Friday, March 1, 2024
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Friday, March 1, 2024

Assad: Godfather of 21st century human trafficking

A handout image provided by Greece’s coast guard on Wednesday, June14, 2023, shows scores of people covering practically every free stretch of deck on a battered fishing boat that later capsized and sank off southern Greece; Credit:
AP

No one can even imagine the last moments lived by Khaled al-Rahal, a Syrian father who left behind his child with cancer in the Zaatari camp in Jordan after the situation narrowed down and he had not found a way to treat it, so his only option was to board the ‘Adriana’ death boat in the hope of reaching Europe and saving his child. Was he afraid for himself? Was he afraid to leave his child and family alone without a breadwinner?

The Western and Arab media chose to shed light on the last hours of the boat loaded with about 800 refugees and migrants, the causes of its sinking, and the role of smuggling networks spread on the Libyan coasts

Eva J. Koulouriotis

The story of Khaled al-Rahal is one of hundreds of stories of the passengers of the boat ‘Adriana’ that sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern coasts of Greece in the middle of June, in an incident that is the largest maritime tragedy of the current year. Unfortunately, it will not be the last considering the crises and bad economic reality of the North African countries and corrupt, dangerous, and criminal regimes headed by Syria, in parallel with the resolutions adopted by the European Union that directly coerce opposers into taking illegal and dangerous roads.

“We have lost our best youth and infrastructure, but we have won a healthier and more homogeneous society”. These were not Hitler’s words in Berlin during his last speech on the occasion of the founding of the Nazi party in 1944, but Bashar Assad’s description of Syria after he destroyed it and killed hundreds of thousands of his people and displaced millions of them

Eva J. Koulouriotis

The Western and Arab media chose to shed light on the last hours of the boat loaded with about 800 refugees and migrants, the causes of its sinking, and the role of smuggling networks spread on the Libyan coasts. However, for this crime, other murderers are the main operators of these ongoing massacres in the Mediterranean. In this research, I will go through all the events that prompted about 200 Syrians, most of them from Daraa province, to choose to board the death boat.

“We have lost our best youth and infrastructure, but we have won a healthier and more homogeneous society”. These were not Hitler’s words in Berlin during his last speech on the occasion of the founding of the Nazi party in 1944, but Bashar Assad’s description of Syria after he destroyed it and killed hundreds of thousands of his people and displaced millions of them, considering that all these crimes are steady steps towards a society that Assad sees as ‘homogeneous’. These words were part of a speech delivered in 2017, about nine months after his forces took control of the city of Aleppo and forced about 200 thousand of its people to leave their homes, and a few months before his forces took control of the city of Daraa as part of a settlement in which Jordan and Russia played a key role pushing thousands of Daraa men towards Idlib Province. Here we must ask ourselves what exactly Assad meant by a ‘homogeneous society’.

the homogeneous society from their point of view is a mixture of corrupt army and security officers, criminals obsessed with murder and rape and ready to carry out the orders of the leader no matter how crazy, corrupt businessmen ready to sell their soul and suck blood for money, minority communities in whom Assad family instilled fear and the belief that they are the only ones who can protect them from the unknown

Eva J. Koulouriotis

Through an overview of the history of the Assad family (father, brother, sons) and their dealings with Syrian society, the homogeneous society from their point of view is a mixture of corrupt army and security officers, criminals obsessed with murder and rape and ready to carry out the orders of the leader no matter how crazy, corrupt businessmen ready to sell their soul and suck blood for money, minority communities in whom Assad family instilled fear and the belief that they are the only ones who can protect them from the unknown. The rest of the people are a burden and a source of imbalance in this family’s private dystopia, and to get rid of this burden, a new scheme to remove them was put into action in his areas of control by pushing them into the escape and death boat.

In July 2018, after Assad regained control of the Daraa Governorate, the first government center that was quickly renovated was the Immigration and passport center where the Assad regime accelerated the issuance of passports to residents who were not on the wanted lists. Over time this step was not enough to displace the population there given the presence of tens of thousands of young people wanted for political reasons. Thus, the regime issued a new decision in early June to open a center to settle the status of wanted people in the Daraa governorate by including even those wanted for their participation in the revolution.

Through this settlement, the young men were able to obtain a passport authorizing them to leave Syria. Thousands of residents of the province flocked to this center and in less than four days about 10 thousand young people received a settlement card entitling them to obtain a passport and leave Syria within one month. Among these were 150 victims of the ‘Adriana’ death boat who traveled from Damascus to Benghazi, Libya where Assad’s partners in the scheme were waiting for them.

The road to Benghazi

As it is broadly known, the Wagner militia has built for itself an important and strategic influence in the east of Libya through its support and protection for General Khalifa Haftar. This influence allowed them to control a large part of the human trade from the shores of the east of Libya. Apart from the huge financial profits that this militia earns through this trade, the most important profit is the impact that migrant and refugee boats have on changing the political and social reality in the European continent.

The partnership between Assad and Moscow through the Wagner militia in the migration file did not stop with Syrian citizens, but went further, including migrants from Pakistan

Eva J. Koulouriotis

Over the past five years, many newspapers and television networks have published documented reports of Moscow’s support for many far-right parties in European countries (i.e., France, Italy, Austria, and others). Through financial support on the one hand, and by fuelling the migration issue on the other, these parties are the direct beneficiaries with the results of their populist speeches already bearing fruit in many EU parliaments. With the continued influx of refugees and migrants, the shares of these parties are rising dangerously.

