February 10, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10480

Syrian Oppositionists Furious Over Condolences, Aid To Assad Regime Following Earthquake: Assad Has Killed 1,000 More Syrians Than The Quake

February 10, 2023
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 10480

Following the earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria on February 6, 2023 – which, according to the latest figures, killed over 3,000 people in Syria and injured thousands more, both in parts of the country controlled by the regime and in parts controlled by the rebels – many heads of state, Arab and other, extended messages of condolences to the leaders of the Syrian regime. These messages came not only from countries allied with this regime or supportive of it, such as Russia, Iran, Iraq, China and the UAE, but also from the leaders of other countries. Conspicuous among them were Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, who held his first phone conversation with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad since 2014,[1] and Jordan's King 'Abdullah II, who spoke to Assad for the second time since the outbreak of the Syria crisis.[2] Hamas leader in Gaza Isma'il Haniya sent a telegram of condolences as well, as part of Hamas' relations with the Syrian regime that were severed in 2011 but renewed in October 2022. [3]   Many of these countries also sent humanitarian aid to the Syrian regime.[4]

Syrian oppositionists harshly condemned these moves, stating that the countries were not making humanitarian gestures but taking advantage of the crisis to renew their relations with the Syrian regime. In tweets on their personal accounts, they sought to remind that this is a criminal regime, responsible for  the death and expulsion of millions in the recent years. The number of Syrians killed in the earthquake, they said, is miniscule compared to the victims killed by the regime over the last decade. Moreover, Assad's pulverizing and division of Syria during the war has weakened the country and greatly exacerbated the effect of the quake, they added, and therefore consoling Assad is tantamount to consoling a murderer for the death of his victims.

The Syrian oppositionists also criticized the calls made by the regime itself and by its supporters to lift the sanctions from it in order to facilitate delivery of aid to Syria. They warned not to trust the regime and to deliver the aid directly to the earthquake victims and to the rebel-held areas because the regime will not do so. Syrian journalist and Al-Jazeera host Faisal Al-Qassem also expressed concern that some of the countries are delivering weapons to the Syrian regime in the guise of earthquake aid. 

Earthquake and Assad regime compete with each other in destroying Syria (Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, London, February 7, 2023)

This report presents some of the tweets from Syrian oppositionists criticizing the extension of condolences to the Assad regime.

Criticism Of Countries That Offered Condolences To The Regime: Assad Is Responsible For The Death Of The Earthquake Victims And Of Millions Of Others In The Recent Years

As stated, Syrian oppositionists slammed the countries and leaders that had consoled the Assad regime for the earthquake, noting that it is a "criminal" and "blood-stained" regime responsible for the death and expulsion of millions, including the earthquake victims themselves. Faisal Al-Qassem, a Syrian journalist and Al-Jazeera host known for his opposition to the Assad regime, wrote in a February 7 tweet that he later deleted: "True, thousands of Syrians are currently trapped under the rubble in northern Syria as a result of the earthquake. But we must not forget that hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been living for years amid the rubble of millions of homes destroyed by barrel [bombs] dropped by the planes of the [Syrian] regime and its Russian allies. Look at the photos and see how they destroyed Syria from the air." The next day he tweeted in a similar vein: "All the Syrians harmed by the earthquake in northern Syria or in Turkey are originally victims of the regime, for the regime is the one that destroyed their areas and expelled them from their homes, forcing them to flee to northern [Syria] or to Turkey. So how is it that some countries consoled Bashar [Al-Assad] for the disaster, when he himself is responsible for it? Sending condolences to Bashar is like sending condolences to a criminal who is responsible for thousands of crimes."[5] 

