SOHR exclusive | “Syrian regime refuse to share power with any other body and solving the issue of refugees and detainees must not be open to negotiations,” says Bassam Al-Salamat
For over 11 years, ambiguity has surrounded the issue of detainees and refugees at a time when the international community seems indifferent and unwilling to bring the Syrian crisis to an end. Meanwhile, the human rights Syrian bodies stress the importance of the immediate disclosure of the fate of detainees and forcibly disappeared individuals in regime prisons and allowing visits to prisons and detention centres, so that the situation on the ground is evaluated. They also appeal to international players to intensify their efforts to break the deadlock and put an end to the crisis of Syrian refugees who are struggling with dreadful living conditions in camps and “unsafe houses” in other countries.
Believing in the promotion of peace and stability through negotiations, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) stresses the importance to reach compromise and constructive engagement by all warring parties in order to reach a political settlement.
In an exclusive SOHR interview, the human rights activist and regime opponent politician, Bassam Al-Salamat sees that bringing back all Syrian refugees needs a decisive international decision, consensus and safe environment for the voluntary return for those who desire to return, noting that there are files and issues need to be solved and they must not be abdicated or open to negotiations by the international community or human rights institutions.
Q: Reports have circulated recently about ongoing communications between Turkey and Syrian regime as a part of efforts to settle the crisis of Syrian refugees, how can this crisis be brought to an end, especially since thousands of refugees are prosecuted by regime security services and the return to Syria at this time poses a threat to their safety and lives?
A: I do not think that any country is able to send Syrian refugees in its territory back to Syria under a bilateral agreement with Al-Assad’s regime. If this is possible, Lebanon would be the first country to do so. Turkey supports revolutionary and opposition powers, and it interferes in all files, including the political, military and humanitarian situations. These reports may refer to consensus to provide a suitable environment for voluntary return for Syrian refugees in Turkey, who want to return to areas under the control of Turkish forces and revolutionary powers in north Syria region.
Q: What is your stance regarding plans for bringing back refugees from Turkey to Syria?
A: The refugee crisis is a major humanitarian issue that cannot be settled without providing a safe environment and decent standards for the returnees. These conditions cannot be achieved before reaching an international-sponsored political settlement. The partial return whether from Turkey or any other country does not solve this issue, as it will be very limited. There are refugees already return voluntarily whether for losing hope of reaching a political settlement or for failing to secure their essential needs in the countries of asylum.
Q: The issue of detainees is one of the most suspicious files which has left unsolved so far, in your opinion, why does ambiguity surround this serious issue and how do you explain the international community’s indifference to find urgent solution?
A: Unfortunately, we pay the cost of inaction by international actors and inability of international community and all affiliated institutions, including human rights, humanitarian and political institutions. Meanwhile, revolutionary and opposition powers and local human rights organisations stress that the issue of detainees is above negotiations and it must not be abdicated or open to political negotiations. We see that the Syrian regime has been betting on this issue when it comes to address affairs of interior and foreign policies or proceed with negotiations, taking advantage of international powers’ complicity.
Unless the UN Security Council issues decisive decisions or the file is referred to the International Criminal Court, Syrians will have to wait desperately for decisions by the regime to release a few detainees every time it wants to send messages to the international community, waste time or circumvent political settlement.
Q: How can the international community be pushed to break the deadlock and bring the crisis of detainees and forcibly disappeared people to an end?
A: There is a clear path, but it needs a strong will by the international community which can head to the United Nations General Assembly and refereeing the crimes and violations committed by the Syrian regime to the International Criminal Court. This is the shortest path for justice and consoling the victims of these violations.
Q: Does reaching a solution for the Syrian crisis depend on the swinging international stance? And how can international resolutions and decisions be proceeded with and fulfilled?
It seems that the situation in Syria, regarding the efforts aiming to reach a solution for the crisis, has been frozen since 2015 due to the image portrayed by international actors on the frame of “no victor and no vanquished,” regardless the advancement achieved by regime forces and their proxies which captured large swaths of Syrian geography under the ceasefire truce or through using extreme power, especially the violent Russian airstrikes. This frozen situation is also manifested in the zero outcomes achieved so far by the constitutional committee, although seven rounds of negotiations were held.
Q: How do you see the escalating Israeli strikes in Syrian territory?
A: The occupier of the Syria Golan targets everything threatening its security. Israel sees that the current regime is the best, and it does not mind Bashar Al-Assad being in power, especially with the heavy losses his army has been inflicted. Israel aims at not enabling Iran and its proxy militias to be stationed in nearby areas or to establish effective supply lines that may impact on Israel in the future.
Q: How can the Syrian crisis be brought to an end in light of the failure to fulfil international resolutions, especially Resolution No. 2254?
A: Although international resolutions, which are related to the Syrian crisis, have been designed to reach a settlement and Syrian-Syrian agreement preserving the sovereignty and unity of Syria, these resolutions are unachievable. The Resolution No. 2254 stipulates the establishment of an inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers. This means that all relevant bodies have to reach a consensus regarding this governing body. This will never happens as long as the regime keeps refusing any other bodies to share power. So the Syrian regime has deliberately circumvented every negotiation with the aim of wasting time. Accordingly, the national and regional influence has been reduced for the favour of the international powers which have drafted this resolution. This situation is not promising of an imminent solution for the crisis.