Sun 27 May 2018

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What Prevents the Displaced People’s Return to Al-Hasakah’s Southern Countryside?

Expressive – Two displaced children in rural al-Hasakah – 2013.

Expressive – Two displaced children in rural al-Hasakah – 2013.

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That who visits the southern countryside of al-Haskah governorate can observe the deep changes that stormed the area in the past a few years, especially in the towns that formed conflict lines between the “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF), who are in control of the region, and the fighters of the “Islamic State” (IS).

According to people, most of the villages and towns in the southern countryside of the governorate have been wiped out of the map, from where the people have been displaced to various areas, which reduced the number of people from dozens of thousand to less than five thousand.

Most of the areas in southern al-Hasakah are inhabited by “al- Jabour, al-Bakara and Al-Akidat” tribes, while the Ash Shaddadi city, 51 kilometers from al-Hasakah, incubates hundreds of families only, after it used to house 20 thousand people before 2013, according to human rights organizations.

Sayed al-Sayed, a 31 years old activist from al-Hasakah, describes the conditions in the southern countryside, saying: “It is a human catastrophe, that everyone tries to avoid looking at,” stressing that Ash Shaddadi and other cities are still suffering from the remnants of war.

None of the displaced people have returned; they stayed in the camps to which they were displaced, for according to Sayed, the two towns of “al-fdghmi,” east of the Khabour River, and “Kashkash Jubūr,” west the River, which occupy an area of six square kilometers, are emplaced with more than two thousand mines to the day.

The activist explains that the Markada Mountain, known as “al-Hama,” is emplaced with more than 17 thousand mines, admitted by a number of “IS” elements. In the past a few months, dozens of people died due to mine explosions, in addition to hundreds of heads of cattle that grazed in the area.

Gagged Mouths

Abu Jalal (52 years), a displaced man from Ash Shaddadi, who today lives in the Turkish city of Urfa, says that the problem in this geographical area is not limited to the remnants of war. The area is actually suffering from lacking services which prevents the displaced people’s return.

The man points out: “Arabs are not allowed to protest about their situation, for any rising voice is suppressed by the Kurdish Self- Management,” considering that, “IS and the Kurdish forces have emptied the area of its people and are seeking to make the area more secure for the military bases deployed there, including the American base”.

Abu Jalal also points out to security risks that threaten the area to the day, for “IS” operations have not yet ceased in this area, that contains sleeper cells, in addition to the repeated occurrences that keep targeting the people, while “SDF patrols do not dare to roam the area at night”.

“The current situation is igniting the fires of futuristic wars between the area’s components,” according to Abu Jalal, who thinks that “the displacement of the area’s people is not a solution and is of no use, and that suppressive practices would trigger people to resist an illegitimate authority”.

According to activists from al-Hasakah, the two towns of “al-fdghmi and Kashkash,” used to incubate about 600 houses before 2013 and the number of their residents exceeded ten thousand, but they were totally destroyed during the battles. The people were displaced to the nearby deserts and the area of Al Jazirah, in addition to a segment who went abroad.

Dilemma that Lacks a Solution

In his interview with Enab Baladi, Abu Fedaa (34 years), a man displaced from the southern countryside of the governorate, who now lives in al-Hasakah, said: “the area’s people are lacking many services and pointed out that the people are dying of cold and epidemics, whether in the camps or in their gatherings in the desert”.

The young man blames the authority that is controlling the area, considering that “it did not prepare suitable conditions that allow for the people’s return to their areas to get back their normal lives”. He wonders: “If we acknowledged the security threats and the remnants of war, why does not SDF move to comb the area and remove the mines?”

“It is a dilemma that has no solution in the meantime,” according  to Abu Yazan (27 years), an “SDF” volunteer, who believes that cleaning the area of “IS” remnants “would take a lot of time”.

The young an says that the civilians are not qualified to deal with weapons and remnants, assuring that they led to many deaths; “the local management and SDF, in cooperation with international organizations and the US-led coalition are paying a huge effort to help people and clear their areas; however, the process would take a long time considering the large number of mines that have been emplaced in wide areas”.

The area’s people are facing various other difficulties that are no less sever or threatening, including their inability to make a living when agriculture, their main occupation, has stopped. According to Abu Yazan, “the whole infrastructure has been destroyed including water and electricity networks, schools and facilities, in addition to the missing means of life”.

Some of the people, whom Enab Baladi interviewed, demanded compensation for the harm that befell them during the past years, pointing to the “Self-Management which is deemed as responsible for the area and that is receiving international aid on the pretext of reconstruction, which it is exploiting to develop the areas it controls and that are less damaged, at the expense of the towns that have an Arab majority and most of which have been destroyed”.

Other people complain that the areas, where they are allowed to return to, do not have habitable houses, repeating the following phrases: “How can we go back, where to are we supposed to return since all our houses are destroyed and we lack the capacity to reconstruct them without help?”

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