Syria Media Roundup – October 1 to 7, 2018

In this Media Roundup, we collect weekly local news from Syria, which is published mainly in Arabic and Kurdish media. Our aim is to make this news 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 is on areas where mainly ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities live, such as ʿAfrin, al-Qamishli and As-Suwayda.

North-East Syria

On October 1, 2018, the Syriac Union Party’s Sutoro militia, arrested the writer and activist Suleiman Yusuf in al-Qamishli. Yusuf had criticized the Self-Administration in the ongoing dispute over school curricula in Christian schools. Following the arrest, the Sutoro militia, which is under the authority of the PYD, confiscated Yusuf’s phone and laptop (SMART News, ARK News). One day later, on October 2, 2018, members of the Sutoro forces abducted Sharbel Gorgis, the head of the private Dijla Syriac School in Dêrik. Gorgis had refused to distribute books with the Self-Administration’s curricula (ARK News). According to reports from October 2, 2018, a private school in al-Qamishli received the permit to teach the Syrian regime’s curricula, but had to pay twenty million Syrian pounds to the Self-Administration (ARK News).

On October 1, 2018, seventeen members of the Islamic State (ISIS) were released from prisons of the Self-Administration (ARK News, SMART News). On October 3, 2018, there were reports of the release of another six ISIS members (ARK News).

On October 1, 2018 the Syrian regime announced that starting November 2018 it will stop the payment of 185 teachers from schools in Al-Hasakah governorate, who have refused to join the regime’s army (SMART News). On October 2, 2018, Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the SDF, confirmed that the SDF has agreed to operate under the banner of the Syrian army (ARK News). On October 4, 2018, Amina Omar, the co-chairwoman of the PYD, declared the PYD’s readiness to continue the dialogue with the Syrian regime (ARK News). Media reports of October 6, 2018 indicate that the SDF and the Syrian regime have been involved in the smuggling of ISIS members and drugs at river crossings in the east of Deir ez-Zawr, an area controlled by the PYD (SMART News).

ʿAfrin

On October 1, 2018, the local council of the Syrian opposition in Jindiras published a statement prohibiting farmers to harvest their olives without the agreement of the council. Additionally, farmers were required to hand over fifteen percent of the harvest to the local council (Rudaw). On October 2, 2018, media reports indicated that eleven people in the city of ʿAfrin and surrounding districts have been abducted by Syrian armed opposition factions. According to this information, some of the abductees were tortured and some families blackmailed for ransom (Rudaw). According to reports from October 6, hundreds of internally displaced families in ʿAfrin were prohibited from returning to their homes. The Syrian factions, as well as local Turkish officials, have refused to issue the appropriate return permits (ARK News).

As-Suwayda

On October 2, 2018 the Committee of Religious Leaders of the Druze announced its withdrawal from the negotiations for the release of the women and children abducted by ISIS in As-Suwayda (SMART News). On the same day, one of the abductees was executed by the terrorist organization since, according to its members, their demands had not been met (SMART News). On October 3, 2018, dozens of people, including Druze religious leaders, protested in the center of As-Suwayda for the release of the kidnapped women and children. The demonstrators blocked the streets to the city center and staged a sit-in in front of the government building. The following day, October 4, 2018, dozens of people gathered again in front of the government building in the city center to demonstrate for the release of the abductees (SMART News). Meanwhile, the Syrian regime called on the population in the province to fight against ISIS (SMART News).  On October 7, 2018, the Sheikh al-Karama forces in As-Suwayda issued a statement blaming the Syrian regime for the ISIS attack in July 2018 and the subsequent abduction of the women and children. According to the Sheik al-Karama statement, just a few weeks before the attack the Syrian regime had resettled ISIS members with their families and their weapons to As-Suwayda province (SMART News).