SDF-controlled areas in June 2021 | Over 20 attacks by ISIS cells…Nearly 60 people arrested in security campaigns…ongoing crises and security vacuum
Areas under the control of Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) experienced, in June 2021, scores of incidents of security disorder and violations against human rights. In this context, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) have monitored and tracked all key developments in SDF-held areas in the previous month.
Ongoing ISIS attacks
In June 2021, ISIS continued its attacks in areas under the control of SDF and the Autonomous Administration in north and north-east Syria region, as ISIS cells carried out several attacks and committed assassinations through various ways, including shooting, using sharp tools and planting IEDs and landmines throughout SDF-held areas. On the other hand SDF launched periodical security campaigns, with Coalition support, targeting ISIS cells and individuals accused of “dealing with these cells”. However, these campaigns remained timid and could not put an end to ISIS escalating operations in the region.
SOHR activists documented over 21 attacks in June carried out by ISIS cells in SDF-held areas in Deir Ezzor, al-Hasakah, Aleppo and al-Raqqah, including armed attacks and explosions. According to SOHR statistics, the number of people killed in these attacks during June reached 16. The breakdown of fatalities was as follows: eight civilians and eight members of SDF, Asayish Forces and the Self-Defence forces.
These attacks clearly indicate that the “Islamic State” in SDF-held areas is still alive and kicking. On June 1, two ISIS militiamen stopped a bus carrying women working in farmlands near the headquarters of Syria Democratic Forces in al-Busayrah city in the countryside of Deir Ezzor and demanded them put niqaab, a garment of clothing that covers the face, worn by some Muslim women, and not use makeup. The militiamen also threatened to kill the driver if he commuted unveiled women again.
On the other hand, Syria Democratic Forces, backed by the International Coalition, launched frequent security campaigns in April in an attempt to put an end to the ISIS escalating operations in Deir Ezzor and al-Hasakah. According to SOHR statistics, 58 people, including ISIS commander, were arrested during these campaigns, for “belonging to and communicating with ISIS cells” as well as other accusations, in al-Hawayij, Jadidat Bakara, al-Busayrah, al-Zarr, al-Shuhayl in Deir Ezzor and other towns and villages in the southern countryside of al-Hasakah. It is worth noting that 21 of the arrested people have been released.
Crises, protests and violations
On May 31, Manbij city and countryside experienced demonstrations against mandatory conscription, but the demonstrators were faced by gunfire which left casualties, so Manbij Military Council imposed a curfew in an attempt to contain the state of disorder which ignited following popular protests over the death of a demonstrator in gunfire by Asayish Forces in Manbij countryside. Moreover, dramatic development continued with the death of more demonstrators by Asayish Forces’ gunfire in early June.
According to SOHR statistics, the number of demonstrators who were killed in gunfire by Asayish Forces in a few days reached to six, four of whom were killed at al-Khattaf checkpoint in eastern Manbij, one was killed in Manbij city, while the sixth was killed in al-Hodhod village in Manbij countryside. These demonstrators were killed during the demonstrations protesting mandatory conscription in the ranks of the Self-Defence Forces and calling for allowing the exportation of cement and increasing fuel amounts allocated to Manbij.
In light of these dramatic developments, tribes’ elders in Manbij area and representatives of the Autonomous Administration issued a statement following a meeting between the two sides to discuss the dramatic developments in the region in the past two days. The statement, of which the Syrian Observatory obtained a copy, read “Manbij city and countryside experience critical situation which needs all of us to undertake moral and humanitarian responsibilities in order to preserve the blood and keep the safe and security of Manbij city and countryside and of people living there. After the dramatic events in our city in the past two days, which left casualties of our people who went out to streets to call for rightful demands, we, the civil and military administration and the tribe’s elders and dignitaries, console our people in Manbij city and countryside, and wish the injured people a speedy recovery. In accordance with the people’s demands, an enlarged meeting was held and included all tribes in Manbij and the civil and military administration in the interest of staving off strife and preventing bloodshed, in which several points have been agreed upon as follows:
- The suspension of the Self-Defence Forces’ campaign in Manbij city and countryside and referring it to consideration and discussion.
- The release of all detainees arrested during the recent actions.
- The formation of commission in order to investigate the merits according to which gunfire took place and holding everyone found involved in this gunfire accountable.”
On the other hand, tribes which support the uprising against mandatory conscription in Manbij and reject the repression practiced by the security services against the peaceful demonstrators and the use of live bullets during these demonstrations met in the region, stressing on the fact that their demands were personalized in the rejection of the use of power and live ammunition against the peaceful protests in Manbij city and countryside.
