Syrian Regime Adopts a “Soft” Policy to Circumvent Daraa’s Settlement Deal
Six months into the “settlement deal,” signed by the factions of the southern area and Assad’s forces, it is clear that the Syrian regime is adopting a calm soft policy, which applies to statements and promises, while at the same time, procedurally speaking, it is utilizing oppression, which aims to enhance the security grip in the future.
Despite the promises that the terms of the settlement deal provided for, and which Russia guaranteed, the Syrian regime did not commit itself to them, inspiring concern among civilians, especially with the arrests and dragging young men to compulsory and reserve military service that did not stop since last August to the day. In addition to this, the regime is practicing pretrial seizure of the possessions of personalities, known to have previously worked with the opposition, both civilians and militants.
What enhances the civilian’s fear the most is the approaching end of the “settlement” deal, specified as six months only, for January is supposed to mark the end of the agreement between Russia and the opposition, after which the area will be entering a new phase, the consequences of which are unknown at the level of tightening the security grip or making a shift to different conditions that might mitigate the tension of the mainstream in Daraa.
In the past a few days, Southern Syria witnessed dozens of demonstrations in Daraa al-Balad, during which people demanded the release of the detainees and condemned the practices of the security branches of the Syrian regime. This action was accompanied by tearing up the photos of Bashar al-Assad, head of the Syrian regime, in el-Karak and Da’el, writings on the walls and calls for the “Ba’ath Party” and the regime’s security services to step down.
On What Allegations the Arrests are Taking Place?
For the past six months, security services did not take a break, for the arrest campaigns kept targeting civilians based on several pretexts, on top of which are personally filled suits, affiliation to the “Islamic State” (ISIS), dealing with Israel and the former factions of the “Free Army”.
Concerning the lawsuits, these have been filed by civilians, who accused commanders and personnel of the “Free Army” of killing their relatives or families in the exchanged shelling, witnessed by Daraa al-Balad and al-Mahatta before August 2018, in addition to the kidnappings that the area massively suffered.
As for the rest of the detentions, the security branches, in the past months, have arrested several former commanders of the “Free Army” on the accusations of doing intelligence and cooperation with Israel, on top of whom were Adeeb al-Fares al-Bairqdar, a commander of the “Omari Brigades” in the al-Lajat area and Ahmad al-Faroukh, former commander of the “Syrian Revolutionaries Front,” who appeared on Sama TV after being arrested by the regime, handcuffed and showing signs of fear while talking.
Al-Faroukh spoke of Israel and the nature of the relations it had with some of the Daraa factions; he also admitted kidnapping a person called “Bassam al-Jrad” and participating in the battles against the Assad’s forces in Quneitra governorate.
Enab Baladi obtained statistics from the “Daraa’s Martyrs Documentation Office” showing the number of the people arrested by the Syrian regime since the settlement deal was signed, which pointed that 312 persons, including 132 fighters of the “Free Army,” were arrested, of whom 26 commanders, were killed under torture.
Other 16 detainees, former opposition fighters, have joined the Assad’s forces and were arrested later, in addition to eight abductees, held in captive with the aim of getting a ransom in return for their release, according to the statistics.
Pretrial Seizure References
The violation of the “Settlement” deal’s terms was not limited to detentions, for the Syrian regime has seized the possessions of activists and some of the commanders who previously worked with the opposition factions.
In the past a few months, while getting the regularization document, under the deal, and receiving the records showing the real estate they possess and the purchases and sell actions, the activists were surprised by a reference to pretrial seizure, and they were asked to refer to the “Terrorism Court” in Damascus.
The seizure covered the possessions of the majority of activists, humanitarian organizations’ workers, the members of the Provincial Council, Association of Ahl Horan (People of Horan Association), the directors of the local councils of the major cities and some expats, who have property inside Syria and to whom the Syrian regime pointed charges of offering support to the Syrian opposition.
Prof. Sulaiman al-Qarfan, the Bâtonnier of the former Bar Association in Daraa Governorate, said that the seizure covered most of the activists of the Provincial Council’s members, local councils and workers of the humanitarian organizations, including those of the UN.
These decrees were issued since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, such as Decree No: 10, which provided for annulling the real estate records and the initiation of new ones, as to cancel the ownership of opposition figures. There were many other laws and decrees which serve this end, including Decree No: 6, he informed Enab Baladi.
