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.
Tensions at the Turkish-Syrian border
After reports of rising tensions at the Turkish-Syrian border in the previous two weeks (SMR – November 5 to 11, 2018 and SMR – October 29 to November 4, 2018), last week’s news point to further military mobilization. According to a report of November 17, 2018, the armed faction Hamza Division announced that they are preparing for a possible military operation against PYD forces (ARK News). As reported by unofficial sources of the PYD`s Syrian Democratic Council, delegates from the United States, France and the United Kingdom have called on the PYD`s Self-Administration to cease its cooperation with the PKK in the area of East Euphrates (November 13, 2018, Rudaw).
Other news reported the release of Abdul Rahman Abo from a prison in al-Qamishli on November 14, 2018. Abo is a member of the PDK-S and was detained for sixteen months by the PYD’s security service, the Asayiş. Until his release, his fate was unknown. Abdul Rahman Abo stated that he had been handed over to the Syrian regime’s intelligence service in Aleppo during his detention for forty days (ARK News, Rudaw, SMART News).
On November 15, 2018, Asayiş forces seized three cars at the Euphrate in ar-Raqqah, each carrying five barrels of diesel fuel (SMART News).
On November 18, 2018, forces of the PYD’s Asayiş shot at a school wall in Abu Hamam southeast of Deir ez-Zawr, which caused panic among the students. Before the incident, teachers at the school had complained about harassment by members of the security service (SMART News).
Kidnappings in ʿAfrin
On November 12, 2018, unidentified gunmen abducted a 17-year-old boy in front of a school in ʿAfrin. The fate of the boy is unknown (Rudaw). A sub-branch of the Sultan Murad Division, led by Abu al-Laith, arrested and tortured the activist and photographer Bilal Suriol in ʿAfrin for between two and three days, the exact time varies between sources. Suriol, who was deported from al-Ghouta to ʿAfrin, took pictures outside ʿAfrin when he was arrested (SMART News, ARK News, The Syrian Observer). According to another report released last week, gunmen of an armed faction kidnapped a seventeen-year-old girl in al-Mahmudia quarter in ʿAfrin on November 3, 2018. Her fate is still unknown (Rudaw).
Assad Calls Druze to Military Service
According to a report of November 14, 2018, six people from Darʿā were abducted in as-Suwayda between October 22 and November 9, 2018. Their families were asked to pay ransoms for the release of the abductees (SMART News).
On November 15, a few days after the release of the women and children kidnapped by ISIS, Bashar al-Assad turned to pressuring the Syrian Druze. According to al-Assad, the Syrian army was responsible for the release of the abductees, thus, the Druze should show their appreciation to the army and fulfill their military service. Many Druze refused to serve in the army and joined local militias instead (The Syrian Observer). Due to the kidnapping of women and children by the ISIS, massive protests against the Syrian regime took place in as-Suwayda in recent months (SMR – 1 to 7 October, 2018).