When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Idlib Nightmare: How Syria's Lingering Civil War Is Blocking Earthquake Aid

Across the border from the epicenter in Turkey, the Syrian region of Idlib is home to millions of people displaced by the 12-year-long civil war. The victims there risk not getting assistance because of the interests of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, reminding the world of one of the great unresolved conflicts of our times.

Photo of Syrian civilians inspecting a destroyed residential building in Idlib after the earthquake

A destroyed residential building in Idlib after the earthquake

Pierre Haski


Faced with a disaster of the magnitude of the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria, one imagines a world mobilized to bring relief to the victims, where all barriers and borders disappear. Unfortunately, this is only an illusion in such a complex and scarred corner of the world.

Yes, there's been an instant international outpouring of countries offering assistance and rescue teams converging on the disaster zones affected by the earthquakes. It is a race against time to save lives.

But even in such dramatic circumstances, conflict, hatred and competing interests do not somehow vanish by magic.

Sometimes, victims of natural disasters face a double price. This is the case for the 4.5 million inhabitants of Idlib, a region located in northwestern Syria, which was directly hit by the earthquake. So far, the toll there has reached at least 900 people killed, thousands injured and countless others left homeless in the harsh winter.

The inhabitants of Idlib, two-thirds of whom are displaced from other regions of Syria, live in an area that is still beyond the control of Bashar al-Assad, and they've been 90% dependent on international aid... which has not been arriving.

To put maximum pressure on these millions of people, the Syrian government and its Russian ally have gradually restricted the ability to get humanitarian aid to them.

There used to be four border crossings between Turkey and this region of Syria; now there is only one, Bab al-Hawa. Every year, this border crossing is subject to renewal at the UN Security Council: last year, Moscow threatened to veto, before renewing it for a year. It's a standing blackmail, as all are well aware that a closure of the border would condemn to death those millions of people.

Photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2021

Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool

Terrifying for millions

However, the chaos and destruction caused by the earthquake, with its epicenter right across the border in southern Turkey, means that international aid is no longer getting through to Bab al-Hawa. And this is the moment that the population needs it most.

"This situation is terrifying," a Syrian doctor told Dr. Raphael Pitti, a French humanitarian worker in the region.

Millions of people are therefore deprived of aid in the midst of this disaster: 4.5 million to be exact, including many displaced people living in total poverty, suddenly made dramatically worse by the earthquake.

Geopolitical nightmare

We are witnessing a geopolitical nightmare. Syria has been in the midst of a civil war for 12 years, ever since the population first tried peacefully to overthrow a dictatorship.

Assad is now insisting on the centralization of all international aid.

Since then, the country has been ravaged by war, and the Assad regime, assisted by Russia and Iran, has regained control of most of Syrian territory. And it is now insisting on the centralization of all international aid.

But there remains the area of Idlib, towards which survivors of the besieged cities were directed, and the northeast in the hands of the Kurds, allied with the United States and France. This Syrian jigsaw puzzle, seen in the midst of the earthquake disaster, is a reminder that this conflict is far from over.

The urgency of the matter requires that all humanitarian aid can reach the victims, wherever they are, without delay or questions. But looking to the future, let's not forget how far away we are from any kind of political solution in Syria that would allow millions of refugees to return home.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Freedom From Social Norms Is Generation Z's Gift, And Its Burden

While many young people have shaken off the social and emotional shackles of their parents' years, they must now resist the pressures of their own peers to constantly experiment, and never settle for anything or anyone.

Photograph of a group of young people taking a selfie on an iPhone

A group of young people take a selfie

Priscilla Du Preez/Unsplash
Guadalupe Rivero

BUENOS AIRES — The "crystal generation," or young people born since 2000, is often described as fragile and intolerant of setbacks. Also termed Generation Z or Gen Z, the group is also perceived, more positively, as sensitive, reflective and spiritual, in its own way.

Argentine psychologist Sofía Calvo (born 1993) believes young people of this generation share traits beyond their age. She is the author of a book on modern relations, La generación de cristal: Sociedad, familia y otros vínculos del siglo XXI (The Crystal Generation: Society, Family and Other Ties in the 21st Century).

"We understood as a generation that enjoying our sexuality, building a free identity, separating from a partner, leaving a job or doing what we love or going to therapy were not failures, but in fact a great win," she says.

She believes this generation must hold onto the gains of people who struggled for rights in preceding centuries, "When the world was a place that was still much more hostile to the individual's social, sexual and ideological freedoms. We must ... keep looking for whatever is uncomfortable," or what "nobody would ask," she tells Clarín.

This is a generation conscious of "aspects that seemed irrelevant before but certainly were not," she says, referring to traits like sensitivity or personal pain.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest