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General News    H3'ed 2/28/23

Idlib earthquake aid hijacked by terrorists

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Steven Sahiounie
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Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator

Idlib, Syria was devastated by a 7.8 earthquake on February 6. The leaks coming out of Idlib are from those working with the international aid groups in Idlib. Whistleblowers are exposing Mohammed Al-Julani and his terrorist organization Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

The UN aid trucks were full and arrived at the al-Bab border crossing from Turkey into Syria with supplies for the survivors of the massive earthquake which is being called the disaster of the century. HTS refused entry to the trucks because they wanted a $1,000 bounty for each truck.

The UN reported their team is in Idlib assessing the needs of the people. The UN is well aware of the whistleblowers in Idlib who work for the aid agencies, and are reporting the fraud and misdistribution of humanitarian aid by Al-Julani, HTS, and his Salvation Government.

Aid agencies inside Idlib are CARE International, Danish Refugee Council, Global Communities - Syria, HI - Humanity & Inclusion, The Mentor Initiative, Sham Humanitarian, People in Need, Norwegian Refugee Council, HIHFAD, Dozana, Solidarite's International, World Vision, Welt Hunger Life, Christian Aid, Syrian Relief & Development, Tamdeen Youth Foundation, Asylum Access, Rahma Worldwide, ATAA, SAMS, BINAA, International Rescue Committee, SEMA, Action for Humanity, Takaful Al Sham, CAFOD, Abs Development Organization for Woman & Child, Search for Common Ground, Save the Children, Action Aid, Relief International, Oxfam, War Child, Act Alliance, Mercy Corps.

In June 2022, Al-Monitor reported that HTS, and the Salvation Government in Idlib, were in full control of the humanitarian aid being provided to displaced persons in Idlib and parts of the northern countryside of Aleppo.

The international aid agencies were being restricted in their work by HTS which demands the aid be dispersed according to HTS discretion. HTS stormed into the aid offices and warehouses and arrested some employees to intimidate the aid agencies into subservience to HTS command.

Human rights activists have long complained that HTS steals aid, prevents the distribution of aid fairly, and extorts money from the agencies to continue their work in Idlib and the areas HTS controls. The extortion is the basis for hard currency for HTS and their prime source of income.

First-hand testimony came from a former HTS policeman who had been held in prison by HTS for smoking cigarettes. He has since left Idlib and talked with Al-Monitor anonymously.

He said, "HTS uses several methods to control the NGOs' work and get a share of the projects they [NGOs] implement for the displaced. First, it forces NGOs to pay a sum of money in hard currency on a monthly basis in return for them to pursue their relief work in HTS-held areas. The movement also deducts up to 10% of the relief aid offered by these NGOs."

He explained that HTS distributes the aid first to its fighters, their families, and employees of HTS.

"When NGOs provide educational or health projects, they are forced to include some civilians or people who are ideologically loyal to HTS with the aim to improve its [HTS'] image before the community and present it as the authority that has the best interest of the residents at heart, seeking to provide job opportunities for them," the man explained.

He was paid $100 a month and provided with food and ration supplies for himself and his family.

Over the years, several aid organizations stopped their work in Idlib because of the HTS extortion and control. The Karam Foundation located in Reyhanli, Turkey had stopped their work in Idlib due to HTS interference and charity fraud.

"HTS requested us to pay $20,000 to continue with our relief work in Idlib. It also imposed the names of people affiliated with it to be part of the organization's educational and health projects, by sending their resumes, which we considered a violation of our privacy," reported a former employee at the aid agency Subul al-Salam told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

He said, "In mid-2019, our organization decided to stop abiding by these conditions, which prompted HTS to break into our warehouses in the towns of Ahsem, Ariha, and Jabal al-Zawiya in Idlib, seizing all contents and arresting several employees before releasing them later. This prompted the organization to halt its activities altogether."

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Steven Sahiounie Social Media Pages: Facebook Page       Twitter Page       Linked In Page       Instagram Page

I am Steven Sahiounie Syrian American award winning journalist and political commentator Living in Lattakia Syria and I am the chief editor of MidEastDiscours I have been reporting about Syria and the Middle East for about 8 years

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