To No Avail, Daraa’s People File Their Complaints to Russians
Russia continues to equivocate and procrastinate in Daraa governorate, southern Syria, as it offers people promises of meeting their demands but without further practical steps.
The Russian military and armored vehicles are seen wandering in the southern region almost every day, especially the western parts of it, including the Yarmouk Basin, which was once controlled by the Islamic State/IS and Qunietra, adjacent to the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel.
Last July, Assad’s forces and their Russian allies managed to take over the tow governorate of Daraa and Qunietra under a settlement deal, after days of shelling and military reinforcements, given the Russian guarantees offered to people and opposition factions.
An Assad Officer Accompanies Russians all the Time
On February 19, the spokesperson of the Russian Reconciliation Center, Colonel Igor Fedorov, said that the people of Daraa are resorting to Russians to solve many of their affairs, which they cannot address themselves, including knowing the whereabouts of their relatives and problems relating to residency, housing and real-estate, according to TASS Russian News Agency.
The official explained that 500 applications have been filed to the Russian Reconciliation Center/Daraa Branch, concerning the distribution and housing of Syrian refugees, as well as demanding news about their relatives’ fate or solving some of their pending issues.
On February 18, Vladimir Ivanovskiy, head of the Russian Military Police, said that the civilian population has formed a positive image of the “Russian military policeman”.
The Russians are conducting periodic visits to the villages of Houran, where they are meeting people and hearing their general demands. The visits covered schools and medical centers. The people, on their turn, filed applications relating the preservation of the schools’ infrastructure, the renovation and construction of new classes, the foundation of a new medical post, the maintenance and reoperation of public facilities, including water and electricity’s infrastructure.
On the condition of anonymity, a teacher from the Yarmouk Basin told Enab Baladi that the Education Directorate attempted to renovate and maintain the destroyed schools, including the restrooms, doors and windows. However, the majority of the areas are in need of new classes.
The teacher, a fifty-year-old renowned figure in the area, added that the Directorate has filed demands to the Russians during meetings, which they recorded but so far have not implemented.
The Russians insist on asking people about the status of the services in the western area, as if conducting a study of the reality of livelihood and services as to come up with an estimated cost of the rehabilitation of the area. Citizens there have applied for the renovation of roads, potholes and bumps. Nonetheless, neither the government nor the Russian guarantor has provided any of the demanded services, while the people are stuck in a state of boredom and absence of hope that their demands would be realized by the Russians.
The meetings with the Russians were limited to service-related demands, news about the detainees and the rehiring of the employees, while avoiding touching upon political themes, knowing that the Russians ask the people to speak freely. But the idea is that the Russians are always accompanied by an officer of the Military Security, affiliated with the Assad’s forces, and a translator, who the people view as an instrument of the Military Security Service.
We Want the Detainees Not Services, Citizens
The people’s general demand in Syria, particularly in Daraa, is exposing the destiny of the detainees held captures by the Syrian regime, given that the release of the detainees was the first demand that Russia promised to meet upon negotiating with the people prior to the Assad’s forces control, as it asked for accurate statistics about them. So far, no progress has been marked in relation to this cause.
Abu Mahmoud, a 70-year-old citizen from the town of Muzayrib, met the Russian soldiers and asked them to allow him to see his two sons, who the regime arrested four years ago.
“I told the Russians that we do not want services, we want the detainees. They welcomed me and recorded my request. Months have passed and nothing happened. I have no hope in seeing my sons. May God relief all the detained,” he said to Enab Baladi.
In October 2018, a meeting was held, bringing together the civil and the people’s representative entities with the Russians in the city of Tafas. The attendees’ demands focused on the realization of the promises made by the Russian guarantor.
At the end of the meeting, the Russian guarantor asked for a list with the names of the detainees who have been arrested in previous years and the employees dismissed for having anti-regime opinions. He also pledged to legalize the diplomas issued by the Opposition Coalition.
Russia and the Regime, Two Sides of the Same Coin
Since the beginning of the settlement, the Russians presented themselves as guarantors who will be preventing the regime’s alignment to security control and arresting those who opposed it, but the guarantor has been giving a blind eye to the hundreds of arrests against the people since the settlement went into force.
Enab Baladi obtained a census, issued by the Daraa Martyrs’ Documentation Center on February 13, showing that the number of persons detained by the Syrian regime in Daraa governorate since the signing of the settlement deal as 312 persons, including 132 fighters of the Free Army, of whom 26 are leaders who died under torture and detention-related conditions.
On the condition of anonymity, a leader of the former Free Army, said: “The Russians are there, and the people are actually resorting to them. They are a safety valve in the interest of the regime only, for they interfere only when the matters relating to the interests of the settlement or when it is about to collapse, similar to what happened after the Daraa al-Balad demonstration.”
The leader added that many meetings are being held with the Russians, but they always make promises which they do not meet. They did not meet the obligations they stated during the settlement deal’s negotiations, including the release of the detainees and the rehiring of the dismissed employees. On the contrary, the arrests rocketed in the presence of the Russian guarantor.
Ahmad al-Ammar, a former employee at the Local Administration Ministry of the Interim Government, attributed his departure from Daraa to northern Syria to his lack of trust in the promises made by the Russian guarantor.
“Russia, which destroyed, killed and supported the regime would not be a peace bird and would bring neither blessings nor safety to Southern Syria. The regime has arrested colleagues of mine and women, with no regard to the Russian promises nor their presence in the area,” al-Ammar said.
The former employee believes that the Russians ad the regime are two sides of the same coin, and all that the regime is doing is a pleasure to the Russians, for their ultimate target is to have full control of Syria.