Fighting coronavirus in northeast Syria, Kurdish administration extends curfew, imposes strict rules

The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East of Syria (AANES) on Monday said they extended the lockdown period till 21 April imposing strict penalties under its control to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
author_image Hisham Arafat

QAMISHLI, Syria (Kurdistan 24) - The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) on Monday announced that it was extending the coronavirus lockdown period until April 21, as it imposes strict penalties in those areas under its control in order to prevent the spread of the deadly and highly contagious disease.

The new instructions, which severely restrict movement in the region, include the imposition of fines on those who violate the curfew, as well as impounding their cars.

“Anyone violating the curfew will be fined 5,000 Syrian Pounds (SP) for the first violation; 10,000 SP for the second time; 15,000 for the third time; and 45,000 for the fourth time,” the self-administration said in a statement published on its website on Monday.

Moreover, the statement says, “The car will be impounded for one day for the first violation; impounded for three days for the second violation; and impounded for a week for the third time.”

Other Measures from the Self-Administration

In a separate statement, also issued on Monday, the self-administration said it had exempted people of the region from paying water and electricity fees for two months, as of April.

It also said that it was suspending military conscription until July. Of course, it would not want to bring individuals into the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who might have the coronavirus. However, local authorities lack the capability to conduct widespread testing. This move marks a departure from their established practice, starting in November 2014, when they began to enforce military conscription on military-aged men of all ethnicities.

Last week, the self-administration also announced that it would distribute food baskets for low-income families on a monthly basis throughout the lockdown period, as another measure to stop the spread of the virus.

Initially, on March 19, the self-administration announced a curfew, but without penalties, that would last indefinitely. However, the measures announced on Monday suggest that in northern and northeastern Syria—as elsewhere in the world—voluntary curfews, or curfews without sanctions, have proven insufficient.

Both curfew orders exclude essential services, defined as: hospitals, public clinics, pharmacies, sterilization teams, cleaners, bakeries, food stores, vehicles for transporting food and infant formula, fuel tankers, and international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Kurdish Red Crescent (KRC.)

So far, there have been no reported cases of the virus in northern and northeastern Syria, also known as Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) under the self-administration.

The Syrian government’s Ministry of Health has reported 19 coronavirus cases, including two people who have recovered and two people who have died.

However, it is widely believed that Damascus is seriously underreporting the incidents of coronavirus in the areas of the country that it controls.

Iran was the epicenter of the virus in the Middle East, because of its close ties with China, where the disease originated. Syria has close ties with Iran, as does Iraq, and important elements within Lebanon. The presence of Iranians in those three countries, as well as frequent travel between them and Iran, should have led to a significant outbreak of coronavirus in each of them.

However, all three are reporting a relatively modest number of coronavirus cases, below, for example, the North African countries of Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, or the Arab Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.


Editing by Laurie Mylroie