When Islam (25 years old) was displaced from her town in rural Damascus to the reservoir of displaced people in Northern Syria, she made her best to overcome the dilemma of identity and official documents, which has become the “bitter” reality of Syrian people wherever they went.
Islam’s daughter, born in Idlib, was one of the “luckiest select”, as her mother succeeded to enlist her name under a civil birth record documenting the names of displaced people and evacuees who were sent to Idlib.
But why would Islam do her best to register her daughter in the civil records of the Syrian regime’s government?
A Civil Department for the Displaced Persons
The problem of identity and official documents remains one of the central controversies engulfing the fluctuating civil life in Syria throughout the pervious years; however, the problem’s repercussions inflated in the opposition-held areas, under the absence of recognized civil departments there, backed by the evacuees and the displaced people’s loss of the majority of their identification documents, the substitute of which cannot be issued or retrieved easily.
In the shadow of the crisis, the Civil Affairs Department of the Ministry of Interior under the “Salvation Government” initiated a Birth Registry Department, for the documentation of births, deaths and other civil affairs’ issues related to internally displaced persons and escapees who are based in the different parts of Idlib governorate. The department is called the “Displaced People’s Secretariat” with the aim to preserve the internally displaced people’s birth line and possessions, according to Talal Zuaieb the Deputy Mister of Interior under the “Salvation Government”.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, Zuaieb added that the IDPs Civil Registry Department in Idlib has registered about 900 births among the displaced people since its formation, pointing out that the procedures followed for recording births provide for documenting the birth at the nearest mayor’s office in the presence of two witnesses, then bringing a birth certificate stamped by the doctor or the midwife, presenting it to the “Displaced people’s Secretariat” to enlist it in the civil records and to be added to the family record of the displaced family.
Zuaieb explained that the Births registry documents all births, from the age of one day to one year only, as for the births who have exceeded the official registration age, parents should issue police reports prior to registering the birth in the department. In case the child is more than seven years, he or she will not be registered officially in the records unless a specialized committee issues an order.
As for the difficulties facing the “Displaced People’s Secretariat”, the Deputy Minister of Interior said that they are limited to the displaced people’s not owning identification documents that prove who they are, or their documents being held by the Syrian regime, in addition to financial obstacles.
The “Displaced People’s Secretariat” was administratively under the Syrian Interim Government, but the “Salvation Government”, formed late in 2017, took hold of the file and imposed itself by naming minsters and took over the area’s administrative and service-related management.
The “Salvation Government” is accused of receiving support from “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham”, the reason which distanced it from the popular incubator.
The most complicated problem, however, is the Ministry’s, under the “Salvation Government”, lack of sufficient data about the people who were displaced or fled to Idlib, the number of whom has went beyond the mark of 1.16 million people, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ statistics.
Commenting on this, Talal Zuaieb said that the ministry is working to solve this problem through a form called the “IDP Form”, through which a complete census of the number of the people who were displaced to Idlib will be conducted and a civil registry initiated to each of them.
Are the Issued Documents Officially Recognized?
The work of the “Displaced people’s Secretariat” is not limited to the registration of births. It includes the registration of all civil affairs, the most important of which are marriages and divorce, the granting of family cards, for the first time, and issuing documents instead of lost ones, as well as documenting deaths.
According to the ” Displaced people’s Secretariat,” 1,300 marriage cases and 300 death cases have been documented, in addition to 1,100 family records.
The Ministry of the Interior of the “Salvation Government” has not been able to resolve the dilemma of granting identity documents to displaced people, hostilities escapees or to the people who are originally from Idlib, as in all areas outside the control of the Syrian regime.
Nevertheless, the importance of the step reached in the registration of newborns in Idlib cannot be denied, but the problems are still hovering around the civil institutions of the Syrian opposition, especially with regard to the official recognition of the documents it gives. The recognition of these documents often does not exceed the boundaries of the governorate of Idlib itself.
Islam, displaced from her hometown of Darayya in 2016, says that she registered her daughter (eight months) in the civil records of Idlib and obtained a family record accordingly, telling Enab Baladi that the registration procedures are not complicated, despite which Islam is working hard to register her daughter at the Civil Registry of the Syrian regime’s government.
“It is not about loyalty or opposition. Everyone knows that the identity documents issued by the Syrian regime are recognized wherever we go. The family record I received from the Displaced People’s Secretariat would not benefit me if I leave Idlib”, she said.
But the Deputy Minister of Interior of the “Salvation Government” told Enab Baladi that these documents have “full power” to determine the relationship of kinship in all areas of the Syrian opposition, especially in the judicial authorities, associations and civil organizations. These papers are treated officially by the Turkish government upon conducting a family reunion, similarly in Saudi Arabia during the performance of Hajj or Umrah.
“The Syrian regime does not acknowledge these documents in its areas. It has always used civil documents as a weapon against citizens who oppose it,” he said.