Al-Qamishli’s residents hesitant to return home despite truce after recent clashes

Residents from the Tayy neighborhood returning to their houses after the truce announcement - 26 April 2021 (Hawar News Agency)

Residents from the Tayy neighborhood returning to their houses after the truce announcement - 26 April 2021 (Hawar News Agency)

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On the evening of 25 April, the Kurdish-led Internal Security Forces (ISF), also known as Asayesh, announced a perpetual truce under Russian auspices to prevent further hostilities by the Syrian regime-affiliated National Defense Forces (NDF) militia and end the clashes that erupted four days before declaring the truce.

The latest fighting between the two sides started after the Asayesh tried to arrest one of the commanders of the NDF’s affiliated popular committees in the Tayy neighborhood in al-Qamishli city, which was controlled by the Syrian regime then.

Tension escalated quickly between the Asayesh and the NDF, and the fighting expanded to include the entire Tayy and Halko neighborhoods with the use of different types of weapons.

Between the advancement and withdrawal of forces from both sides, civilians rushed to flee their houses, which were at the center of armed confrontations. 

The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) affiliated forces, Asayesh, took full control over the Tayy neighborhood in al-Qamishli after the former Russian truce with the NDF was breached.

On 25 April, the official Facebook account of Asayesh posted a statement in which it announced that residents of the Tayy  neighborhood are free to return to their houses after checking with security posts to “ensure a safe entry and soundness of their properties.”

Fear, displacement, and lootings

Forty-year-old Ghalia Mustafa lives in the Halko neighborhood, which lies under the shared control of Asayesh and regime forces. As the clashes intensified and approached her house, the mother of two had to flee with her children for fear of their safety.  

“We thought the security tension would be limited to the Tayy neighborhood as usual; however, things heated up quickly, and members of the NDF entered our building and asked us to leave. We left in a hurry with just the clothes on our back, some necessary stuff, and official documents. Soon after, the majority of families became displaced from the neighborhood,” al-Mustafa said. 

Al-Mustafa’s greatest fear was the possibility of her house being looted or destroyed during the fighting, and despite the announced truce between the two sides, she could not return to her property, where the regime forces were stationed.

Fearing that the tense situation might be prolonged, al-Mustafa moved out of the al-Khaleej neighborhood, the first destination after her displacement, to a village in southern al-Qamishli pending the regime forces exit from her house.

Thirty-five-year-old Musaab al-Abd lives in the Corniche neighborhood on the contact line between Asayesh and the NDF. The heavy fighting forced al-Abd, his wife, and three children to spend the night at the interior corridor of their house away from main rooms and their windows overlooking the street and at risk of stray bullets or shattered glass.

 “We stayed awake all night, my children included; they were terrified. I could hear Asayesh members’ footsteps on my roof besides firing sounds coming from very close sources,” al-Abd said.

Al-Abd and his family fled their area to the al-Arbawiyah neighborhood for some time. When he returned to check on his house, he found the main door open with a broken lock pierced by gunshots. A passage was also made through the wall shared with the neighbor’s house, while some furniture pieces were missing from his home.

Ibrahim al-Hamdi, aged 42, left the Tayy neighborhood and the city of al-Qamishli altogether. He headed to the Dabbanah village in the southern countryside of al-Hasakah province. According to al-Hamdi, the village hosted a “large” number of people who fled the Tayy neighborhood. Some of them chose to stay while others left to other villages. 

Recently, al-Hamdi returned to his house to find it in good condition except for the water tank on the roof, which now needs to be replaced after getting pierced by dozens of bullets.

Mohammed Shaheen, aged 35, was not as lucky as al-Hamdi, for his house in the Tayy neighborhood was completely robbed of its belongings. “Everything is gone! the washing machine, the microwave, the laptop, the entire kitchen kit, the motorcycle, and the dryer rack,” Shaheen said.

Enab Baladi has come to know that not all of the NDF members’ families have returned to the Tayy neighborhood, particularly the big al-Lilo family, which includes about 30 subfamilies for fear of prosecution and arrest by Asayesh.

 

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