Open-Ended Sit-In in Sweida Demanding the Release of Women Abductees

The people of Sweida in a sit-in in front of the governorate’s Provincial Department – October 4, 2018 (Enab Baladi)

The people of Sweida in a sit-in in front of the governorate’s Provincial Department – October 4, 2018 (Enab Baladi)


In the past a few days, the Sweida governorate has witnessed a marked development in relation to the women abductees’ cause, following the “Islamic State’s” execution of the young woman Tharwat Abu Ammar, documenting it with a video, which it sent with a threat to kill the remaining women and children if its defined demands are not met.

The execution followed the Abductees’ Follow up Committee’s members’ apology for not continuing their work in a statement issued on October 2, declaring that their efforts are being hindered by several obstacles which they did not accurately report.

However, a source, close to the Committees’ members, told Enab Baladi that most of the pressure they are suffering is security-related, for the members have been subjected a strict security investigation of their connections and relations, utilized during the negotiations, in addition to the security permits they needed to make action.


Open-Ended Sit-In

Triggered by the execution of “Tharwat Abu Ammar,” dozens of the governorate’s people conducted a sit-in in front of the Sweida Provincial Department, demanding the release of the rest of the abductees and exposing their destiny.

The abductees’ relatives and activists called the people of al-Arab Mountain to step in and participate the open-ended sit-in.

In a statement, the people said: “We are waiting for you in the al-Karamah square, at the Sultan al-Atrash square, to call for the decision-makers, the state’s officials, the Akl Sheikdom and owners of power to give us our children and women back from the hands of criminality.”

The “Islamic State,” during its attacks on Sweida last July, has kidnapped 21 women and eight children.

One day after the sit-in that closed the door to the provincial department, the demonstrators received preliminary action in the negotiation, for the General Kifah al-Melhem, functioning under the Military Security, whose responsible of the fight against the “Islamic State,” met a group of the al-Shabki village’s people, telling them that the demands of the “Islamic State,” in return for which the abductees will be released, have been received.

As a part of the demands, the “Islamic State” will issue a list of its personnel, held in the Syrian regime’s prisons, to be released in return for setting free the Sweida women abductees; it also requested a million dollars for each abductee.

Currently, the negotiations for the abductees are officially run by the Akl Sheikh Hekmat al-Hajree, who met General Kefah as to discuss the exchange mechanism after the issuance of the list.

The al-Hajree has named a mediator as to conduct the negotiations between himself and the “Islamic State,” and succeeded in elongating the delaine, defined by the latter, from three days after which the women would be killed if its conditions are not implemented to an open deadline that relates to the process of negotiations and its developments.


Contempt against the “Rijal al-Karama” Movement

The remarkable thing to point out to is that the execution of the abductee followed the “Rijal al-Karama” Movement’s release of dozens of the governorate’s tribes’ citizens, who were kidnapped in the past two months, under a Russian initiative and the auspice of the Akl Sheikhdom of the Druze denomination.

The execution of the young woman’s correspondence to the release of the tribe’s abductees triggered a state of discontent among a large segment of the Sweida families, and some considered that the “Rijal al-karama” fell into the trap of the Russians and trusted the Syrian regime, which was known for its softness and leniency with the organization.

Late in August, unorganized operations in Sweida, initiated by elements of the province against nomads in the eastern countryside, were reported accusing some of them of cooperating with the “Islamic State” in the kidnapping of women and children.

Back then, the reporter explained that the arrests and raids targeted people that have nothing to do with the “Islamic State,” prompting them to send appeals to the faction of the “Army of Free Tribes ” to intervene.

On 17 August, the movement carried out raids on areas of nomadic tribes in the eastern countryside.

The “Swaida 24” network quoted a source in the “movement,” at the time, as saying that the elements raided the tribes’ areas near the village of Busan and arrested more than 15 people suspected of dealing with the “Islamic State.”

The network pointed out that the incident was preceded by a campaign in which the “movement” arrested Bedouin members, who are involved in the latest attacks on Sweida.

Indicators of the Regime’s Involvement

Enab Baladi interviewed one of the protesters, who gathered to know the destiny of the women abducted by the “Islamic State,” who pointed out that there are indicators which confirm the regime’s involvement in the issue.

He said: “All that happened lies in the interest of the regime, the first of which the Rijal al-Karama’s loss of their popular incubator and the people’s trust. The impossible ransom requested by the Islamic state, which it never demanded before, came after the regime has monitored the massive amounts of money, received to arm the governorate from all the countries that contain people from the Druze denomination, on top of whom is Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif in Golan.”

According to the participant, the “Islamic State” has not published any videos or news about the kidnapping incident on any of its official platforms after the first attacks; it also did not officially admit or negate the responsibility for the abduction process.

He believes that the Syrian regime would not accept the release of the abductees, being a proof for its involvement, pointing out that money would not be an obstacle to negotiations, but the regime’s seriousness about releasing the captives of the “Islamic State” is its last chance to justify its non-involvement and the governorate’s last chance for the release of the women abductees.

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