Pray for Syria

Tabetha DeGroot — Staff writer 

It has been over a month since the earthquake that devastated Syria hit, but the damage is far from over. 

The European Union is now being criticized for its slow response to the crisis, which claimed the lives of around 6,000 people and destroyed the homes of many more. 

“The [United Nations] estimates that five million people need basic shelter and non-food assistance in the quake-hit part of Syria,” according to the news organization Al Jazeera. 

Syria has been at a political stalemate for quite some time. Since war between the government and rebels broke out in 2011, the unrest and damage has not yet ceased. Nearly half a million people have been killed, and about half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced from their homes, according to Al Jazeera. 

The earthquake hit the poorest area of Syria, held by the rebels. The government controls where foreign aid goes, and does not let it go to the resistance. Many humanitarian organizations go through the Turkish border. 

Jan Lamberink, a former coordinator for the Dutch Relief Alliance, has seen much of the damage of Syria even before the earthquake. 

“The county has been destroyed,” Lamberink said. “The infrastructure of many cities has been bombed, and then on top of that, this earthquake happened.” 

According to Lamberink, Syria’s resources are very limited. 

“What every Syrian is suffering from is a lack of income and political isolation,” Lamberink said. 

“On the one hand, the government is facilitating help. On the other hand, they always have a problem with aid coming in through the Syria-Turkish Border.” 

Syria’s economy is crumbling, and their only friend is Russia and a few dictatorship countries. 

In the last 12 years, Syria has gone from middle income, strong military, and a good education system to war-torn and collapsing. This began with the Arab Spring, when the arrest of a student started an opposing movement towards the doctoral Assad regime. Armed resistance began, supported by Western countries. After years of bitter fighting, Assad remains in power due to Russia’s support. The opposition has been transported to a small area in the northwest, and 80 percent of Syria is under government control. 

Tawfik Murad remembers his home of Aleppo, now “Syria’s most war-torn city” according to Newsweek, as very beautiful when he left for Norway with some of his family members almost ten years ago. Now, it is hard to tell what is damaged from the war and what is from the earthquake. 

“It’s quite sad that the earthquake affected the poor areas,” Murad said. “The buildings there are not high-quality build, so they were damaged severely.” 

Murad’s sister’s house is now without heat, and windows are broken. Some of his friends have lost family members. 

“The government is helping a little bit, but they are recovering from the war, so they do not have many resources,” Murad said. 

When it comes to foreign aid, the government has complete control over it. 

“If other countries send supplies, the government sends it only to the places that they want,” Murad said. 

Murad also believes the need is more than material. 

“I think the people there need more mental help than physical,” Murad said. “My friends said they can’t even sleep after the earthquake because they are afraid for their safety. If something moves in their house, they immediately leave the village.” 

While buildings have been destroyed, spirits are also broken. 

“In Syria, if you see a man crying, it means he has been through a lot,” Murad said. “After the earthquake, my brother told me many men were sitting in the street and crying.” 

Before the war started, Murad studied physics and taught it along with chemistry and math. 

Murad learned Norwegian at the age of 20, and worked at the airport until he was able to go back to school and pursue a nursing degree. But financial insecurity affects all occupations. 

“After the war started, things like the electricity went out, water was less, food less, and the prices of everything had gone up a lot,” Murad said. “One day a bag of bread will be 2 SYP [Syrian Pound], the next 3, and then 4. You never know what’s going to happen. If you keep 100 SYP for a week, the next week it will be worth 50.” 

Contributed photo 

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