Thu 24 May 2018

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In Damascus Housing Centers, Young Men are Held to be Recruited  

A housing center at al-Fehaa sport club in Damascus – March 28. 2018 (Damascus Now)

A housing center at al-Fehaa sport club in Damascus – March 28. 2018 (Damascus Now)

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The housing centers which Assad’s forces have opened, under a Russian auspice, during the military campaign against Eastern Ghouta, have turned into “detention” centers for hundreds of young men who await to be recruited.  

In sync, hundreds of families look forward to their release decision to return to their towns amidst a foggy fate.

Hundreds of Young Men Await Recruitment

Yousef khatab (a pseudonym for security reasons) is waiting for the proceedings needed to legalize his state, for they have been “delayed a lot” due to the crowdedness of the housing centers, incubating Eastern Ghouta’s people.

Yousef told Enab Baladi that hundreds of young men are so far in the centers, as Assad’s forces prevent them from leaving the centers for what so ever reasons.

As for the destiny of the young men, detained in the housing centers, Yousef said that the decision is fragmented between all the entities responsible for the housing centers, “each of them gives an answer that is different from the others about our destiny.”

Assad’s forces did not specify a date for the recruitment of mandatory service escapees and army dissidents; they registered their data only and allocated a committee to follow up the issuance of identity documents for those who do not have them, according to Youssef.

The real number of the young men who left Eastern Ghouta through the “safe” crossings which Russia has opened, but the Russian Ministry of Defense has stated that the total number of the people who departed since the truce, on March 18, is about 144 thousand people.

Hundreds of Families Are Stuck

Despite the repeated promises made by Assad’s forces to Eastern Ghouta people about their return to their homes, only a limited number and were individually allowed to go back to their towns in Saqba, Kafr Batna, Arbin and Zamalka, the areas subjected to the agreement between Russia and “al-Rahman Legion,” according to an informed source, who refused to reveal his name for security reasons.

The source said that Assad’s forces have allowed a few male residents to exit gradually and according to their age, providing that they are not required to undergo mandatory or reserve services.

The age limits start from 65 down to 40 years, in addition to allowing for the exit of children, who are not 15 yet, and women, on the condition that each departing family shall provide a guarantor to leave the housing center.

Most of the displaced people left the housing centers towards the rural parts of the capital Damascus, especially the areas which witnessed reconciliations in previous years, Barzeh and al-Tal, in addition to Jaramana.

Um Ahmad, a forty years old woman, from the city of Beit Sawa in Eastern Ghouta, said that she managed to leave the housing center in Adraa after 25 days, describing the conditions of the centers as “hideous” due to sever crowdedness.

Um Ahmad failed to exit the center, until one of her acquaintances introduced himself as a guarantor, adding that she could not rent a house easily, “the prices are shocking, I could not find a house for less than 50 thousand Syrian pounds,” in Jaramana district in the east of Damascus.

To What Settlement Terms Eastern Ghouta’s People Are Subjected?

Assad forces started to legalize, settle, the state of all the people who departed from Ghouta towards their control regions during the military campaign, especially after the mass departure through the crossing, near the town of Hamouriyah in the middle of Ghouta, on the 15th of last march.

The forces give the people three papers with detailed questions requiring personal information, in addition to questions that centralize on whether a person have had worked with any of the area’s factions, according to an informed source, who is currently based in a housing center.

The source has also told Enab Baladi that the questions sought information about foreign soldiers in Ghouta, or if any of the people based in the center can give names of fighters.

The source said that the papers to be signed by the people who have legalized their state include a pledge paper with five terms.

The pledge document, which Enab Baladi apologizes for not publishing due to security reasons, includes five terms, the first of which demands that people “would not entice disobedience, demonstrate, raise slogans, write or trigger others to do so, as well as not to keep silent or hide information about the violators or those who entice such practices.”

The second term provides for “abstinence from destroying or damaging public and private possessions, bearing, owning, buying, trading or smuggling arms in any way and regardless of their type or label.”

The signee, in the third term, pledges to refrain from attacking the security forces, police and army members, with words or action. The signee admits acknowledgment of the punitive procedures in case of violations.

Organizations Cannot Meet the Demands

Thousands of people are living in ten housing centers in Damascus and its countryside, amidst crowdedness and the civil society organization’s impotence to keep up with the people’s daily needs.

The Syrian regime’s High Committee for Relief provides follow up of the housing centers’ people aid program, to be applied on the ground by the “Red Crescent” Organization via donor entities and civil society commissions.

In a mid-March report, “al-Thawra,” pro-regime newspaper, said that the majority of the organizations and associations failed to continue due to the long duration, despite the aid offered by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.

According to the newspaper, the number of the employees at these centers is 700 people; they are the personal of the social assistance fund, with half of the staff of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, who are hired to meet the needs of displaced people in the housing centers.

The number of the internally displaced families throughout Syria is 671 thousand families, the equivalent to 2.3 million people displaced from one residence to another within the same governorate or to other governorates.

572 thousand of these families stayed in the same area, to be received by their relatives and friends, according to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.

In the shadow of absent official numbers of the detained young men in the housing centers, who await recruitment, hundreds of families wait for the regime to keep its promises and allow them to go back to their towns.

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