its membership was suspended following the regime’s violent crackdown on the uprisings that began in 2011. The move has been criticized for disregarding the regime’s past and persistent violations of human rights, undermining accountability and justice. This is the latest step in regional efforts to normalize relations with the Assad regime after a decade of relative isolation due to its ongoing human rights abuses. As a full member of the organization once again, President Bashar al-Assad was welcomed by the region’s leaders and participated in the summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on 19 May. The Arab League’s unanimous decision has prompted concerns about the region’s commitment to upholding human rights principles.
February 2023 | Humanitarian disaster following earthquake near border with Turkey
A devastating earthquake (registering 7.8 on the Richter scale) hit south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria on 6 February and was followed by numerous aftershocks. It is estimated that more than 7,000 Syrians have died and up to 5.3 million have been displaced. In Syria, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding as the effects of the earthquakes have exacerbated an already dire situation, and the ongoing civil war has hindered efforts to reach survivors. The first UN aid convoy reached the country on 9 February after roads leading to the only authorized border crossing for northwest Syria had been damaged by the earthquake. President Bashar al-Assad initially demanded that the government receive all foreign aid for further distribution. However, the UN and President Assad reached an agreement on 13 February to open two additional border crossings from Turkey. Syrians have criticized delays in getting aid to the area, blaming the UN for slow response, and for waiting on permission from the Syrian government. Despite a five times larger death toll in Syria's rebel-held territories than those controlled by the government, north-west Syria has only received 13 per cent of all assistance arriving in the country.
The UN estimates close to nine million people have been affected by the earthquake, and Syria is facing greater levels of cholera outbreaks