Ingredients of COVID-19 mega-disaster brewing in Syria as Erdogan threatens to push Syrian refugees into Europe

You could not concoct a worse scenario for a pandemic catastrophe than what is unfolding Syria.  Start with a regime that depends on troops sent from Iran, where satellites detect trenches being bulldozed for bodies felled by the plague of COVID-19.  Add the bombing of hospitals by that same regime and secretiveness to the point of punishing doctors who speak out about the coronavirus.  Then consider millions of refugees living in close quarters in camps and others fleeing their chaotic and impoverished homeland into Turkey, whose leader wants to send them into Europe.


Snowy Syrian refugee camp near Turkey border last December.
(YouTube screen grab.)

Joel Gehrke reports in The Examiner that MedGlobal founder Zaher Sahloul, whose organization provides aid to refugees, believes that at least 2,400 cases are being hidden by the regime, and:

"Their thinking within the regime is that, if they volunteer this information, then that puts them under more pressure from their supporters," he said. "There is all this pattern in Syria of covering up these issues or delaying the information until it gets out of control."

Assad's regime maintains that the country has no coronavirus cases, but officials in Pakistan say that some of the confirmed cases in their country originated in Syria. Some analysts believe that Iranian forces have carried the virus to Syria, as Tehran is providing the regime with ground troops even as American officials believe that the Iranian military is hampered by one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world. 

"Iran sits in the middle of the theater, so their ability to pass that infection to other states is very worrisome," Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. "I would say, it's going to have some effect on the military instrument." 

That military traffic is augmented by religious tourism, as Syria hosts holy sites in cities throughout regime-controlled territory. And the danger is exacerbated by Assad's decision, with Russian military support, to attack hospitals in his campaign to regain control of the country.

The only positive factor is that the millions of refugees in camps in Idlib do not get many visitors from outside, so they may not be exposed to the virus yet.  But should it enter the camps, people living in densely packed conditions under material deprivation could fall to the virus in huge numbers and suffer high rates of mortality.

"Given the really horrible conditions, I think it would be a miracle if these displaced Syrians do not contract coronavirus," Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and senior analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner. "All three — meaning the Syrian regime and Russian and Iranian forces — have proven their complete indifference to such humanitarian worries."

Hat tip: Ed Lasky.

You could not concoct a worse scenario for a pandemic catastrophe than what is unfolding Syria.  Start with a regime that depends on troops sent from Iran, where satellites detect trenches being bulldozed for bodies felled by the plague of COVID-19.  Add the bombing of hospitals by that same regime and secretiveness to the point of punishing doctors who speak out about the coronavirus.  Then consider millions of refugees living in close quarters in camps and others fleeing their chaotic and impoverished homeland into Turkey, whose leader wants to send them into Europe.


Snowy Syrian refugee camp near Turkey border last December.
(YouTube screen grab.)

Joel Gehrke reports in The Examiner that MedGlobal founder Zaher Sahloul, whose organization provides aid to refugees, believes that at least 2,400 cases are being hidden by the regime, and:

"Their thinking within the regime is that, if they volunteer this information, then that puts them under more pressure from their supporters," he said. "There is all this pattern in Syria of covering up these issues or delaying the information until it gets out of control."

Assad's regime maintains that the country has no coronavirus cases, but officials in Pakistan say that some of the confirmed cases in their country originated in Syria. Some analysts believe that Iranian forces have carried the virus to Syria, as Tehran is providing the regime with ground troops even as American officials believe that the Iranian military is hampered by one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world. 

"Iran sits in the middle of the theater, so their ability to pass that infection to other states is very worrisome," Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. "I would say, it's going to have some effect on the military instrument." 

That military traffic is augmented by religious tourism, as Syria hosts holy sites in cities throughout regime-controlled territory. And the danger is exacerbated by Assad's decision, with Russian military support, to attack hospitals in his campaign to regain control of the country.

The only positive factor is that the millions of refugees in camps in Idlib do not get many visitors from outside, so they may not be exposed to the virus yet.  But should it enter the camps, people living in densely packed conditions under material deprivation could fall to the virus in huge numbers and suffer high rates of mortality.

"Given the really horrible conditions, I think it would be a miracle if these displaced Syrians do not contract coronavirus," Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and senior analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Examiner. "All three — meaning the Syrian regime and Russian and Iranian forces — have proven their complete indifference to such humanitarian worries."

Hat tip: Ed Lasky.