Syria Media Roundup – March 18 to 24, 2019

In this Media Roundup, we collect weekly local news from Syria, which are published mainly in Arabic and Kurdish media. Our aim is to make these 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.

Ban on Newros activities in ‘Afrin

The chairman of the local council of Mabata in ‘Afrin announced in a written statement in Arabic and Turkish that the Kurdish spring festival Nowrus, which is celebrated every year on March 21, is a working day. The declaration banned all traditional holiday activities (Rudaw, March 19, 2019). Ibrahim Ahmed, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Syria (PDK-S) from the village of Ahmade Meste in Bulbul, had opposed the ban by lighting a fire on his roof. He was then severely beaten by members of an armed faction (ARK News). In the meantime, the Yazidi Council has issued a statement strongly criticizing the Turkish occupation and the human rights abuses of the Syrian opposition in ‘Afrin. The Council called on the international community and Syrian opposition groups to end the ongoing human rights violations in areas under Turkish control, to facilitate the return of refugees and to withdraw all foreign troops from Syria. The Council called for the building of a democratic, pluralistic and federal Syria based on a modern constitution (ARK News, March 18, 2019).

Al-Hol and Al-Baghouz

In the week of March 15, around seven hundred Syrians, one-hundred eighty Iraqis, and more than four hundred families with ISIS members reached the Al-Hol refugee camp. Most of the internally displaced persons and refugees came from Al-Baghouz in Deir ez-Zawr (SMART News, March 23, 2019).

On March 19, the SDF announced that Al-Baghouz was under their control (SMART News). Despite announcing a victory over ISIS, the international coalition carried out airstrikes on March 23 targeting positions of the terror organization in Al-Baghouz. Furthermore, clashes between ISIS supporters and ground forces of the SDF took place (SMART News). One of the leading figures of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Redor Khalil, announced that some of the civilians captured by ISIS in Al-Baghouz could be released. However, the whereabouts of many other abductees are yet unclear (ARK News, March 24, 2019).

Lawyers protest in As-Suwayda

Numerous activists organized a demonstration against the Syrian regime in the village of Al-Mazraa in As-Suwayda. The demonstration took place on the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the uprising in Syria. At the same time, demonstrations took place in other Syrian cities (SMART News). On March 24, dozens of lawyers demonstrated in front of the building of the Syrian Bar Association in As-Suwayda. They criticized the Syrian regime for not doing enough to protect lawyers. Numerous lawyers became victims of attacks by armed groups, their houses were stormed. The protesters also criticized the assault on the As-Suwayda Palace of Justice by armed groups (SMART News).