Regime repression | Unknown fate of nearly 800 people among over 3,100 detained by regime security services since capturing eastern Ghouta
Promises of the spiritual figure of reconciliations, Sheikh Dafda', to protect people refused to leave to north Syria and improve services remains unfulfiled
After being a famous a spiritual figure of reconciliations in eastern Ghouta just a few days before regime forces and their allies captured the region, Sheikh Bassam Dafda’ has acted as the one who would save eastern Ghouta, especially with his promises to protect the region’s inhabitants and his claims of communicating with the Syria regime presidents Bashar al-Assad who confirmed to him that security services would never arrest anyone or seize the civilians’ properties if the region’s inhabitants renewed allegiance to the Syrian regime.
Such claims came as a part of Sheikh Dafda’ to exploit the region’s people who were seeking after any solution that may have stopped bloodshed and the crazy military campaign by the Syrian regime and their allies on eastern Ghouta, with the participation of Russian aircraft which committed horrific massacres against civilians who were under complete siege.
Many of civilians and former opposition fighters preferred to stay in eastern Ghouta after being promised that they would not be arrested after striking the “national reconciliation deals”, like the reconciliations struck in several areas throughout Syria after regime forces regained control of them, and that they had choice to join the National Defence Forces (NDF) in the towns and cities of eastern Ghouta.
For more than three years of the Syrian regime control of eastern Ghouta following an agreement evacuated the residents and fighters who refused to struck reconciliation deals to north Syria region, the region has suffered from disastrous situation, amid media blackout and international community indifference. Syrian Observatory activists in eastern Ghouta have confirmed the arrest of over 3,100 people since regime forces captured the region. The arrested people included civilians who participated in revolutionary activists or affiliated with opposition civil organizations as well as ex-fighters in opposition factions which had been controlling the region. Also, many other civilians have been arrested for unknown reasons. It is worth noting that regime security services have released some of these detainees, at different times, after investigations, while some others have been driven to compulsory and reserve service. However, the fate of 790 of these detainees remained unknown.
The role of Sheikh Dafda’ had almost come to an end with the departure of the last bus carrying people who refused reconciliation with the Syrian regime to north Syria, and he has become only a gust on some talk shows and other TV programmes provided by the Syrian regime media, where he could talk about the patriotism, the beloved president “Bashar al-Assad” and the “victorious” regime army, as well as his calls for activities held by the Syrian intelligence service on the “global conspiracy” by the colonial powers against Syria. However, he has never sought after improvement of the living condition in eastern Ghouta or stop of the ongoing arrests that targeted civilians and military personnel who preferred to stay in their areas after his promises.
In a testimony to the Syrian Observatory, a civilian known by his initials as A.G. from Jirayn town in eastern Ghouta talked about his son who was arrested by regime security services on June 17, 2019, for unknown reasons. The man said “my sine has never worked for any party opposing the Syrian regime during the factions’ control of eastern Ghouta. I paid several visits to Sheikh Dafda’ begging to him to interfere and communicate with regime officers and intelligence service in order to release my son, but to no avail. People who wanted to meet Sheikh Dafda’ near at his house were told that he suffered from poor health condition, while other people were expelled. I managed to meet Sheikh Dafda’ in a mosque and asked him to interfere to disclose the fate of my son, but he replied that he would do his best without even asking about the name of my son, before his affiliates kept me away from the sheikh. Until now, my son is still detained and his fate has yet to be known.”
According to SOHR sources in eastern Ghouta, several meetings have been held since regime forces captured eastern Ghouta in March 2018, between dignitaries of eastern Ghouta and Sheikh Bassam Dafda’ in order to discuss the situation and fate of the detainees in regime prison, both arrested since the beginning of the Syrian revolution and after the Syrian regime’s control of the region, but Dafda’ evaded talking about such matters and talked only about his demands to the government officials to improve the living conditions and the promises he got.
A woman known as K.A. from Ain Tarma town in eastern Ghouta shared her experience with SOHR saying “my son was a fighter in al-Rahman Corps before he split and became a guard of the headquarters where Dafda’ lived in Kafr Batna town, the hometown of Sheikh Bassam Dafda’. Before regime forces captured the town, tens of fighters of al-Rahman Corps had split, joined Sheikh Dafda’ and were deployed in the town’s residential neighbourhoods in order to repel the attack by Jabhat al-Nusra which attempted to storm the sheikh’s headquarters, but it failed. My son withdrew later to Zamalka and Arbin aeas, the latest strongholds of opposition factions in the central sector of eastern Ghouta before the evacuation of civilians and fighters who refused to struck reconciliation deals with regime forces. My 30-year-old son was arrested by regime security services nearly three days after regime forces captured eastern Ghouta, although he had struck a reconciliation deal and defended Sheikh Dafda’. I went to Sheikh Dafda’ several times and appealed to him to interfere and set my son free, but his promises have yet to be fulfiled. My son is still detained in Sednaya notorious prison.”
It is worth noting that the Syrian regime have controlled the entire region of eastern Ghouta in March 2018 following a Russian-Turkish agreement stipulated for abandoning Afrin for the Turks in return for handing over eastern Ghouta to the Syrian regime and evacuating its people and the factions’ fighters to north Syria region. This agreement came after a fierce military campaign by regime forces and the Russians, during which they killed and injured thousands of people and destroyed public and private properties at a time when the international community seemed satisfied with issuing PR statements and press releases.