Local armed faction expels IDPs from Foua and Kefraya villages

“Abu Abdullah al-Shami,” an IDP from Damascus countryside, during a demonstration against his eviction from the village of Foua in the northern countryside of Idlib - 24 June 2022 (local networks)

“Abu Abdullah al-Shami,” an IDP from Damascus countryside, during a demonstration against his eviction from the village of Foua in the northern countryside of Idlib - 24 June 2022 (local networks)

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Enab Baladi – Idlib

“Where can we go (we don’t have a place)? We want to live in dignity, in a place that no faction can approach,” Abu Abdullah al-Shami, one of the IDPs of Damascus suburbs to northern Syria, talked about his expulsion from a house in Foua village in the northern countryside of Idlib.

Al-Shami’s cry, which was mixed with sadness, disappointment, and grief, came to reflect his living hardships as he has been living with his wife and six children for about two weeks in a small room that he found in orchards near the town of Sarmada, north of Idlib, after his expulsion from Foua village by the al-Sham Legion, following constant pressure over the years, and its intensity increased months ago by the local armed faction.

For seven months, al-Shami and his family faced harassment, complaints, and “lawsuits” to vacate the house, according to what he told Enab Baladi.

He was forced to leave it under the pretext that it was a booty for the al-Sham Legion, which is considered one of the key units of the National Liberation Front deployed in Idlib and Aleppo.

The displaced, who settled in Foua in 2018, considered that the homes of the villages of Foua and Kefraya are not considered spoils for these factions, and the IDPs have the right to live in them.

The opposition factions took control of Kefraya and Foua under an agreement stipulating the displacement of the residents of the two villages, which were besieged by the factions, in exchange for the displacement of residents from other towns, such as Zabadani and Madaya, to northern Syria.

Since 2018, the military factions in Idlib have harassed dozens of displaced families from the countryside of Damascus, Homs and its countryside, Daraa, Quneitra, and others, located in Foua and Kefraya, which inhabited the area in place of the original residents who came out with an agreement between the military factions on the one hand, and Iran and the Syrian regime on the other.

No solutions

Al-Shami tried to resort to other factions for intervention and mediation and to find a solution to his problem through negotiation, such as paying the amount because he does not pay rent for housing and signing a contract with the faction, but the al-Sham Legion refused that and insisted on expelling him.

“Al-Sham Legion has 92 houses, and it has the right to evict whoever and whenever it wants,” al-Shami quoted one of the faction commanders.

Al-Sham Legion insisted on his eviction because he was among the first to go out in demonstrations rejecting the removal of the displaced from the homes of the two villages.

Last June, the village of Foua witnessed a demonstration of dozens of people in protest against the decision of the al-Sham Legion in the region to evict them from their homes, rejecting the decision of the “military court” of the faction.

At that time, the faction issued a warning to evacuate about 20 houses within a maximum period of one week.

Sources in the village told Enab Baladi that the faction’s “military court” decided to evacuate more than 130 houses.

The demonstrations ended with a “reconciliation session” and promises not to evict any family from their home, but the harassment returned three months after the demonstrations stopped.

Eviction without compensation, replacement

The IDP families, who had lived in Kefraya and Foua for years, were forced to rehabilitate the homes, and the restoration took months, according to each family’s ability.

A “decision” was issued by the local “court” to evict al-Shami and his family from the house and prevent him from taking out any of his furniture without any compensation, despite the costs he paid for the house in return for installing doors, windows, painting, and many maintenance procedures.

Al-Shami’s family is one of the dozens of families who have been harassed for months, including a displaced family from Darayya town and a widowed woman from the town of Kafruma in the southern countryside of Idlib, which forced all families to leave and search for a new shelter.

Enab Baladi contacted Saif Abu Omar, press officer of the National Liberation Front, to which the al-Sham Legion is affiliated, to obtain clarification about the expulsion of the family, but it did not receive a response.

The year 2021 witnessed the expulsion of 15 families from the two villages by the Jaysh al-Ahrar faction operating in the region and the 15 displaced families headed from the village of al-Buwaydah in the Damascus countryside to the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.

The neighboring Kefraya and Foua villages are located in the northern countryside of Idlib, six to seven kilometers from the city of Idlib.

They were divided into sectors after they were controlled by several factions, most notably Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and its people of the Shiite sect were expelled in 2018, following the HTS agreement with Iran, which attached great importance to the file of the two Shiite villages.

Tahrir al-Sham reached an agreement with Iran that stipulates the exit of all fighters from the villages of Kefraya and Foua in exchange for the release of detainees and prisoners of the Syrian regime.

The agreement was confined to Tahrir al-Sham, apart from other military factions, and included the release of detainees whose names were registered with Tahrir al-Sham, which handed over prisoners, including fighters of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

Idlib’s military factions are accused of following a systematic policy of disturbing the IDPs, but they deny such allegations.

Deteriorating living reality

The eviction by the factions that control the two villages of many of the displaced families is repeated at a different pace, as it calms down in cases of protests and soon returns after months.

After demonstrations and protests for several years, Abu Abdullah al-Shami, who considered that the issue is more general and comprehensive than his case, called for the need not to displace people from their homes.

The displaced man asked for the factions to stop harassing civilians, pointing out that their place is the combat fronts, calling for the necessity of respecting people and not infringing on the rights and sanctities of homes.

Al-Shami told Enab Baladi that he desires to live in dignity without fear of security prosecution by any faction because he demanded his right and the rights of the displaced people.

The eviction of families comes with the onset of winter amid deteriorating living and economic conditions in most regions of northern Syria.

At least 85% of the families in the northwestern regions depend on daily wages for their financial income, and 94% of the families suffer from the inability to afford basic needs.

 

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