On June 4, SOHR activists reported several demonstration in villages in Manbij countryside, including Hodhod village, as the demonstrators called for the improvement of services and economy and the suspension of the mandatory conscription, although the campaign of mandatory conscription were already suspended in Manbij. However, the city of Manbij experienced no demonstrations. Meanwhile, Asayish Forces were seen deployed in Manbij city following the entry of a large number of military troops affiliated to the Internal Security Forces (Asayish), Rapid Response Forces and Counter-terrorism Forces. According to SOHR sources, over 4,000 members entered the city escorted by tens of armoured vehicles.
On June 6, SDF released 65 civilians arrested by the security and military forces of SDF during the latest demonstrations in Manbij city and its countryside in eastern Aleppo. The joint presidency of the Defence Office in north and east Syria had issued a circular to postpone the mandatory military service for all young males, who reached the age of conscription, from areas under the control of Turkey troops and their proxy factions, including the cities of Afrin in the countryside of Aleppo, Ras al-Ain (Sere Kaniye) in al-Hasakah, and areas in Tal Abyad in north of Raqqa. This decree would take effect on June 6 until the end of the year 2021. This decree came for the general interest requirements and positive functioning, according to the Joint presidency of Defence Bureau.
On June 6, tribal elders and dignitaries met in Manbij city in north-east Aleppo countryside to reach list of demands to be submitted to the civil administration in Manbij regarding the current events in the area. The meeting gave a time limit until the following Thursday. According to SOHR activists, the most prominent demands focused on canceling custom feess, increasing Manbij share of fuel, securing fodder and cement in reasonable prices, dissolving the current civil administration and electing a new one by the region’s inhabitants and canceling Kafala system imposed on people displaced to Manbij. On the other hand, the Autonomous Administration announced the increase of diesel allocations to Manbij with 440 liter for each family at 75 Syrian liras per litre.
A day earlier, tribal elders and dignitaries in Manbij issued a statement includes 17 popular requests as follow :
- Cancellation of “duty of self-defense” (mandatory conscription) for all young males.
- Stop of arresting Manbij youth in any place of north east Syria and not driving them to perform duty of self-defense.
- Offering medical treatment to wounded people.
- Holding the members who opened fire on civilians accountable.
- Compromising the victims’ families.
- Activating the role of the health committee and control medicine prices inside the city and its countryside.
- Securing sufficient amounts of fuel and its derivatives to the city.
- Cancellation of customs on medicine and medical stuffs.
- Decreasing customs on food stuffs, raw materials, spare parts …etc.
- Allowing families of al-Sheiokh town to return to their homes.
- Hiring teachers with permanent contracts.
- Arresting wanted people under court’s arrest warrants only.
- Facilitating the work of organizations operating in Manbig city and activate their role.
- Giving back personal certificates and documents confiscated from youth at crossings while driving them to military service.
- Putting an end to the military personnel’s tours in the city holding their weapons.
- Giving back the seized properties back to their owners.
- Compensating the owners of damaged buildings in the war on ISIS.
On June 11, SOHR activists reported that an SDF patrol informed displaced families in al-Shaheel city in the east of Deir Ezzor countryside to evacuate their houses to turn them into military headquarters and gave the families a time limit to leave.
It is worth noting that the families in those houses were displaced from al-Mayadeen city, east of Deir Ezzor, except a family from Dariya city in Damascus countryside. Also, the houses that were desired to be turned into military headquarters were owned by a family known by initials as M. who were migrants outside Syrian, some of them had left to Turkey and others to Gulf countries.
On June 14, Observatory activists have monitored residents demonstrating in the SDF-held town of Jadid Bakara in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, condemning the considerable corruption in local councils. The demonstrators, who blocked the road by setting fire to rubber tires, also called for increasing amounts of flour and fuel allocated to Deir Ezzor.
Separate developments in SDF-held areas in April 2021
On June 26, SOHR activists in al-Hasakah province reported that Turkish forces suspended work completely in Allouk water station for one more time for unknown reasons, which led to interruption of water supplies to al-Hasakah city and surrounding villages. SOHR activists added that water flow was very weak during the previous 11 days, as water did not reach to the whole neighbourhoods of al-Hasakah governorate.
On June 14, SOHR reported that the Turks kept retaining Syria’s share of water behind their dams, disregarding international compact between the two countries and all appeals to release Syria’s water. Meanwhile, power generation turbines were suspended and irrigation canals were out of service. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had repeatedly warned against a looming disaster threatening lives and livelihood of more than three million Syrians, who depended on the river for drinking, electricity and irrigation.
SDF also continued their security campaigns on crossings used for smuggling goods and people from SDF-held areas in eastern Euphrates region in Deir Ezzor countryside to regime-controlled areas on the river’s opposite bank. The security forces have arrested several people working in these crossings and destroyed several ferries used for smuggling.