A vital aid corridor in north-western Syria, Bab al-Hawa is a rebel-held Syrian border checkpoint adjacent to Turkey. One of the initial areas to fall to anti-Assad forces in 2012, the border crossing, while protected by a recent UN Resolution, as well as Turkish guarantees, has found itself changing hands between various Islamist groups since Free Syrian Army moderates were muscled out in 2013.
Currently, the crossing finds itself under the control of Al Qaeda affiliated group Tahrir al-Sham (a large component of which is drawn from a substantial Salafist militia formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra), which exerts similar influence over the nearby provincial capital of Idlib.
Something of a cash cow due to its strategic location, the checkpoint nets the designated terrorist group an estimated €10 million per month in revenue, through the extracting tolls and aid money.
With many aid workers critical at the extent to which the Islamist group abuses its stranglehold, Tahrir al-Sham, when it is not operating various criminal enterprises, has been documented ethnically cleansing the local Christian population through its implementation of Sharia law and its forced confiscation of property.
Bab al-Hawa’s strategic importance lies as being the only route left to the rebel-held city of Idlib and has found itself under partial Turkish protection since 2020, guaranteeing the rebel enclave. To many the crossing is merely a funnel by which Turkey can destabilise Syria through Islamist proxies. As Bab al-Hawa is currently goverened by various Islamist groups they mingle heavily with Western aid agencies, many of them Irish.
Seeing thousands of trucks in humanitarian aid passing through it each month, Bab al-Hawa is not just vital as a supply route for embattled rebels, but is also for maintaining supplies to millions of internally displaced Syrians as well. Speaking candidly about the importance of the supply route to the region a local aid worker described that “if they stopped work for one day, you’d have a famine”, partially explaining why the West shows the atrocities of Tahrir al-Sham some discretion.
Despite its rather exotic location, Bab al-Hawa has played host to a good deal of Irish Aid money, most of which is channeled through the €23 million per annum Syria Fund, as well as being a focal point for Irish interest at the UN.
In 2021, using our seat on the UN security council, Ireland led the way on pushing for a UN Resolution that would entail the protection of Aid through Bab al-Hawa, preventing Assadist forces from defeating the rebels since the war has tipped conclusively in Damascus’ favour.
With the aid agencies Trócaire and GOAL being instrumental in keeping the crossing functioning, one must ask are these NGOs and the Irish State conscious of the terrorist group who benefit from their actions? By maintaining the state of affairs in Bab al-Hawa, one directly assists a Salafist militia profiting off the displacement of Middle Eastern Christians, and a militia who would otherwise be outlawed in our own nations in the West.
While surreptitiously flying Syrian refugees through Dublin Airport to be resettled across various rural parishes at home, our State and aid appendages actively abet a terrorist group who are making the situation worse and who are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.
Though the argument can be made that pulling the rug from aid operations in northern Syria could trigger a small-scale famine in the region, surely prolonging the now inevitable Assad victory by keeping artificial Salafist enclaves going increases the damage caused in the long term.
A decade on from the outbreak of hostilities we can only wish for a swift and decisive end to the Syrian crisis, ideally in an Assadist triumph. The popular front of so-called moderate rebels backed by the West in 2011 (including many Irish politicians as we have documented here at the Burkean) morphed very quickly into an ugly panoply of Sunni extremists now witnessing its final stand in the north of the country.
Whether it be Ethiopia, Belarus or Syria, our place on the UN Security Council has led Iveagh House mandarins towards some rather foolhardy foreign policy decisions. A State that cannot guarantee a viable military at home seeks to project itself with the big boys abroad through the backing of causes contrary to Irish interests.
For the sake of Syria, Europe and Ireland, it is time to pull the plug on the Syrian opposition. Through the mask of humanitarianism, elements of our foreign policy class and aid agencies have been backing a series of losing horses, and have gotten into bed with some very vile outfits indeed.