Two Months of Siege, Bombardment, Killing and Arbitrary Arrests to End Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Achieve Absolute Control
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) notes in its report released today that the Syrian regime is taking revenge on Daraa governorate for its peaceful and civilized rejection of the regime’s ‘presidential elections’ through siege, bombardment, killing and arbitrary arrests to end freedom of opinion and expression and achieve absolute control.
The 12-page report provides a brief background on the gradual advance by the Syrian, Iranian and Russian regime in extending their control over Southern Syria and the failure of all agreements to protect civilians from forced displacement. The report also summarizes the most notable violations committed by the Syrian regime and its allies in the Southern region of Syria between June 23 and August 9, 2021, without going into the details of the negotiation processes, military clashes and the complex conflict of control between Iran and Russia, noting that what matters most to SNHR in this context is civilians’ safety, ensuring that civilians are not targeted in military operations, and that both parties uphold and respect the rules of international humanitarian law during the clashes, and respect international human rights law.
The report relies on direct interviews with members of the Negotiation Committees in Daraa governorate, and civilians who have been displaced, which were obtained through speaking directly with witnesses, with none of the testimonies, including the two provided in the report, cited from any open sources.
The report explains that, in this context, Southern Syria is distinguished from the other regions of the country by being subject to another agreement that is more important than the Astana talks, which is the Russian-US bilateral ceasefire agreement that entered into force on July 9, 2017. The two agreements provided for a comprehensive cessation of hostilities and aerial bombardment, which succeeded to some extent in ending military operations until mid-June 2018, when the Syrian regime, backed by Iranian forces and the Russian air force, led a military campaign against the Southern region of Syria (parts of the governorates of Daraa, Quneitra and Suwayda), which resulted in the Syrian regime completing its control over the region, forcibly ending the de-escalation agreement, with the US-Russian agreement being revoked.
The report adds that new agreements came into force in Daraa governorate after July 2018 between the Syrian regime on the one hand and factions of the Armed Opposition on the other, being concluded under Russian auspices. These agreements were distinguished by their different terms between one area and another, despite containing supposedly comprehensive terms, leading to the establishment of different circumstances of control, as some areas are completely under the control of the Syrian regime, while there are still areas remaining under the control of former Armed Opposition factions (fighters from among the people of the region), where the regime’s presence is limited to civil institutions. Meanwhile, other areas have remained under the control of the Fifth Corps, which consists mostly of former members of the Armed Opposition factions backed by Russian forces.
The report reveals that the Syrian regime began taking revenge through military escalation against Daraa governorate for its residents’ peaceful and civilized rejection of the regime’s illegitimate ‘presidential elections’, as the regime requested on June 23, 2021, through the Russian officer in charge of the Southern region of Syria, that the heads of the Negotiation Committees in Daraa surrender a quantity of light weapons; when the committees refused this request, considering it contrary to the terms of previous agreements, Syrian regime forces responded by closing the roads leading to the neighborhoods of Daraa al Balad and Tareeq al Sadd and to both camps housing Palestinian refugees and IDPs from the Golan, leaving only the Sajna Bridge Road, which connects Daraa al Mahatta and Daraa al Balad, where three military checkpoints are stationed, with regime personnel carrying out rigorous searches of pedestrians.
As the report reveals, the closure of these roads was followed by a dangerous military escalation, as Syrian regime forces deployed massive numbers of military reinforcements and threatened the area with a massive military operation. The report refers to the agreement that was reached between the regime’s security committee and the Negotiation Committee in Daraa city on July 24, 2021, which stipulated that the siege imposed on the area would be lifted in exchange for the people surrendering some individual light weapons to the Syrian regime, conducting a “security settlement” for nearly 200 individuals, and establishing three military points. The report reveals how this agreement was clearly violated by military groups from the Syrian regime forces’ Fourth and Ninth Divisions, both backed by Iranian militias, when they stormed al Shayyah area in the southern plains of the Daraa al Balad area in Daraa city and the Gharz area in the eastern part of the city.
The report provides details of the attacks carried out by the Syrian regime that resulted in civilian casualties in al Yadouda village in the western suburbs of Daraa, Jasem city in the northwestern suburbs of Daraa, Busra al Sham Square in Daraa city, and Gharz area, east of Tareeq al Sadd neighborhood, as well as outlining the most notable arrest incidents during the period covered.
The report also includes a summary of the most notable violations committed by Syrian regime forces between June 23 and August 9, 2021, as well as documenting the deaths of 11 civilians, including five children and one woman, most of them in al Yadouda village in the western suburbs of Daraa. The report also documents the arrest of 104 individuals, including two children and two women. In addition, the Syrian regime carried out two attacks on a mosque in Daraa city. As the report reveals, the military operations launched by Syrian regime forces, backed by Iranian militias, have so far caused the displacement of at least 35,000 people from the neighborhoods of Daraa al Balad, Tareeq al Sadd and Daraa Camp to the neighborhoods of Daraa al Mahatta.
The report calls on the UN Security Council and the United Nations to accelerate in the comprehensive political transition process that ensures the start of progress along a path of transitional justice and true national reconciliation based on accountability for the perpetrators of violations and respect for basic human rights and a transition towards democracy.
The report stresses that the Syrian issue should be referred to the International Criminal Court and all those who are responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes should be held accountable.
The report also calls on the UN Security Council and the United Nations to monitor claims that the Iranian regime is continuing to supply weapons, equipment and militias to the Syrian regime, to ensure the urgent entry of medicine and food for the besieged families and to put pressure on the Syrian regime to allow freedom of entry and exit.
The report also provides recommendations for the international community and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) to Launch investigations into the cases included in the report.