Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Despite pandemic, thousands of Syrians protest against government as economy collapses

Syrians in Sweida chanting anti-government slogans as they protest the country’s deteriorating economic conditions and corruption (Suwayda24/AFP)

In Syria, which is in the final stages of a nine year civil war, the coronavirus is creating more pain as it spreads through a country in a deep economic crisis.

Despite health leaders advice to social distance to fight the pandemic, Syrians citizens are protesting against the country’s economic crisis and sanctions.

“The arrival of coronavirus is problematic for all countries,” said Christian Thuselt, lecturer of Middle East Politics at the Department of Political Science at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen Nuremberg. “Now the virus is spreading to the weaker states. In Syria, the economy is in shambles, millions have fled, nine million Syrians suffer from malnutrition That makes them more vulnerable.”

Hundreds of protestors demanding government action during the country’s economic crisis recently marched on the streets of Sweidaa, a city in the south of Syria.  But protests are erupting all over the country. 

The civil war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011. The war started to crush anti-regime protests.

The coronavirus has  furthered the economic collapse of Syria. Food prices have more than doubled and now 7.9 million people are considered food insecure, according to the World Food Programme., The Syrian pound on the parallel market fell 50% and the minimum wage  now equals $26 a month. Eighty percent of the population is living in poverty.

“They’re literally risking their lives to go into the streets . . . [showing] just how desperate people have become,” Mona Yacoubian, senior adviser at the United States Institute of Peace told the Financial Times.

Syria’s President Bashar al- Assad blames the economic situation on western sanctions. In 2011 through Executive Order 13582, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Syria’s government, prohibiting U.S. individuals to export or to sell services to Syria, like petroleum products. The sanctions were intended to deprive the regime of resources needed to as it brutally clamped down on citizens demanding change. The European Union followed a similar path and extended its sanctions against the Syrian regime.

The Syrian government won the the civil war with the help of countries like Russia and Iran ,but the war led to the destruction of 70% of the country’s economy and infrastructure, including medical facilities.

“Our hospitals are not provided with respiratory support devices or enough doctors,” said Mohammed, who works at a public hospital in Aleppo and did not want to give his full name. “Hospitals are good to handle a lot, but not in large numbers, like a pandemic this big. In my city, for example, we have only something like four ventilators, and they are most likely occupied.”

Thuselt said medicine is a prestigious profession and many doctors and medical students fled because of the war.

“I believe that the number is up to 70% of the medical staff has fled Syria, and so did students,” he said.“They are usually privately financed and their families do everything to take them out of Syria.”

According to World O’ Meter, Syria has 144 coronavirus cases and has registered only nine deaths.

To contain the virus, doctors gave residents the standard protocol, stay home, wash your hands and use face masks, Mohammed said.

“We also had some mobilization on Facebook groups,” he said. “The government established a curfew, so we aren’t allowed to leave the house after 6 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends after 12 p.m.,” Mohammed said.

Thuselt doesn’t believe they are accurate.

“There’s one thing that they [the government] won’t admit, it is defeat,” he said “They act as if the country is perfect, everything is just perfect. A good example was when Homs was under siege and Syrian state television, brought up peaceful pictures of Homs. They are bad at admitting that they are being defeated.”


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Quratulain Tejani September 13, 2020

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang September 12, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020

Dengue outbreak could be a greater threat than covid in Singapore

Yifan Yu July 8, 2020

Corporate bankruptcy: ‘A story that’s not going away’

Gaurav Sharma July 7, 2020

Beijing reopens as the second wave of coronavirus dies down

Hannah Zhang July 6, 2020

Masks or no masks?

Bohao Liu July 5, 2020

Varsity Flu

Madeline Gunderson July 3, 2020

Rail travel in China is popular during the pandemic and filled with safety measures

Bohao Liu July 3, 2020

Brazilian international student caught in US travel ban.

Marina Guimaraes July 3, 2020

MTA faces crisis following COVID shutdown

Daniel Girma July 2, 2020

Easter Market goes back to its roots

Kyla Milberger July 2, 2020

China’s Airline Industry Aims to Lure Back Passengers with Unlimited Flight Pass

Zishu Sherry Qin July 1, 2020

US corporate debt soars during coronavirus outbreak

Gaurav Sharma June 30, 2020

In Singapore, gay pride goes online

Yifan Yu June 29, 2020

The Hair Room reopens

Shiyu Xu June 29, 2020

A second wave of the coronavirus creates travel woes in Beijing

Hannah Zhang June 29, 2020

Despite a few bumps, NYC is social distancing more than not

Joanna Lin Su June 29, 2020

Backyard music lessons

Madeline Gunderson June 28, 2020

Experts say ISIS exploits chaos of global pandemic to rebuild

Marina Guimaraes June 26, 2020

Cutting through COVID

Thomas Hengge June 26, 2020