Oppositionist Syrian journalist Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaidan tweeted on February 6 in a similar vein: "The high earthquake death toll in  Syria is due to the collapse of many buildings in the [Syrian] cities and towns near the Syria-Turkey border. Most of these buildings were subject to airstrikes by Russia's and Assad's [planes], which weakened them and made them prone to collapse in any earthquake. In short, Putin's and Assad's gangs are also responsible for most of the [earthquake] fatalities."[6] The next day he tweeted: "To everyone who is offering condolences to this tyrant and war criminal, Bashar Al-Assad, for the death of 1,500 under the rubble [caused by] the earthquake, we say that he is the one who expelled them [from their homes in the first place] and the one who inflicted an ongoing earthquake upon them for 12 years, along with his masters, Russia and Iran. May Allah take revenge upon anyone who sent him condolences."[7]

Yahya Al-'Aridi, member of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiation Commission,  tweeted: "The tyrannical regime is receiving condolences for the earthquake victims from other [regimes] of its kind. The earthquake victims are a thousand times fewer than [the victims of] the earthquake that the recipients of the condolences [i.e., the leaders of the Assad regime] have been [causing] for over a decade. The world is upside down…"[8] 

Syrian writer and poet Maher Sharafeddine, who is also identified with the opposition, tweeted: "The Iraqi prime minister has consoled Bashar Al-Assad for the earthquake victims!!! The number of earthquake victims does not equal even one thousandth of the people killed by the criminal [Assad]!"[9] In another tweet he wrote: "What makes the earthquake disaster worse is the fact that it is being exploited against the victims themselves. Some despicable people used it as a pretext to renew their ties with Bashar [Al-Assad] for 'humanitarian' [reasons]!" [10]

Syrian oppositionist Bassam Ja'ara tweeted: "The tyrants who consoled the Butcher of Al-Sham [Assad] for the earthquake victims, when he has killed over a million Syrians and expelled millions more – are rabble."[11]

Syrian writer and researcher Ahmad Abazeid wrote: "We live in a world that is scarier and more destructive than any earthquake. Those who died [in the quake] have been saved from it. Who could have imagined that, amid the horrifying catastrophe, some would console the murderer for the [death of] the, when he himself killed them and their families, destroyed their cities, and expelled them [from their homes] in the last 12 years?   Who could have imagined that some would exploit the death of those victims to call for normalization with the murderer and for helping him to murder the remaining [Syrians]?"[12] 

Criticism Of Those Calling To Lift The Sanctions From Syrian Regime: They Are Taking Advantage Of The Humanitarian Crisis

Some of the oppositionists slammed the calls by Assad supporters to lift the sanctions from the Syrian regime in order to facilitate the delivery of aid to the disaster victims. Oppositionist Syrian journalist Ahmad Muwaffaq Zaidan tweeted on February 8: "The gangs of Chemical Bashar in Syria and abroad are promoting a campaign to lift the sanctions from Syria. This is a base and despicable attempt to use the blood of the victims in disaster-struck northern Syria to wash clean [the name of] a war criminal who has murdered a million people and expelled 14 million. The sanctions imposed on this perpetrator of genocide are meant to keep him from murdering more people…"[13] 

In a series of tweets, Muhammad Sabra, a former member of the Syrian opposition's High Negotiation Commission, likewise attacked those calling to lift the sanctions from the Assad regime, writing: "The wolf has wrapped himself in the skin of his dead victims. A group of media figures, journalists, artists and actors have undertaken to express solidarity and sorrow for the earthquake disaster that has befallen the Syrians, and, out of compassion for the victims, they are demanding to lift the sanctions from the criminal [who is behind] the chemical [weapon attacks] and the captagon [trade, i.e., Assad].  They forget that, for 12 years, there is not a single weapon that the captagon criminal has not used to murder the Syrians, from chemical weapons to barrel bombs,  Scud missiles, artillery, starvation and torture in the jails and in the dungeons of the intelligence apparatuses. Do these people not know that the monster of Damascus has murdered millions of Syrians, and that millions more are living in tents amid cold, frost and starvation, suffering every kind of tragedy because the criminal bombed their houses, arrested their sons and expelled their families? Do they not know that those millions living in wretched tents are not living there because they went camping in the north, but are victims of that very criminal from whom they are now asking to lift the sanctions[?]!!!... The paradox is that those who are now playing the part of compassionate humanitarians… are the very wolves who used to tear us to shreds… and who incited the monster of Damascus to shed our blood and kissed the boots of his criminals and soldiers. They collaborated with the monster, Assad, in everything he did and in all the bloodshed…"[14]  

