Daraa: Notables express concern over rising detentions, property seizures

One of the damaged streets in the city of Daraa al-Balad in southern Syria - January 25, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)

One of the damaged streets in the city of Daraa al-Balad in southern Syria - January 25, 2024 (Enab Baladi/Sarah al-Ahmad)

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The “Daraa al-Balad clan” issued a statement in which it called on the Syrian regime to comply with the terms of the “settlement agreement” signed under Russian guarantee in southern Syria in 2018, notably including the release of all those arbitrarily detained, the cancellation of security demands, and the stopping of seizure on properties and assets of the regime’s opponents.

The statement, issued on January 24 and reviewed by Enab Baladi, stated that while the Syrian regime was supposed to strengthen the “settlement” process and implement what was agreed upon by both parties, it decided to pursue another course in dealing with the people of Daraa.

The Daraa al-Balad clan, made up of former members of the Central Committee in the city, criticized the increased percentage of individuals wanted for security reasons. The statement pointed out that the regime doubled arbitrary arrests and the seizure of assets of its opponents, as officials claimed to be enforcing judicial rulings from the Counter-Terrorism Court and the Military Court.

The clan saw these actions as undermining the “settlement” process and increasing chaos, tension, and escalation.

The Central Committee in Daraa al-Balad dissolved itself in August 2022, notifying the tribes of Daraa al-Balad of the dissolution, leaving the work to tribal efforts, clarifying that each tribe is responsible for itself in regards to negotiations with the regime and matters of towns and villages of Daraa.

A source from the notables of Daraa al-Balad told Enab Baladi at the time that the committee had encountered tribal disagreements during its last negotiations, as the regime always demands the deportation of certain individuals from the city, a demand some tribes refuse.

What’s the story?

On January 22 of this year, Syrian regime forces arrested a civilian from Daraa al-Balad during his trip to the capital Damascus, prompting the region’s notables to demand his release. However, they were met with justifications that the civilian was wanted on security charges.

A former member of the Central Committee told Enab Baladi that notables from the Daraa al-Balad clan council demanded the release of the young man but received a response indicating that the civilian was required for military justice on charges of joining an “armed group” in 2011, which resulted in the death of a Syrian soldier.

Security officials explained to the Daraa al-Balad notables that a lawsuit was filed based on a claim from the family of a soldier killed in Daraa in 2011.

The member of the Central Committee, who remained anonymous for security reasons, added that the concerns of Daraa al-Balad’s notables revolve around the possibility that these actions could affect all opponents through “vindictive” allegations, noting that the “settlement” agreement should have nullified all security demands, for which Russia provided guarantees, but this did not happen.

Faisal Abazid, a former member of the Central Committee and one of the dignitaries of Daraa al-Balad, told Enab Baladi that the Daraa al-Balad clan council statement pertains to the arrest of Daraa al-Balad residents after the “reconciliations,” and holding them accountable for actions they carried out during the revolution, even though the “settlement” agreement ensures that no one would be pursued for such charges.

He added the Syrian regime did not comply with the agreement, nor did the guarantor state of the “settlement,” alluding to Russia, considering that there is no way to confront these actions except with a united stand from the people of Hauran.

After the reconciliation that led to the regime’s control over the provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, it continued to arrest dozens from the provinces monthly, according to reports documented by human rights entities, including the Martyrs Documentation Office in Daraa.

The office documented in its latest report the arrest and kidnapping of no less than 25 individuals in November 2023 alone, with ten of them being released later.

The report at the time pointed out that this statistic does not include those detained and led to military and reserve service.

Seizure of opponents’ funds

A Central Committee member in Daraa al-Balad told Enab Baladi that the seizure of residents’ properties in Daraa al-Balad represents a new problem, noting that the regime issued decisions four months ago that resulted in the seizure of properties of most of the former members of the Central Committee, by decree from the Counter-Terrorism Court in Damascus.

The decisions included the provisional seizure of all real estate and movable assets of the Central Committee members.

Enab Baladi communicated with several members who confirmed that the seizure affected all their movable and immovable properties.

Another member of the Central Committee (who remained anonymous for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that the recent seizure decision was due to the members’ participation in protests against the regime, including those that occurred on the anniversary of the start of the Syrian revolution in early 2023.

The Central Committee in Daraa al-Balad was formed after the “2018 settlement” to negotiate with the Syrian regime and its Russian ally, and this committee had a civilian character, in addition to another committee in the western countryside, and the Eighth Brigade overseeing the eastern countryside.

Prominent members of the Daraa al-Balad committee include Sheikh Faisal Abazid, lawyer Adnan Masalmah, Dr. Ziad Mahamid, Emad Masalmah, the former leader of the opposition factions Khaled Abazid, and the former commanders “Abu Sharif Mahamid” and “Abu Munzer al-Dahni”.

From 2018 to 2022, the committee was considered the responsible entity for negotiations, and during the siege imposed by the regime forces on Daraa al-Balad city in July 2021, which lasted for two months, the committee reached a “new reconciliation” that ended the tension.

The regime confiscates property of its opponents

On November 30, 2023, the Syrian People’s Council, in an extraordinary session, passed a law that allows the executive authority to manage and invest movable and immovable funds confiscated by a final court ruling.

This law comes as a completion of a series of laws to legitimize the seizure of opponents’ property.

The Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies issued a research paper focused on analyzing practices against opponents, especially the use of law and legislation to legitimize its illegal actions.

The paper discussed aspects of the regime’s practices, between the security dimension that controls the details of the Syrian situation, and the legal dimension that has lost any independence over time from the will of the executive authority.

Over the previous years, a group of decrees and laws were issued, allowing the seizure of the properties of opponents, the most prominent of which was Decree “66” of 2012, which opened the door to confiscation of the opposition’s properties under the pretext of “urban planning of vast areas,” especially in areas that witnessed extensive military operations like the capital Damascus and its countryside, according to the study.

This was followed by Legislative Decree No. “40” of 2012, which stipulated the removal of illegal buildings, and the danger of this decree lies in the difficulty of proving that the violation occurred before its issuance date, according to the study prepared by the researchers, Saadallah Sharif, and Ibrahim Kholani.


Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Daraa, Halim Muhammad, contributed to this report.

 

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