Syria Media Roundup – July 29 to August 4, 2019

In this Media Roundup, we collect local news from Syria, which is published mainly in Arabic and Kurdish media, weekly. 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 along the Turkish-Syrian border

On July 30 and July 31, 2019, clashes broke out between Turkish-backed armed factions and SDF forces in the north and northeast of Aleppo. On both sides fighters were killed (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).

Turkish Armed Forces continue to strengthen their presence along the Turkish-Syrian border, especially in areas near the positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the Syrian side of the border (Rudaw, August 3, 2019). The Turkish army is also coordinating its activities with the Syrian Armed Forces of the Free Syrian Army (ARK News). At the same time, the US continues to support SDF (Rudaw). To find a possible solution to the Turkish demand for a “security zone”, representatives of Turkey and the USA met this week. The Turkish government is calling for the establishment of a stripe, exempted from SDF forces, along the Syrian-Turkish border (Kurdistan24). Observers fear that Turkey could invade northern Syria should the security zone not be established. A large part of the Kurdish population of Syria live in the area designated by Turkey. Accordingly, observers fear that the creation of such a zone will worsen the already difficult humanitarian situation in the border area.

Syrian National Army arrests dozens of civilians in ʿAfrin

In ʿAfrin, the actions of armed groups are leading to a collapse of public security. Often, civilians are accused of belonging to the PYD and are therefore abducted by armed militias. According to ARK News, since July 24, 2019 dozens of civilians were kidnapped.

During raids in fourteen villages around ʿAfrin, the Syrian National Army, which is subordinated to the Transitional Government of Syria, arrested sixty-three people in July 2019 (SMART News, August 2, 2019). Another one hundred and fifty persons were held captive under various charges in ʿAfrin and the surrounding towns and villages. Some people were accused of having done military service under PYD leadership, even though many were forcibly recruited by PYD forces. In many cases, the release of prisoners is accompanied by the payment of ransoms (ARK News, 3 August 2019).

Forced Recruitment by PYD

On July 29, 2019, SDF members in Tell Abyad, Ar-Raqqah Province, arrested five young men and forcibly recruited them (SMART News). On August 1, 2019, another twelve young men in Ar-Raqqah Province, ʿAin ʿIsa District, were arrested and forcibly recruited by SDF troops (SMART News).

Situation of Children at Al-Hol Camp

According to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), twelve children have recently died as a result of poor health care, lack of medication and malnutrition in Al-Hol refugee camp. The number of children deceased in Al-Hol since January 2019 is thus 286 (SOHR, 31 July 2019). In addition to the life-sustaining basic care, Al-Hol also lacks educational offers and psychological care for children.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that of the nearly fifty thousand children in the Al-Hol refugee camp, approximately twenty-six thousand still have no access to education (SMART News, July 28, 2019).