New security settlement to enhance regime grip on Daraa: activists, displaced
Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli
The Security and Military Committee in the southern province of Daraa announced during the recent “security settlement” that it had received requests for “regulation of statuses” from residents outside the country through a form submitted by their relatives for consideration.
The correspondent of Sama TV, which is close to the regime, Firas al-Ahmad, said that, as of June 7, the settlement requests for Syrians abroad will be received at the Qasr al-Houriat center in Daraa.
It is required to be submitted by one of the immigrant’s relatives, provided that it indicates the degree of kinship, coupled with a copy of the identity of the person for whom a settlement is to be conducted, and a personal photo of him and the applicant, he added.
The latest announcement of the settlement, which includes residents abroad, came three days after the opening of the Qasr al-Houriat center to conduct settlement transactions for the entire governorate.
These settlements come about two years after the “collective settlement” for all areas of Daraa in October 2021, through which the regime forces received thousands of light and medium weapons.
Daraa, once dubbed the capital of the Syrian revolution, witnessed several waves of forced displacement during 2018, the largest of which was when the regime took control of the governorate in July 2018, as hundreds of thousands of the governorate’s residents were displaced, most of them towards the Syrian north, while some settled outside the country.
Refugees from the province outside the country, with whom Enab Baladi contacted, expressed their refusal to make any settlement or even discuss its terms, considering it a means to deceive society and flirting messages to neighboring countries that host displaced Syrians.
Lebanon-based media activist Abdulrahman al-Ahmad believes that the reasons that prompted him to emigrate still exist, as he left the country after the regime took control of his hometown, and the region is still under its rule.
Al-Ahmad told Enab Baladi that he refused to make a settlement earlier during his stay in the governorate because of his work in media activity and social activism, and he refuses to return to the regime “which is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians and arresting and displacing millions.”
Ahmed al-Ammar, a displaced person from Daraa who resides in northern Syria, shared the position with Abdulrahman, and although the settlement did not include him, he expressed his refusal to engage in any settlement to which the Syrian regime is a party.
Settlement is a prelude to migration
Daraa residents, especially those who failed to complete the compulsory military service in the regime forces, told Enab Baladi that the security settlement is an opportunity to obtain official papers, including a passport, in preparation for travel outside Syria.
Omran, 24, is waiting for his turn to carry out the “reconciliation” because he has failed to serve in the military, and according to what he told Enab Baladi, his goal is to obtain a passport so that he can travel outside the country.
He added that most of his acquaintances in front of the settlement center are waiting for their turn for the same reasons, especially that the regime allowed a six-month grace period for those who evaded military service and those wanted for reserve service and one month for defectors, during which they can move freely without security prosecutions.
What Omran sees in the settlement was also said by Mahmoud, who hails from the western countryside of the governorate, as he considered that the settlement is an opportunity to lift the security prosecution against him and to obtain a passport so that he can leave Syria.
Lawyer Suleiman al-Qarfan, former head of the Free Lawyers’ Union, believes that the regime is still seeking to empty the governorate of its youth, as they constitute an obstacle to the projects that the regime is planning for the governorate, on top of which is demographic change and flooding the region with drugs.
He said that limiting the settlement to a single center is blackmailing the residents and forcing them to pay sums ranging between 50,000 SYP and 100,000 SYP, especially after the promises made by the parties in charge of the settlement to facilitate the obtainment of travel documents for the owners of the settlement.
A number of those wishing to conduct a settlement process, whom Enab Baladi met, said that the security groups are taking advantage of the queues in front of the settlement center to blackmail them into paying money.
In April 2021, the Syrian regime had already circulated to the conscription department in Daraa governorate, granting a one-year postponement of withdrawal for those who evaded compulsory and reserve service after those who evaded reserve service carried out a settlement in the Justice Palace in Daraa.
The lawyer sees in the latest settlement a “flirting on the part of the regime towards the Arab countries” as he tries to export himself as being serious about the process of reform and openness to its opponents.
How displaced people view the settlement
Ahmed al-Ammar, a resident of northern Syria, believes that the current settlements, both internal and external, do not differ in content from their predecessors in Daraa, as those involved in them are still subject to arrest and liquidation operations.
He said that there is no return to a region ruled by the Syrian regime for him and his family, which is his motive for leaving Daraa, and the absence of the regime will bring him back to it.
Germany-based Lawyer Tamer al-Jahmani, of Daraa, believes that the current settlement has several goals, the most important of which is gathering information about the dissidents and opponents remaining in Daraa and controlling the weapons spread in the province.
The lawyer said that these goals emerged through the settlement document that is being signed at the center, as it includes questions about local groups, the numbers of defectors and those who evaded military service, the names of people who provided humanitarian and medical services in the governorate, and others who live in northern Syria and other questions about people who provided financial assistance to residents and armed men in Daraa.
He added that the regime wants to get rid of those who refuse the settlement by facilitating their obtaining passports or even facilitating their smuggling to the north, where the Syrian opposition is stationed.
In addition to the above, al-Jahmani believes that the regime fears the existence of a new hotbed of conflict with it, politically or militarily, in the region. Therefore, it works to control the rhythm of the south through “security settlements” from time to time.
Al-Jahmani concluded that the majority of the displaced refuse the settlement, especially since a large number of Syrians have acquired nationalities in European countries and no longer need the Syrian regime.
Some of them may actually accept the settlement by issuing official papers, including a passport, he added.
Settlements not solving Daraa’s problems
Despite the Syrian regime’s control over the city of Daraa in 2018, through a security settlement that included 11 items, which the regime imposed on those wishing to stay in their homes, the province did not enjoy real stability, and it remained a weak security zone within the areas over which the regime forces impose their control.
Instability was reflected in continuous assassinations attributed to unknown persons at a time when Iranians, Russians, sleeper cells of the Islamic State group, and remnants of the opposition factions, along with the regime, shared influence over them.
Daraa witnessed a state of security chaos represented by targeting and security raids by the regime, which reached its climax in early July 2021, when the Syrian regime forces, backed by pro-Iranian and local militias, began storming the neighborhoods of Daraa al-Balad, in search of wanted persons there.
Within hours of the start of the attack, local fighters began attacking the regime’s checkpoints in the eastern and western countryside of Daraa and the al-Jaidour area in the north of Daraa, using light weapons, and the attack ended with their control over them.
The pressure of the local fighters on the regime in the countryside of Daraa to relieve the pressure on Daraa al-Balad prompted the regime to conduct negotiations that ended days later with a settlement under which fighters from the area were displaced again towards northern Syria.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Daraa, Halim Muhammad, contributed to this report.
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