Tell the Biden Administration to Lift Sanctions on Syria to Support Earthquake Relief Efforts

Tell the Biden Administration to Lift Sanctions on Syria to Support Earthquake Relief Efforts

A massive earthquake struck southeastern Turkey near the border of Syria on Monday, February 6, 2023. Thousands have perished, thousands more have been rescued, and tens of thousands are injured. The earthquake was felt throughout the region. This heavily populated area was already vulnerable due to the 12 year-long Syrian war and many of the thousands who were killed were refugees and internally displaced people from that conflict. Significant humanitarian aid will need to be available for the victims.

Since the war in Syria broke out, the United States and its allies have levied international sanctions, which has deepened an ongoing economic crisis. About 90 percent of people in Syria live below the poverty line and a recent cholera outbreak in northern Syria due to war-damaged water infrastructure has left millions at even greater risk to cholera after the earthquake caused more infrastructure damage.

There is ample evidence to show that broad sanctions against a country mostly affects the people who are already disadvantaged in that country: the poor and marginalized. United States sanctions policies have exemptions for humanitarian purposes, but in practice it is extremely difficult to get a humanitarian license. And even if a group receives a license, getting banks who are naturally risk-averse to allow any transactions, even for food and medicine, takes time and a lot of effort.

Our partner, the Middle East Council of Churches, has already called for “the immediate lifting of sanctions on Syria and allowing access to all materials, so sanctions may not turn into a crime against humanity.” We join our partners in this call and therefore urge the Biden Administration to lift sanctions against Syria.

The UCC and Disciples will be supporting partners in the region to assist those affected. Please visit our webpage to learn more and to give.