Syrian regime-controlled areas in November | Major violations and severe crises deprive civilians of their most basic rights…Renewed Israeli attacks, amid simmering Iranian-Russian conflict
It has become increasingly clear to all those who follow and monitor the human rights situation or the Syrian situation in particular, the full extent of the violations and crimes committed by the Assad regime against the Syrian people in general, and in its areas of control in particular, since the first spark of the Syrian revolution.
The Assad regime’s crimes include horrific acts such as repression, killing, torture, starvation and the establishment of human slaughterhouses (prisons) and many other horrendous atrocities committed against its own people. In fact, November 2020 is no exception in terms of witnessing more violations, which SOHR has tracked and documented. Furthermore, a special focus has been given to the regime’s failure in handling the economic, social and humanitarian crises that have hit hard the people of Syria and their livelihood.
Daraa under the spotlight again: violence and violations
There were many victims in regime-controlled areas, but the majority were in Daraa governorate, the “cradle of the Syrian Revolution”, which has witnessed the highest rates of violence and security disturbances compared to the rest of the regime-controlled provinces.
The number of attacks and assassination attempts in various forms and methods by detonating IEDs, landmines, booby-trapped vehicles and shootings carried out by a number of armed cells reached 39 incidents during the month of November.
These attacks claimed the lives of 20 people. A breakdown of fatalities is as follows:
- Nine civilians.
- Six former opposition fighters, who struck reconciliation deals with the regime and became members of regime security services, including former commanders.
- Five regime soldiers, loyalists and collaborators with regime security services.
November saw many cases of arrests and kidnappings by rival forces within the regime-controlled areas. Here’s a list of some cases:
On November 19, a civilian was kidnapped by unknown assailants on the road between the towns of Sahem al-Golan – Jileen, west of Daraa.
On November 12, the Syrian regime’s security services arrested a person who owned an exchange office in the town of Da’il in the central sector of rural Daraa. No information was reported on the reasons for his arrest.
On November 9, regime forces claimed to be targeting ISIS cells in al-Shayah and Al-Nakhla areas in Daraa, but instead, raided farms and houses in the area and arbitrarily arrested a number of people. The area also witnessed the fall of shells fired by regime forces during the campaign on the outskirts of Daraa al-Balad, amid intensive gunfire.
On the other hand, the settled-status members were able to control a regime checkpoint in Jileen Residences area and captured nearly ten regime soldiers, including two officers, as a response to the regime security campaign.
Moreover, the settled-status members, in cooperation with the Russians, targeted al-Karak al-Sharqi checkpoint with bullets and RPGs, and arrested six members of the regime forces, soon after the situation calmed down following an agreement brokered by the Fifth Corps established by Russia, which led to the release of all prisoners.
Regime prisons: “Human slaughterhouses”
The Syrian Observatory documented in November seven fatalities of Syrian civilians inside the Assad regime’s human slaughterhouses.
- On November 2, a young man from Daraa governorate died under torture in the infamous “human slaughterhouse” in Sednaya prison, four months after his arrest.
- On November 3, a young man from al-Giza town in eastern Daraa countryside died under torture inside the Syrian regime’s security prisons, following his arrest nearly two years ago.
- The following day, a young man from al-Houla town in Homs countryside died under torture inside the Syrian regime’s security prisons, after nearly two years of detention.
- On November 10, a resident from Inkhil town in Daraa countryside died under torture, after his arrest nearly two years ago. It is worth nothing that the young man had defected from the regime forces, and struck a reconciliation deal after the Syrian regime took control of Daraa. However, that did not prevent regime intelligence from torturing and killing him.
Demonstrations and popular discontent
November is no different from the previous months regarding the popular anger and discontent in the regime-controlled areas due to the regime authorities’ policies and behaviour. This popular discontent spilled over to the streets where on several days demonstrators expressed their anger:
On November 10, SOHR activists monitored tens of residents demonstrating in Daraa Al-Balad, Nahteh and Al-Mata’iyyah in Daraa province as a part of “supportive protests” of Al-Karak Al-Sharqi town, which was besieged by regime forces in rural Daraa. The demonstrators called for the withdrawal of regime forces and loyalists from the region.
