Security officers blackmail Daraa people to clean their “security record”
Daraa – Halim Muhammad
The security men of the Syrian regime are blackmailing the wanted people from the southern governorate of Daraa to force them to pay royalties in exchange for avoiding prosecution at a time when a number of people are being targeted through assassinations.
One of the officials of the “Security Studies” Department (Security Investigation Department) in the town of Izraa, northeast of Daraa, bargained with Khaled, 40, for three million Syrian pounds in exchange for removing the security demands against his son and son-in-law, according to what he told Enab Baladi.
After a period of time, Khaled, who refused to reveal his full name for security reasons, accepted the payment. But later, he discovered that the two people whose records were required to be whitewashed were still wanted by more than one security branch, with new security reports added against them.
The Security Studies section is affiliated to the Military Security branch, and it is responsible for preparing security studies for wanted persons. Based on this “study,” the person is evaluated for security reasons, and the report of the “Studies” section affects the civilian life of the citizen.
On the other hand, Mohammad, 30, who requested that his full name not be mentioned for security reasons, refused to pay the Security Studies staff, saying that the assistant in the “Studies” department contacted him by phone, asking for 500,000 SYP (about $70) to remove the security reports issued against him.
Regarding the reason for his refusal to pay any amount, Mohammad said that the officer cannot remove the security warrants against him and that each security branch in Syria is “an independent state in itself,” according to his description, convinced that the officer tried to exploit him to obtain the money without his ability to do anything.
Obstacle to civil transactions
Anyone seeking a job in public departments or transferring property ownership to his name in the real estate registry after purchasing it, or licensing an industrial or commercial facility in his name needs that the security study be free of any security report against him.
Abdul Rahman, 50, another man from Daraa, says the security approval has prevented him from transferring real estate ownership to his name until paying 200,000 SYP and after three security interrogations.
A defected officer from the regime forces told Enab Baladi that the officials of the “Studies” department are in direct contact with the population and exploit wanted persons by making them believe that they are able to write off security reports against them.
He added that the security study is a temporary study at the present time only, as this department is required to prepare the current study for the wanted person, while a security official is assigned to a specific area, and his task is to follow up the minutest details of civilian life through a network of informants.
Over the past 12 years, security approvals became a condition for renting an apartment, licensing a shop, selling real estate, establishing a tourism, industrial, or commercial project, issuing public or private authorizations, issuing a university degree document, obtaining licenses to conduct social, cultural and religious activities, and many others, according to a report by the Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ) organization, published in early February.
The report indicated that the exceptions issued for transactions that require security approval in Syria were either “formalistic” or related to obtaining foreign exchange for the state treasury from Syrians abroad.
“Studies” department a recurring target
Despite the large number of assassinations in Daraa governorate, the officials of the “Security Studies” department were a frequent target of unknown persons who carried out assassinations due to their relationship with the population and the role they played in preparing security studies, according to the defected officer.
In October 2022, an officer in the “Security Studies” department, Ahmed al-Awaid, survived an assassination attempt that left him injured.
In June 2022, unknown persons killed the officer, Ahmed Makhlouf, in charge of the “Security Studies” department in the town of al-Shajara in the western countryside of Daraa.
In January 2021, unknown assailants assassinated Merhej Hassan, a member of the Military Security – Studies Department, near the town of Umm al-Mayathen in the eastern countryside of Daraa.
In September 2020, the head of the “Security Studies” department in the city of Nawa, Ali Ibrahim, was killed, and in July 2020, unknown persons assassinated the head of the Sahm al-Jawlan detachment in the western countryside of Daraa, Sharif al-Nazzal, after he was shot directly, and his companion was wounded.
“Ink on paper”
According to what the dissident officer explained to Enab Baladi, the “security settlement” is supposed to erase all security prosecutions against dissidents, but none of the security wanted lists have been lifted after about five formal “settlements.”
After the regime forces, with Russian support, took control of Daraa governorate in July 2018, the regime forces carried out a comprehensive “settlement” for all the wanted persons, which most of the residents of southern Syria concluded.
However, the security branches continued to arrest the opponents at the security checkpoints while they were carrying the “settlement” card, according to the dissident officer.
The regime forces conducted a “settlement” in December 2020, similar in terms to the “settlement” of 2018, according to which the regime took control of Daraa governorate.
On March 1, 2020, after a military campaign launched by the regime forces against the city of al-Sanamayn, north of Daraa, under the pretext of the presence of “terrorists” in the area, a new “settlement” was held for the former fighters from the city.
In September 2020, the regime forces opened two “settlement” centers, the first in the town of Busra in the eastern countryside of Daraa, and it included members of the Eighth Brigade. The second is in the “Maysaloun” school in the city of Daraa for the wanted and military service deserters.
However, the biggest “settlement” was in October 2021, after a military campaign on Daraa al-Balad, through which the regime forces imposed a “settlement” on all areas of Daraa governorate, with the exception of the city of Busra al-Sham, the stronghold of the Eighth Brigade.
The regime forces received thousands of weapons in exchange for the security “settlement” agreement, which did not prevent arrests in the southern region.
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