The laws of pretrial seizure were not directed at the personal possessions of the activists alone, but they also covered ascendants and descendants, which is a violation of the law, because, according to al-Qarfan “the right into ownership is protected by all international constitutions, and it is prohibited to violet an international constitutional convention”.
Pretrial seizure is method to impose pressure and a punishment to every opposition figure, which followed a path different from the regime’s. Al-Qarfan pointed out that “Bashar al-Assad is seeking revenge against his opposers, citing what Hafez al-Assad did to his opposers in the eighties of the last century.”
Confirming al-Qarfan’s comment, a member of the former Daraa Provincial Council, on the condition of anonymity, told Enab Baladi that the seizure of the activists’ properties reflects the regime’s oppression-based policy and leads to a massive fear of the future, especially if the regime manages to unquestionably have its security grip tightened.
On a similar note, under the Syrian regime’s violation of the “settlement” deal’s terms, it is worth mentioning that the Syrian regime is not acknowledging the diplomas issued by the Syrian opposition’s educational departments, both the “Syrian Interim Government” and the “Syrian Coalition.”
A delegation, consisting of Education University and Teacher Preparation Institute’s students, graduates of the “Free Daraa University,” visited a the Syrian regime’s Education Directorate to wonder about their fate, the latter’s answer was “we do not recognize your diplomas. […] You can keep them to yourselves.”
Prof. Ammar al-Ahmad told Enab Baladi that the “nonrecognition of the Coalition’s diplomas has destroyed the future of a massive number of young people, especially who are now at the age of the military draft.”
“The on-ground changes and the control of the Syrian regime led to the cessation of the universities in the liberated areas. Today, the regime recognizes neither the high school certificate nor my education at the pharmacy department, and I cannot apply to high school exams at the regime’s schools as I am summoned to military service,” Mohammad Omar, a Pharmacy student, told Enab Baladi.
In parallel, none of the delisted employees’ return to their positions was registered since the “Settlement” deal was signed. The Syrian regime depends only on its staff, against which dismissal orders were not issued.
The terms of the deal, under which the Syrian regime controlled the southern area, provided for the employees’ return to their positions, and the negotiations committee demanded that the Russian guarantor implement its promises of the employees’ return as the heads of the community and civil entities demanded in a meeting with the Russian side, held in the city of Tafas, that Russians commit themselves to the deal’s terms, including the rehiring of employees. The Russian side only counted the delisted employees and documented their names.
Containment and Ease of Tension
As a natural result to the producers undertaken by the Syrian regime, arrests and seizure of the properties of activists and civilians in Daraa, the province witnessed a state of inflating tension, the repercussions of which were manifested by the demonstrations and the writings on the walls, as well as the so called “popular resistance’s” attack against one of the barracks of the Assad’s forces in the area of Tafas on January 16.
Days before the end of the “settlement” deal, the Syrian regime seeks to ease the tension with procedures and promises, the last of which was the regularization of status which the “National Security” conducted, covering 115 thousand persons in Daraa and Quneitra.
Through a voice recording obtained by Enab Baladi, lawyer Adnan al-Masalmeh, a member of the reconciliation committee, said that a general regularization of status was issued in the past a few days, covering 115 thousand people, which means cancelling the arrest at checkpoints and security branches, in addition to a deferent of six months to those evading compulsory and reserve military service. However, to the day, none of these promises was met.
What presents itself as a point worth contemplating, throughout the past six months, is that the military landscape in the areas controlled by Assad’s forces in Daraa is still has the same face, the same “Free Army” personnel and checkpoints, but it is the fluttering flag that is different, as the regime’s flag has replaced that of the revolution.
The Syrian regime worked as to contain the youth energy through allowing application for the military units, such as the “4th Division” and the “Military Security,” and followed a method based on luring the young men by saying that the service will be limited to areas within the southern region and that it would be considered part of the regular service.
According to Enab Baladi’s sources, 2000 persons with a regularized status joined the 4th Division, which established two camps for the training of recruits, the first is the al-Talaaye Camp in the town of Zayzun and the second is in the town of Muzayrib, under the name of “al-Saaiqa/Strike Center”.
In addition to this, hundreds of young men applied to the Military Security and the Intelligence services. In the beginning of the settlement, there was a competition about applying to the two military formations of the 4th Division and the 5th Legion, but after the western rural Daraa’s refusal to fight beside the regime in Idlib, the “legion” dissolved itself and the majority of its troops joined the “4th Division.”