Survival (Staying Alive)

Syrian citizens’ daily activities, throughout the developments of the current crisis, can be summarized into the words “ways of survival”.  The militancy did not only shatter security but it is now randomly threatening people’s survival as people themselves have now become targets, regardless of their position or political stance. Towards this end, many considerations and demands that people regarded as fundamental at the onset of this conflict have now receded, so much so that the economic burden has surpassed the general consensus that was prevalent before 2011, and has taken a special position in the citizen’s search for basic survival means.

While the security concern is the most present today, the livelihood concern goes in parallel, as the stability of the economy reflects a normalization of the political regime in any country. It is a given that the earliest causalities of a political conflict is the economy.  That’s what was expected for Syria and that’s what happened. However, the economy did not fall as a secondary victim to the violence in Syria, but it became a target of its own. For whether it  was the opposition forces that targeted the economy to fight against the normalization that the regime is trying to impose over the conflict, or the regime that used the collapse of the economy as a scare tactic to reinforce its loyalty, the Syrian economy did in fact collapse.

This collapse is not a temporary or superficial one that could be reversed easily.  A large proportion of the economical infrastructure has been destroyed,  major private capital fled the country, people’s savings have been drawn from market circulation, and public investments, which are usually a major engine of the economy, were stopped by the government.

In addition, violence and militancy have resulted in many Syrians families fleeing their homes, thus separating them from their jobs and sources of income. Syrians refugees (both inside and outside Syria) account for more than 2.5 million human beings. The result is that more than half of the Syrian workforce have now become out of work, while the income of the remainder has drastically reduced, and people started consuming their savings. While many Syrians lived near the poverty line prior to the crises, many have now fallen into absolute poverty and haven’t got the minimum resources to maintain basic nutrition so as to stay alive.

The official social organizations did not deal with the crisis in a serious and competent way.  In addition, non-governmental organizations (NGO) were afraid to get involved fearing retaliation from either side of the conflict, who considered that all humanitarian assistance activities must go through its own channels and did not start working effectively until a late stage of the crisis.

The civil social capital endured the larger part of the basic assistance that is necessary for survival (shelter with relatives, sharing resources with neighbours, etc.) Moreover, the host society resources started to dry up, so did the ability, and even the desire, of the rich classes to support the classes that do not have enough reserves to go on. As the crisis went on, everyone started calculating their own ability to continue to give without an income, after fear for survival prevailed, even among middle and rich classes.

Taking into consideration the challenge of survival, part of Syrians turned into crime and illegal work. Many combatants on both sides of the struggle tried to benefit from the chaos in order to increase their financial gain. All this has entered us into what is known as the war economy, which in turn lead to an increase in the collapse rate of the peace economy and the fleeing of many capitalists outside the country, along with whom were the investments that employ the remaining Syrians. Syria became entangled in a vicious circle of lack of security that leads to economic collapse, which in turn leads to more violence. Under the war economy, monopolies are formed, prices go up and getting the basics of livelihood becomes marred with danger.

Within this context, survival and getting food become the biggest worry and the preoccupation of the majority of citizens in Syria. And while the biggest part of Syrians are still ethically deterred from committing crimes for mere survival, fear and hunger would create larger pressures on social ties, and might take a large proportion of people into routs that has no ethical or categorical ceiling. This, in turn, would form a future obstacle against any serious attempt to rebuild a fit economy.

Nonetheless, the economic future, let alone the political one, is now the last thing on people’s mind. Therefore, talking about political reform, the form of the state, the constitution or democratic institutions has now become quite far and unrealistic. In fact, this is now considered as an insult for many who are of the view that the priority of work today should be to stop violence and to bring humanitarian aid for those who are in need, and that any other talk is no less a crime than violence that harvests all Syrians. The insistence of the struggling parties on marginalising this issue and not giving the problem of survival a priority over military and political work has pushed a large segment of Syrians to reject the ethical position of all struggling parties, and increased the appeal of any solution for the crisis that would stop violence and guarantees people a safe livelihood.

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