One Big Thing: The Syrian Conflict Pauses in the Shadow of a Global Crisis
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What is it?
- Nearly a million Syrians were forced to flee their homes in past three months due to fighting between Turkish forces and Russian-backed Syrian government forces in Idlib Province. This adds to the already 6.7 million Syrians already internally displaced and 5.6 million who have fled.
- In early March, dozens of Turkish soldiers were killed by Syrian forces (and likely Russian) in Idlib, one of the last outposts of Syrian opposition, which is backed by Turkey. This attack exacerbated relations between Turkey and Russia.
- To avert growing discord, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Moscow where they agreed to a ceasefire.
- Russia support has helped prop up the Assad regime and despite strong international protests, the alliance has continued to commit human rights abuses against the Syrian people. This includes use of Sarin – an internationally banned weapon of mass destruction – on a refugee camp in 2017.
Why is it important?
- As the coronavirus dominates the world’s attention, refugees are one of the most vulnerable populations, living in squalid and overcrowded conditions. While there are no reports of the virus in Syrian refugee camps or any around the world, UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, is concerned about the spread.
- Many Syrian refugees have found refuge in neighboring countries, particularly in Turkey. However, with one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus in neighboring Iran, there is great concern of it spreading rapidly throughout the Middle East.
- As the The New York Times describes, the virus might have hit camps without even knowing.
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