In Syria, Assad Is Using the Earthquake as a Cover-Up

In Syria, Assad Is Using the Earthquake as a Cover-Up
Syrian President Bashar Assad visits the site of the earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey, in Jableh, Syria, Feb. 11, 2023 (SANA photo via AP).

Search and rescue operations in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria are winding down, revealing the massive scale of the human and physical losses caused by the natural disaster. The economic and governance challenges both countries will face in its aftermath are also becoming clearer.

In Turkey alone, the cost of the damage is estimated to be up to $84 billion. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised that destroyed housing would be reconstructed within a year. However, given Turkey’s current economic difficulties, including depreciation of the Turkish lira and high inflation, it is unclear how that promise will realistically be fulfilled, particularly as the earthquakes could reduce Turkey’s GDP by 0.6 to 2 percent this year.

There has also been widespread criticism of corruption in Erdogan’s circles, which his detractors have blamed for exacerbating the damage caused by the earthquake. Had the Turkish state paid closer attention to whether construction projects adhered to building standards, they say, or not placed such an emphasis on construction projects in the first place, perhaps fewer people would have lost their lives. They also criticized the slow response in parts of the country. Nevertheless, for all the shortcomings in the Turkish state’s response to the earthquakes, it is miles ahead of how the Syrian state responded to the devastation caused in Syria.

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