On November 11, SOHR sources said that young males and adults took to the streets in Al-Ghariya al-Sharqiya town in the eastern countryside of Daraa, blocking the roads in the town by setting rubber tires on fire, expressing their solidarity with the events in the eastern al-Karak Al-Sharqi town.
On November 18, Syrian Observatory activists said that young people left anti-regime graffiti on the walls of Jasim city in the northern countryside of Daraa, denouncing the conference on refugees’ return. Some pieces of the graffiti read “The revolution is an idea and an idea never dies – The return starts only when Al-Assad leaves – The revolution is continuing – No return before the departure of Al-Assad”.
In an ironic and cynical move and to the dismay of many Syrians, the Assad regime’s authorities released last month Suleiman al-Assad, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after his arrest in early August 2015 on charges killing a regime army general over a traffic dispute in the street of Latakia.
Continuous Israeli attacks
Israel has continued to attack Syrian territory as usual, while the Syrian regime parrots it favourite cliché of “reserving the right to respond to these attacks” as always. The Syrian Observatory monitored in November three Israeli attacks on Syrian territory, two of which targeted southern Damascus and the Quneitra border, and one targeted east of Deir ez-Zor. The attacks left 32 people dead.
SOHR activists have documented the death of ten people in the first attack and they are as follows:
- Three Syrian officers and members of Air-Defence forces.
- Five militiamen of “Al-Quds Corps” of Iranian nationalities.
- Two other militiamen, but it is not known yet if they were Lebanese or Iraqis.
All of whom were killed in airstrikes on a regime-affiliated “Air Defence” centre and other positions and weapon depots of Iranian-backed militias and the Lebanese Hezbollah in the areas of Damascus international airport, its perimeter, Sayeda Zeinab area, Al-Keswa, and other positions in the south and south-west of the capital, Damascus, near the administrative border with Al-Quneitra.
The second attack, however, took place on November 21, and targeted positions of pro-Iranian militias in al-Bukamal countryside, east of Deir ez-Zor.
Some 14 pro-Iranian militiamen of Afghan and Iraqi nationalities were killed in the airstrikes, which targeted new positions affiliated with these militias. Two positions and vehicles were also destroyed.
The third attack took place on November 25, which targeted Jabal al-Mani in southern Damascus countryside, and military post belonging to the “Syrian Resistance for the Liberation of the Golan” militia near the village of Ruweihina at the Syrian border with the occupied Golan in Quneitra countryside.
The airstrikes killed eight militiamen of pro-Iranian militias and Lebanese Hezbollah of non-Syrian nationalities, and destroyed rocket depots in Jabal al-Mani and vehicles belonging to a military post of the “Syrian Resistance for the Liberation of the Golan” within the 90th Brigade near Ruweihina.
Attacking houses of worship
Houses of worship were not exempt from regime forces’ violence and vandalism, as members of the regime-backed 5th Corps stormed, on November 24, a mosque in Al-Baq’aa neighbourhood in the west of Al-Lajat area in the eastern countryside of Daraa, destroying the mosque’s “minbar” (a pulpit in a mosque where the imam stands to deliver sermons) and sabotaging its contents. Moreover, the regime-backed militiamen prevented the residents from entering the mosque or even getting close to it under the pretext that the mosque and its facilities were used only by regime forces.
Ongoing currency plunge
The value of the Syrian pound is a significant parameter by which the health of the economy is measured. However, the Syrian regime seems to have failed to protect its currency, letting the lira tumble and hit a record lowon November 23, when the Syrian pound against the US dollar recorded 2,940 SYL, while the Syrian pound against the Euro recorded 3,493 SYL; and by late November the Syrian pound recovered a small fraction of its value.
Bread shortage hits again
The bread crisis emerged once again in regime-controlled areas, along with the currency plunge and the increase of gold price in November 2020, as the regime government failed again to secure the minimum levels of essentials, including bread. The capital, Damascus, and all provinces under the control of the Syrian regime have experienced a worsening bread crisis, as regime authorities have been unable to find proper solution to the most stifling crisis ever in Syria. According to SOHR sources, the Syrian regime authorities shrunk the amounts of flour allocated to bread bakeries in eastern Ghouta, forcing the bakeries to close after only few hours of work, after some people had stood in queues for nearly four consecutive hours. Moreover, this crisis triggered mass arguments and quarrels in front of several bakeries over congestion and priority to get bread, like the clashes which took place in Suran city in northern Hama and left several civilians injured.
