Raqqa: IDPs suffer countless security raids, arrests

Troops of the US-backed SDF while carrying out an arrest campaign inside Ratla camp in the southeastern countryside of Raqqa - 6 May 2022 (SDF’s Military Media / Facebook)

Troops of the US-backed SDF while carrying out an arrest campaign inside Ratla camp in the southeastern countryside of Raqqa - 6 May 2022 (SDF’s Military Media / Facebook)

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Raqqa – Hussam al-Omar

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) carried out an arrest campaign on sporadic displaced camps in northeastern Raqqa governorate amid talks by the officials of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to merge the IDP camps.

The Kurdish-led forces raided the Ratla camp in the southeastern countryside of Raqqa and arrested two people on charges of “financing Islamic State (IS) cells with individual weapons and explosive devices,” according to the SDF accounts on Facebook.

Another raid was also carried out on the Hawija al-Sawafi camp, south of Raqqa, where four people were arrested on charges of “weapons smuggling.”

Frequent raid campaigns

Hassiba a-Musleh, 38, from the al-Yunani camp, south of Raqqa, said that she was unable to calm her children after they started crying and screaming when they heard the sounds of SDF fighters preparing their weapons during a raid they carried out inside the camp in late April.

Al-Musleh added to Enab Baladi that SDF elements raided the camp at night and arrested four young men, accusing them of collaborating with the IS group.

She indicated that it was not the first time that such raids had taken place in the camp.

The displaced people of the random camps that are spread over the countryside of Raqqa are victims of raids carried out by the SDF accompanied by the Kurdish Internal Security (Asayish), during which the displaced men are arrested, and most of them are later released.

The IDPs complain about the repeated security raids, with all the tension in the area controlled by the Autonomous Administration in the Raqqa region.

Measures to avoid raids

To avoid further raids in his camp, Shaher al-Khalidi, 36, collected the identity cards and identification papers of the men living in the al-Hukoumiya camp near the town of Hazima (25 km) north of Raqqa and handed them over to the local council in the town for verification.

Al-Khalidi told Enab Baladi that local officials asked him to collect identification papers and submit them to the local council to ensure the security situation of the men living in the camp and the absence of persons wanted by the security authorities in order to avoid future raids, he said.

There are 58 random camps located in the countryside of Raqqa city, inhabited by displaced people, most of whom come from the governorates of Homs, Hama, and Deir Ezzor.

Most IDPs are entitled to the sponsorship system imposed by the Autonomous Administration on arrivals to its areas in northern and eastern Syria from other regions.

Asayish: Raids are proactive measure

An Asayish source told Enab Baladi that the security raids are preemptive measures taken to prevent any security breach in the area, with a large number of released Islamic State militants living in the random camps.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, said that the Autonomous Administration would resort in the future to removing the random camps and merging them into official camps for which heavy security is placed to prevent wanted persons from hiding among the civilians living in the camps.

The source also acknowledged that most of the people who are arrested are released later because they are innocent and not found guilty, but this does not prevent appropriate security measures, including raids, from being taken, he said.

Plan to merge IDP camps

The officials in the Autonomous Administration revealed on 8 May a plan to merge random IDP camps in Raqqa, according to the Administration’s official website.

Abdulnasser Hamy of the Camps and Displaced Affairs Office in the Democratic Civil Administration said the office seeks to merge random camps.

The local official, who coordinates with international and local associations, pointed out that the goal of merging the camps is to install a real database of the displaced people coming from the regime-held areas or from areas “occupied” by Turkey, as he said.

According to Hamy, the number of informal camps in Raqqa is 58, sheltering 16,150 families distributed in Raqqa and its countryside.

In late January, the SDF announced the arrest of 27 people accused of joining the Islamic State group in random camps in the eastern countryside of Raqqa, following a major security campaign.

The SDF said that its units raided a number of points that the IS cells used to hide and prepare for security operations launched from inside these camps.

However, local news accounts accused the SDF of raiding camps inhabited by civilians and arresting people, including elderly people, on charges of collaborating with the Islamic State.

 

 

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