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.
Clashes at Turkish-Syrian border
On October 31, 2018, clashes between the Turkish army and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took place at the Turkish-Syrian border. The Turkish army bombed SDF positions in two villages near ʿAyn al‑ʿArab (Kobanî). Due to the Turkish attack, the SDF announced it would suspend the military operations against ISIS temporarily (Rudaw, SMART News). On November 1, 2018 Turkish and American troops conducted joint patrols near the city of Manbij, an area under the control of the PYD. The SDF criticized those responsible and insisted they conduct joint patrols in areas under the control of the Free Syrian Army (SMART News). Later that day, the Turkish army took over two positions of the SDF in Manbij (ARK News). On November 2, SDF forces, in collaboration with the International Coalition, conducted patrols on the Syrian-Turkish border in the city of Tall Abyad, in ar-Raqqah province. According to sources of SMART News, the goal is to calm down the tense situation after the clashes of previous days (SMART News). On November 4, the SDF and the International Coalition strengthened their military presence on the Turkish border. The SDF spokesman, Kino Gabriel, confirmed that there will be special patrols around the cities of ʿAyn al‑ʿArab (Kobanî), Tell Abyad, ar-Raqqah, Qamishli, Al‑Malikiyah (Dêrik), as well as ad-Darbasiyah and Raʾs al ʿAyn (Serê Kaniyê) (SMART News).
As well on November 1, 2018 the SDF forces arrested four young men in Mazra’at al-Rashid, west of ar-Raqqah, for refusing military service (SMART News).
On November 4, the funeral of Sheikh Bashir al-Huwaidi took place. Visitors of the funeral prevented members of the self-government from joining the funeral procession. Sheikh Bashir Al-Huwaidi, a tribal leaders in ar-Raqqah, was shot dead on the street. ISIS subsequently took responsibility for the act (SMART News).
Human rights abuses in ʿAfrin
On October 30, an article by Rudaw reported on human rights violations by armed groups in ʿAfrin. According to the report, on October 13, 2018, a woman was abducted by supporters of the Levant Front. So far, no ransom has been demanded, the whereabouts of the woman are unclear. On October 25, four residents of the village of Alki, in Shara, a sub-district of ʿAfrin, were abducted by the Sultan Murad Division. The Ahrar al-Sharqiya faction demanded a large sum for the release of a person kidnapped two months ago. Moreover, violent clashes between factions over the distribution of the seized olive harvest are reported (Rudaw).
On October 31, it was reported that the leader of the Sultan Suleyman Shah Brigade, Abu Amsha, is demanding a tax of 35 percent from olive farmers in the Shiya area. Additionally, members of the Sultan Suleyman-Shah Brigade raided a couple’s house before burning it down (Rudaw). On October 31, a civilian from Shiya in ʿAfrin was abducted and tortured by the Sultan Murad Division. The ransom for his release is 10,000 US dollars (ARK News). On November 1, Ahrar al-Sharqiya factions abducted two peasants from their fields. Their whereabouts are unclear (Rudaw). On November 3, 2018, gunmen of the Samarkand Brigade seized the olive press of a private person from the village of Rutan. Subsequently, they declared the village to be a military zone and prevented the residents from returning to their homes. Residents of surrounding villages were forced to bring their olive harvest to the confiscated olive press in Rutan (Rudaw).
Abducted civilians in As-Suwayda
According to reports, in October 2018, nineteen civilians were abducted in As-Suwayda. Among those are two children and a seventy-year-old man who was killed. In some cases, the abductees were released after ransom payments, in most cases the whereabouts are unclear (Suwayda24).