Weekly coverage round-up (Mar 18 - 22)

A quick English summary of our Arabic news coverage this week.

“It will fall: the regime as statue” (18 March, 2019). South Syria’s Daraa Province has witnessed widespread protests against the erection of a new statue of Hafez al-Assad in Daraa City on 8 March, the 56th anniversary of the Baath Party’s seizure of power. The protests point to the enduring opposition to regime rule in the south, largely as a result of hundreds of thousands of locals opting to remain in place after last summer’s major battle, as opposed to relocating to the north of the country. With neither the regime nor its Russian allies capable of imposing uncontested authority over the region, its fate remains up in the air, writes Sadik Abdul Rahman. For more details and analysis, see our full report (Arabic).

“Brussels comes up short again” (19 March, 2019). Last week saw Brussels host the third annual Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, a three-day affair put on by the UN and EU to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Syria and neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees. Around $7bn in donations was pledged, up from $4bn last year, but still short of the $9bn figure cited by the UN as the requirement for 2019. For more, read our full report (Arabic).

“Agricultural research returns to Aleppo Province” (20 March, 2019). A new organization seeks to revive the crucial agricultural sector in southern Aleppo Province, the breadbasket for much of northern Syria, which has been decimated by the war. Agricultural researchers and experts are working together in areas under opposition control to boost the quantity and quality of produce in the interests of food security, farmers’ income, and the welfare of the region’s large population, which now includes millions of internally displaced persons. For more details, see our full report (Arabic).

“Chemical weapons attack witnesses under intimidation” (22 March, 2019). Earlier this month, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued a report confirming the use of “a toxic chemical contain[ing] reactive chlorine” in the 7 April, 2018, attack on Douma that killed 43 people and accelerated the Assad regime’s victory in the decisive battle for the city underway at the time. Though the report does not assign blame for the attack, it does refute claims by the Assad regime and Moscow that the chemicals originated from an opposition weapons facility. This is despite allegations by two sources to Al-Jumhuriya that medical staff in Douma were personally threatened by regime agents against giving testimony about chemical weapons use or passing on evidence or blood samples to investigators, on pain of punishment against their relatives living in regime-held areas. Though this intimidation failed to prevent the OPCW confirming the use of chemicals in the attack, it may have impeded their work, and prevented the emergence of a fuller picture of what occurred. For more details, see our full report (Arabic).