Syria Media Roundup – February 11 to 19, 2019

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.

Arrests in Areas under PYD control, Meetings between PYD and Syrian Regime

According to various articles, a wave of arrests took place in Ar-Raqqah between February 11 and 16, 2019. In total, about seventy-two people were arrested. Thirty-nine of these were forcibly recruited and the others, including women and children, were accused of belonging to ISIS (SMART News 11.2. / 12.2. / 13.2. / 15.2. / 16.2.).

In an interview, published on February 4, 2019, Aldar Khalil, a leading figure of the PYD, stated that the PYD’s Self-Administration hopes that Russia acts as a “neutral guarantor” in the upcoming negotiations with Damascus (Al-Monitor). According to media reports, on February 16, 2019  three parties from Northern Syria met separately with officials of the Syrian regime in Damascus. A PYD delegation, representatives of the Al-Sanadid forces and a delegation of the Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party (Partiya Demokrat a Pêsverû ya Kurdî li Sûriyê), which is headed by ʿAbdulhamid Hadschi Darwisch, went to Damascus in order to meet officials of the National Security Bureau. The Al-Sanadid forces are based on the tribe of Shammar, the largest Arab tribe in Hasakah, and fought together with the SDF against ISIS. Media reports indicate that each of the three delegations entered the meeting with individual goals. The PYD called on the regime to start a dialogue with them. The representatives of the Al-Sanadid forces went to Damascus to ask for a joint alliance with the regime (ARK News).The Kurdish Democratic Progressive Party in Syria asked the regime to constitutionally recognize the Kurdish culture and to grant social and political rights. Following the meeting in Damascus on February 17, 2019 Humaydi Daham al-Hadi, the leader of the Al-Sanadid forces, visited the Russian military base Humimim in the city of Jabla, in western Syria. The reason of this visit was not announced (SMART News).

Catastrophic Conditions in Al-Hawl Camp

According to an employee of the camp administration, on February 12 and 13, 2019 a total of 1,650 people have reached the refugee camp Al-Hawl near Al-Hasaka. This number includes around 1,080 Iraqis and around 100 people with neither Syrian nor Iraqi citizenship (SMART News). The IDP’s and refugees originate from the area Hajin in the Deir ez-Zawr governorate, where fighting is currently taking place against the last strongholds of ISIS (SMART News).

According to various reports the living conditions in Al-Hawl have been catastrophic. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has published several reports on the so-called “death camp”. The camp shelters tens of thousands of people, who suffer from inadequate care. In particular, UN organizations have been accused of not providing enough support for the people on site. According to SOHR, thousands of families have spent nights without a shelter despite adverse weather conditions (SOHR). Due to the fighting in Hajin, the number of inhabitants of the camp tripled in the last two months and now is about 34,000 people (World Food Programme).

Kidnappings in As-Suwayda

A person from Aleppo residing in As-Suwayda was kidnapped on February 12, 2019 (SMART News). It is unclear who is behind the kidnapping, but civilians in As-Suwayda have been repeatedly abducted by people linked to official institutions. A Suwayda24 article reports blackmailing of civilians by members of the Syrian National Security Service (Suwayda24), however, the context of this blackmailing is not addressed in the article.

Arbitrariness and Theft in ʿAfrin

The situation in ʿAfrin is still characterized by the arbitrary actions of armed militias. On February 12, an elderly man was attacked by members of the Levant Front, and later died from his injuries sustained during the attack. He was accused of theft (ARK News, Rudaw). The armed militia Levant Front has been repeatedly suspect of severe human rights violations in the Turkish-occupied area of ‘Afrin. According to a February 14 report, a group of people looted shops in a village in the Mabata area, a sub-district of ʿAfrin. Allegedly, the persons involved in the looting were internally displaced people from other parts of Syria. Incidences of this kind are becoming more frequent. Residents of ‘Afrin have accused internally displaced persons of joining forces with armed, criminal groups. In addition, a group of armed men from the Ahrar Al-Sharqiya militia stormed the home of an elderly couple on February 16. The gunmen tied-up the couple, searched the house and stole money (ARK News, Rudaw).