In connection to this, “Dumsarkho” bakery, which is one of the largest bakeries in the city of Latakia, had been allocated only for regime soldiers. While in Damascus, the famous “Ibn al-Amid” bakeries in ” Rukin Al-Din” area were closed due to the lack of flour allocations provided to them, but were able to reopen a few days later. Also, the “areas of reconciliations” experienced similar situation, as a pack of high-quality bread was sold for 1,200 SYL as a result of the lack of state-subsidized bread.
Chronic fuel crisis and transportation hardship
The crises of fuel and transportation in regime-held areas deteriorated further in November, as petrol stations in all regime-controlled provinces witnessed unprecedented congestion due to the low amounts of fuel provided by the Syrian regime’s authorities, and the state-subsidized gas shortage. One example, among many, was the “areas of reconciliations” where each family could get a cylinder of gas over the past three months for 3,500 SYL, via smart cards. It is worth noting that a cylinder of gas is sold on the black market for 23,000 SYL and this price is unaffordable by many residents living in these areas, which has forced them to use logs and other wood, despite its high price which reaches 250,000 SYL per ton of logs/wood. Residents in some areas under regime control were forced to buy petrol from the duty-free stores for 1,200 SYL per litre, while state-subsidized petrol was sold in gas stations for 450 SYL per litre. However, it is only sold in finite amounts via smart cards.
As a part of fuel crisis’ consequences, the transport sector is suffering greatly in regime-held areas, as taxis and public transportation are becoming unaffordable to ordinary Syrians; and car owners are now buying fuel from the black market at higher prices instead of the non-existing subsidised petrol at petrol stations. The transport crisis has been concentrated in vital areas across the Syrian cities, along with the lack of public transport linking cities to the countryside. Accordingly, residents have faced many challenges while traveling from one place to another, particularly employees and university students who found themselves forced to use private cars or taxies in order to get to their schools, universities and work, which; in turn, added additional and significant financial burdens on them.
Ongoing recruitment and “Shi’aism” proselytising operations
Iranian forces and Iranian-backed militiamen continued, in November, recruiting more people to their ranks in southern Syria and western Euphrates region, as “Shi’aism” proselytising operations (conversion to Shiite) were secretly and in public through the offering of financial incentives and continuous usage of religion and sectarianism.
It is worth noting that the number of volunteers in southern Syria has exceeded 8,350. Meanwhile, the number of recent recruits in the ranks of Iranian forces and loyal militias in the west Euphrates region in Deir Ezzor countryside has risen to nearly 6,700 Syrian young males and adult men. Iranian militias have intentionally intensify these recruitment operations, exploiting Syria’s deteriorating economic situation and Russia’s preoccupation with recent agreements with Turkey regarding the “de-escalation zone” and north-eastern Syria.
Also, in Daraa province, the Iranians and Hezbollah were able to recruit more people via pro-Iranian spiritual figures in “Saraya al-Areen” of the 313th Brigade in northern Daraa, and Shiite centres in Sayda, Da’el, Izraa. It is worth noting that the recent recruits undergo training courses in Al-Lajat area in eastern Daraa. Similarly, in Al-Quneitra, near the border with the occupied Syrian Golan, the Lebanese Hezbollah continued strengthening its presence by recruiting young people who passed their date of joining the mandatory and reserve military service to regime’s security branches. In addition, the Iranians exploit the lack of job opportunities, attracting more people. Conversion to Shiite and recruitment operations are concentrated in Al-Baath city and Khan Arnabah. In the west Euphrates region, however, recruitment was noticeably escalating in the area from Al-Mayadin to Al-Bokamal in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, which is fully controlled by Iranian forces.
In light of the Syrian regime’s denial and intransigence , atrocities and inhumane practices, and failure to manage the dilapidated economy in areas under its control, which have now greatly impoverished the people of Syria, we, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, will not never stop reminding the international community of the dire situation in Syria and urging it not to abandon its responsibility and obligations to finding a lasting solution to the tragedy of millions of Syrians.