Claims That Regime Is Not Delivering Aid To Rebel-Held Areas

Many of the oppositionists warned that the regime cannot be trusted to deliver the aid to the areas held by the rebels rather than by the regime itself, and urged countries to deliver it directly to those who need it. Syrian journalist and Al-Jazeera host Faisal Al-Qassem tweeted on February 8: "We ask individuals and countries to send aid to the disaster victims in Syria directly, not through the [Syrian] government. If you want your aid to reach its destination, send it to those who deserve it… and be careful not to [send it] via Damascus. The profiteers are making dreadful efforts to exploit the crisis and manipulate the aid arriving in the areas under the regime's control." In a further tweet he wrote: "All the Syrians harmed by the earthquake in northern Syria and in Turkey, it is the Syrian regime that expelled them, destroyed their homes, killed [their families] and arrested thousands of them. Do you expect the murderer to extend aid to those he expelled and whose livelihood he looted? Think a thousand times before you send aid to the disaster victims through the government. Send it directly to those who deserve it."[15]

Oppositionist Syrian writer and poet Maher Sharafeddine tweeted on February 9: "I am trying to refrain from talking politics in this difficult time for our people, some of whom are still trapped under the rubble. But politics has forced itself upon us, for none of the international aid has yet reached our people in northern [rebel-held areas] that are besieged by [the Assad regime]. So the humanitarian issue is serving as a false mask for the political one!"[16]

Syrian writer and researcher Ahmad Abazeid tweeted on February 8: "After the quake at least six countries sent planes loaded with aid to the Syrian regime, and no sanctions prevent [the sending of] aid by any country. [Despite this,] no aid has reached northern Syria so far. The rebel strongholds outside the control of the Assad [regime] are besieged and have been abandoned to their fate, although they are the worst-hit areas and have the most victims."[17]  On February 9 he added: "Four days after the earthquake, when things are getting critical in terms of saving people still trapped under the rubble, countries and international organizations are still prevented from bringing aid and emergency vehicles into northern Syria. This area, with a population of over 4 million people and over 1,500 refugee camps, has suffered shelling, expulsions and now an earthquake. Everyone has abandoned this area."[18]

Concern That Some Of The Planes Arriving In Syria Are Carrying Weapons, Not Humanitarian Aid

Al-Jazeera host Faisal Al-Qassem also wondered whether the planes sent by certain countries to the Assad regime are really carrying aid. He tweeted: "What is in the planes that are landing in Aleppo's airport, ostensibly to extend aid? Is it really aid, or is it weapons?" He then added more explicitly: "Some of the regimes who pretend to be sending aid to the earthquake victims in Syria are not sending aid. They are actually sending weapons to the Assad regime in the guise of extending aid"[19] 


[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 7, 2023.

[2], February 7, 2023. The previous phone conversation between the two was in October 2021, and was considered the first call since the outbreak of the crisis.

[3], February 6, 2023.

[4], February 6, 7, 2023.

[5], February 7, 8, 2023.

[6], February 6, 2023.

[7], February 7, 2023.

[8], February 6, 2023.

[9], February 6, 2023.

[10], February 7, 2023.

[11], February 6, 2023.

[12], February 7, 2023.

[13], February 8, 2023.

[14], February 7, 2023.

[15], February 8, 2023.

[16], February 9, 2023.

[17], February 8, 2023.

[18], February 9, 2023.

[19], February 8, 2023.

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