The partnership between Assad and Moscow through the Wagner militia in the migration file did not stop with Syrian citizens, but went further, including migrants from Pakistan. According to the Pakistani authorities, about 200 Pakistani citizens were killed in the shipwreck incident. Pakistani media suggest that the number of victims may actually exceed 300, which is surprising for those familiar with the file of migrants coming from African shores.

Cham Wings early this year, started managing the transportation of hundreds of Pakistanis wishing to migrate to Europe via flights from Karachi to Damascus and then from Damascus to Benghazi for sums of money up to 5 thousand dollars per person in coordination with the Wagner militia in Benghazi

Eva J. Koulouriotis

It is known that the geography of Turkey is the most used by Pakistani migrants to reach the European Union countries. But after careful research, we found that Cham Wings Airlines, owned by the Assad family, reached an agreement with the Pakistani government in late 2021 to coordinate weekly flights from Karachi airport to the Syrian capital Damascus. According to a local source in Syria, Cham Wings early this year, started managing the transportation of hundreds of Pakistanis wishing to migrate to Europe via flights from Karachi to Damascus and then from Damascus to Benghazi for sums of money up to 5 thousand dollars per person in coordination with the Wagner militia in Benghazi. Therefore, it can be said that Assad is directly responsible for another 300 Pakistani victims in the shipwreck off the Greek coast.

In short, there is a scheme run by Assad and Putin based on the following concept: Assad and the Russian army are madly using their firepower towards areas beyond their control without distinction between civilian and military with the aim of killing and terrorizing them and pushing the remaining survivors out of the Syrian geography towards Europe for the sake of the homogeneous and healthy society of the Assad family, as well as to raise the popularity of extreme right-wing parties in Europe supported by Putin.

After Putin’s preoccupation with the Ukrainian war, and the decrease in Moscow’s ability to fight on several fronts, the scheme was amended as follows: Assad is working to continue to clamp down on the provinces such as Daraa, Homs, Damascus countryside, and Deir ez-Zor that revolted against him and retook control over them through random arrests, forced withdrawal of the army and economic corruption under a starvation policy targeting the middle and poor class and deprivation of electricity, water, gas, and means for heating, with a frightening spread of drugs of all kinds without restrictions.    

The least that the incident of the ‘Ardiana’ shipwreck can be described as is carnage for which Assad and Putin are directly responsible

Eva J. Koulouriotis

This reality directs tens of thousands of Syrians to the option of migration facilitated by Assad towards Benghazi, Libya, in parallel with the transfer of hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis to the east of Libya, where Wagner militia is putting them on death boats heading towards European shores.

The least that the incident of the ‘Ardiana’ shipwreck can be described as is carnage for which Assad and Putin are directly responsible. Huge responsibilities are also borne by European governments which do not have a coordinated and clear policy to deal with the file of migration and refugees on the one hand, and the crises of the Middle East and North Africa on the other. Regarding the Syrian file, Europe has chosen until today to maintain a very limited role through the International Coalition to combat the Islamic State without any practical intervention to change the regime in Syria or confront Assad and his activities against Europe through migration and Captagon.

It is most disturbing to notice the movements followed by Athens to re-open its embassy in Damascus in parallel with the opening of the embassy of the Assad regime in Athens, and the voices that are beginning to rise in Europe talking about the need to open coordination channels with the Assad regime as a solution to the Syrian refugee file. Does Assad really want the refugees to return to their villages and homes?

Any talk about the possibility of coordinating with Assad in the immigration file is madness and naivety similar to fighting the Colombian drug trade in coordination with Pablo Escobar

Eva J. Koulouriotis

One of the most famous clips on social media for Syrians when talking about their return to Syria under Assad’s rule is an interview conducted by Syrian state television with one of the generals of the Assad Army named Essam Zahreddine in September 2017 (he was later killed during the battles in Deir ez-Zor governorate) where he gave ‘advice’, as he called it, using clear threatening language to Syrians who may wish to return that they better not.

Furthermore, a few months ago the minister of foreign affairs of the Assad regime, Faisal Mekdad, confirmed during a press interview that the areas controlled by Assad are unable to bear the burden of returning refugees at the present time and it is too early to talk about that. So, this is the official discourse of the Assad regime, militarily and politically. Any talk about the possibility of coordinating with Assad in the immigration file is madness and naivety similar to fighting the Colombian drug trade in coordination with Pablo Escobar.

European governments must first reassess their policy towards the Assad-Putin scheme and secondly support the aspirations of Syrians to obtain a decent life without dictators and corruption

Eva J. Koulouriotis

In conclusion, the officials in Brussels who implicitly believe that the sinking of Syrian refugee boats will deter others from continuing to try to reach European shores are gullible and therefore accomplices in crime. For Syrian citizens living today in the areas controlled by Assad, the option of dying by drowning will not be worse than staying there and dying a thousand times every day. 

Hence, European governments must first reassess their policy towards the Assad-Putin scheme and secondly support the aspirations of Syrians to obtain a decent life without dictators and corruption. Otherwise, Europe will soon wake up to governments led by far-right parties supported by Moscow and sympathizers of Assad, the official sponsor of immigration and Captagon.

Eva J. Koulouriotis
Eva J. Koulouriotis
Political analyst specialising in the Middle East with a focus on Syria, Iran, Iraq, Israel and Turkey; jihad and jihadist organisations and Greek-Turkish relations; Contributed to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, The New Arab, Al-Jazeera, Al-Sharq Qatar, Annahar, Orient News, Arab News, Huffington Post Greece, the Greek weekly Paraskinio and RT; Held several positions with the European Union of Women (EUW)

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