Turkey’s initiatives power the refrigerators of war victims in northwestern Syria

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Thanks to the efforts of Turkish officials and humanitarian agencies, millions of war victims who had to flee their homes as a result of brutal attacks by the Bashar Assad regime are now living in relatively normal conditions that give them hope for the future. ‘to come up.

In his bakery in war-torn northwest Syria, Abu Emad can finally display his appetizing éclairs without fear of a power cut now that he’s receiving electricity from neighboring Turkey.

“Electricity is the backbone of my business,” said the delighted 31-year-old from his family business in the opposition-dominated town of Idlib. “Without it, I can’t work.”

After years of wasting savings on unreliable private generators, he is now paying a Syrian company in Turkish liras to provide his store with an almost continuous supply of Turkish electricity.

Its buzzing refrigerators are just one facet of Ankara’s growing influence in northwestern Syria, where Turkish charities are helping displaced families by building houses.

The connection to Turkish electricity has changed the lives of many like Abu Emad, both in the city of Idlib and in the wider region, who have not had a reliable supply since Damascus shut down. taken after the area was overrun by opposition groups in 2012.

“We used to only bake one or two kinds of pastries, but now we’ve started to bake all kinds and fill our refrigerators because we can keep them again,” said the owner of the business.

Outside the Idlib region, in areas that Turkey and its Syrian proxies have seized along the border since 2016, Ankara has established a de facto protectorate.

There, Turkish currency, textbooks, road signs, post offices and telecommunications services are now part of everyday life.

The sun sets over the opposition northwestern city of Idlib in Syria on June 29, 2021 (AFP Photo)

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Turkey supports some opposition groups inside the opposition stronghold in northwestern Syria, Idlib, but its troops have remained strictly deployed along its borders as part of a ceasefire agreement -the 2020 fire with the Damascus regime and its main support Moscow.

In the city of Idlib in recent weeks, however, men in yellow vests employed by a Syrian company called Green Energy have laid cables to bring electricity from Turkey.

Director Osama Abu Zeid said the company was operating with the full approval of authorities in Ankara and Idlib.

In Idlib and other areas close to the border, since May Green Energy has been providing businesses – as well as hospitals, water stations, bakeries and flour mills – with electricity for more than half the day, a he declared.

For now using existing public and private grids, it was also working to provide homes with 10 hours of electricity at a rate of 50 TL (about $ 6) per ampere, he said.

In recent years, residents have relied mainly on private generators, although some have also started to switch to solar power.

Abu Zeid said the plan to bring Turkey to power now was not politically motivated, but rather aimed at “alleviating the suffering of our people” and reviving the region’s economy.

He also said the company had “no affiliation with the salvation government” which ran the Idlib region and that the administration would not share the profits.

Local authorities would only monitor the network and hold responsible anyone who intentionally damaged it, he said.


Solar panels on the rooftops of Binnish, in northwestern Syria's Idlib province, June 3, 2021 (AFP photo)
Solar panels on the rooftops of Binnish, in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province, June 3, 2021 (AFP photo)

“Keep the Syrians in Idleb”

At the gates of southern Turkey, the Idlib region is home to nearly three million people, two-thirds of whom were displaced from other parts of Syria during the decade-long conflict, according to the United Nations.

More than half live in sprawling IDP camps along the border.

In recent months, the Turkish aid agency Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has worked to transform some of these tent camps into “villages”.

By early May, he had built 15,000 small concrete block houses out of a total of 50,000 planned by various Turkish organizations, IHH director Bulent Yildirim told the Turkish press.

Ignited in 2011 by the crackdown on anti-regime protests, the war in Syria has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions from their homes.

Turkey says it has already taken in 3.7 million Syrian refugees and can’t take it anymore.

Analyst Dareen Khalifa, of the International Crisis Group, said the construction of houses for the displaced or the supply of electricity in Idlib was aimed at “stopping a new wave of refugees” across the border.

“Turkey cannot afford economically or politically to absorb a new wave of refugees,” she said.

“They want to maintain the stalemate and keep the Syrians in Idlib across the border.”

Aid efforts

Turkish officials and charities have stepped up efforts to build safe living spaces for displaced Syrians.

Most of the displaced have sought refuge in camps near the border with Turkey, while others have moved to areas under the control of the Syrian opposition.

Yet, due to overcrowding and the lack of essential infrastructure in the refugee camps, displaced civilians face great difficulties in finding places to shelter. Thousands of families are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as they struggle to live in difficult conditions.

Although Turkish officials and charities continue their efforts to provide humanitarian aid, there are still thousands more in urgent need of help from the international community.

More recently, Turkey on Friday evening welcomed the decision of the UN Security Council to extend the resolution on cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria.

The United Nations Security Council has agreed to extend its decision authorizing the Turkish border post at Cilvegözü (Bab al-Hawa) in the southern province of Hatay with UN aid sent to northwestern Syria for the Next 12 months.

The decision will be implemented for an initial period of six months and then extended for a further six months based on the report of the UN Secretary-General.

Ankara said in a press release: “The UN aid sent through our border post is essential for the continued effective response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and for regional stability and security.”

He noted that Ankara “therefore welcomes the continuation of the United Nations cross-border humanitarian aid mechanism operating across our country to meet the needs of the Syrian people.”

“We expect the UN Security Council and the main international actors to demonstrate their constructive approach and their conciliatory attitude in this regard,” he said, as part of the international efforts to find a solution. permanent humanitarian crisis in this war-torn country. .

Turkey will continue to strongly support the struggle to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Syria and “will continue to actively contribute to the maintenance of the ceasefire and the advancement of the political process”.

The United Nations Security Council has agreed to extend the cross-border aid operation after Russia allowed a compromise in last-minute talks with the United States.


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