Syria Media Roundup – February 25 to March 3, 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 by PYD Forces

Another series of arrests took place between February 25 and March 1, 2019 in areas under PYD control. Members of the YPG arrested two women at the checkpoint Hazina in the northwest of Ar-Raqqah. The women were accused of being members of ISIS (SMART News, February 25, 2019). In addition, the YPG arrested seven people, for unknown reasons, in various IDP camps west of Ar-Raqqah (SMART News, February 25, 2019). On February 28, YPG forces confiscated nine oil-laden trucks and arrested the drivers in the eastern section of Gantari road, Ar-Raqqah province. One of the drivers resisted arrest and members of the YPG beat him up, after which he had to be taken to a hospital for medical treatment (SMART News). On March 1, the PYD security service Asayiş arrested seven young men in the village of Al-Bu’as and three young men in the village of Hazima. They were forcibly recruited for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) (SMART News).

On March 2, the PYD Self-Administration released 132 detainees, arrested for their affiliation with ISIS, from prisons in Al-Hasakah. According to ARK News, tribal leaders where involved into the decision of releasing them (ARK News). Additionally, the Self-Administration announced that another 283 prisoners, who had also been accused of belonging to ISIS, would be released from the prison of Ain Isa, a small town in Ar-Raqqah province (SMART News).

Ban on Motorcycles in Ar-Raqqah

The Self-Administration recently issued a ban on motorcycles in the city of Ar-Raqqah. The ban was followed by numerous arrests of young men, who had violated it, including three young men who were arrested by the Asayiş on February 24 for driving motorcycles in Ar-Raqqah (SMART News). Presumably for the same reason, nine other young men were arrested by the Asayiş and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on February 28 and March 1 (SMART News). On March 2, some young people demonstrated against the ban in Ar-Raqqah, which resulted in the arrest of five additional people (SMART News). Another sixteen people were arrested by the Asayiş on March 3 after driving motorcycles around the city (SMART News).

Arrests of KNC-Members

Forces of the PYD arrested two members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC) in the village of Al-Halik in northeastern Syria. The two KNC-members, Fawaz Ali and Bahzad Baruji, of unknown party affiliations, participated in the organization of a memorial ceremony for the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Barazani (ARK News).

Al-Hol Refugee Camp

According to Nabil Hassan, a co-worker of Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, numerous new families arrived at the refugee camp between February 27 and March 2 in northeastern Syria. More than 4,000 Syrian nationals and some 3,200 Iraqis sought refuge in the camp. In addition, the camp administration registered the arrival of around 350 families of IS members.

Criminal Felonies in ʿAfrin

On February 25, the armed group Al-Sharqiya arrested a political activist. The gunmen accused him of cooperating with the Russian news channel Russia Today and handing over footage of a car explosion on February 21, 2019 (SMART News). Another armed group abducted a lawyer, who had defended victims of violent crimes, in ʿAfrin. The whereabouts of the lawyer are unknown. A 19-year-old man was abducted by a militant group in the district Shiya in ʿAfrin and taken to a jail in Jindiras. The victim had already been abducted in 2018 and was released after a ransom had been payed (ARK News). An elderly man from the village of Ternada was attacked in his home and seriously injured by an armed group. Members of the armed group urged the man to leave the house, which is next to the base of an armed group called Al-Zenki. These circumstances are likely related to the violent crime (Rudaw).

Security Chaos in As-Suwayda

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported on the frequent discovery of dead bodies outside the city of As-Suwayda. On February 27, the body of a doctor was found on the road to the village of Al-Kafr in the south of As-Suwayda. The body showed gunshot wounds, although the exact circumstances of the man’s death are unknown (SMART News, SOHR).

SOHR also reported on the current security chaos in the city and province of As-Suwayda. Accordingly, local protesters blocked roads and shot at Ba’ath Party and other regime buildings in the city of Salkhad. According to SOHR, the demonstrations are related to the significant fuel shortage in the province. In addition, violent clashes between local armed factions took place in the city of As-Suwayda (SOHR, March 1, 2019).