Syria Media Roundup – September 3 to 9, 2018

In this Media Roundup, we collect weekly local news from Syria, which is published mainly in Arabic and Kurdish media. By this, we would like to make this news, which from our point of view, reflect the current situation on site, accessible to a broader readership. The sources come from news channels that we consider the most trustworthy, though we cannot guarantee absolute reliability. The focus of the content are areas where mainly ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities live, such as ʿAfrin, al-Qamishli and as-Suwayda.

Arrests and forced recruitment by the PYD

On September 5, 2018, a demonstration took place in the town of Khatuneya near ar-Raqqah. People were demonstrating for the improvement of public services and for the fight against corruption. Sixteen people were arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) (SMART News). On September 6, 2018, the SDF forcibly recruited about twenty-five young people in ar-Raqqah and brought them to military training camps (SMART News). On September 7, 2018, the SDF imposed a curfew on the city of al-Tabqah, where US soldiers are present. The curfew was justified by the SDF’s search for members of the Islamic State and militants responsible for a series of bombing attacks in the city. Political opponents accused the SDF of using the curfew to forcibly recruit young men in al-Tabqah (SMART News). As part of the recent wave of arrests, around twenty-two people from the villages Hammam, Barouda and Mansoura near ar-Raqqah were arrested by the SDF (SMART News).

On September 7, 2018 forces of the PYD’s Asayiş stormed a meeting of the Kurdish Yekîtî party. The meeting took place in the private house of a Yekîtî member in the city of al-Ma’bada. The secret service arrested two members of the Yekîtî party (SMART News). On the same day, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) published a statement strongly condemning the PYD’s repressive policy against KNC member parties and other political opponents. The KNC called on the other Kurdish parties, the international community and human rights organizations to end this action (ARK News). Human Rights Watch also released a report last week about the PYD’s capture and enforced disappearance of political opponents (HRW).

Several reports of clashes between the military forces of the Syrian regime and the security service of the PYD, Asayiş, in al-Qamishli were published on September 8, 2018 (SMART News, ARK News, Rudaw). One day later, the PYD’s Syrian Democratic Council expressed its regret regarding the incidences. Furthermore, the SDC stated that the talks with the regime will continue (SMART News).

The SDF is expected to receive even more military support from the International Coalition. According to a member of the SDF, the SDF’s Al-Sanadid troops are to be equipped with new border guards and combat troops. The troops are expected to be deployed in Hassakah province. The International Coalition will provide the equipment and military training (SMART News). In addition, on September 9, a convoy of military vehicles has reached the areas under the control of the SDF. Witnesses reported that the convoy consisted of 100 trucks (SMART News).

Threats to olive farmers in ʿAfrin

According to local observers, the Turkish government wants to enlarge the road from Turkey to ʿAfrin, as shown by the equipment that has been brought to the village of Hammam in Jindiras by Turkish troops. The current road passes through large olive groves. According to local people, this project could endanger up to 100,000 olive trees, which would greatly increase the difficult economic situation of the local population (Rudaw).

Syrian troops are accused of having set fire in vineyards and forests in areas with a Shia population in ʿAfrin. The fires caused great damage to the farmers (September 4, 2018, Rudaw). Further reports state that owners of olive groves are forced to sell the groves to leaders of the armed factions at very low prices. Owners who are not cooperating are threatened with high taxes and the deprivation of their harvest (September 7, 2018, Rudaw).

Further news from ʿAfrin

On September 2, 2018 armed groups abducted three people from their workplace in ʿAfrin on September 2. They have been missing since, and those responsible are unknown (Rudaw).

A video currently circulating on social media illustrates the appalling human rights situation in ʿAfrin. The video shows a member of an armed group in ʿAfrin torturing a man from the village of Badina. The gunman threatens to kill the victim if his family does not pay 22,000 US dollars (September 3, 2018, Rudaw)

On September 3, a girl named Amal Omar was abducted in ʿAfrin by members of the al-Hamzat Brigade (Rudaw). On September 5, the military police of Syrian armed factions stormed several houses in the neighborhoods of Ashrafieh and Zaidia. They searched the houses, took the phones of the inhabitants and browsed their accounts on social media websites (Rudaw).

The Kurdish National Council (KNC) in Syria issued a statement regarding ʿAfrin condemning human rights violations. It called on the United Nations to intervene and warned about the consequences of the offensive in Idlib on ʿAfrin, as well as about the demographic changes that have been carried out in the area (September 9, 2018, ARK News). Also on September 9, a French delegation including the French president’s envoy for Syria, François Sénémaud, a French expert for foreign affairs, Pierre-Arnaud Blanchard, and the French deputy consul in Istanbul visited the KNC at the headquarters of the Syrian National Coalition (Etilaf) in Istanbul. During the meeting, the KNC described the situation in the Kurdish regions in Syria. It emphasized the importance of the Kurdish issue in Syria, but also expressed its concerns regarding the situation of civilians in Idlib (ARK News).

Sign for civil peace in as-Suwayda

On September 3, representatives of tribes met in as-Suwayda, with Christian and Islamic representatives as well as municipal leaders. The meeting was meant as a sign for civil peace and against sectarianism in as-Suwayda (Suwayda24).