Exclusive: Ordeal of Southern Syria Residents Far From Over

Thursday, 30 August, 2018 - 09:30
Daraa (southern Syria) - Riyad al-Zein

Calm has prevailed in southern Syria since a Russian-sponsored reconciliation deal came into force earlier this month following the pullout of opposition fighters, which paved way for regime forces to enter the region under Moscow’s supervision.

Residents, who had fled the heavy fighting in southern Syria, have begun to trickle back to their towns and villages.

The Syrian regime -- with Russian air support -- launched a major military operation in Daraa in June, leading to a major displacement crisis. But the regime regained control of the area in July.

Now that many residents are back, they are afraid of possible arrests in regime raids after more than 70 young men were apprehended on the first week of their return to their villages in north Daraa.

A resident of Daraa’s western countryside, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity for fears of retribution, said that southern Syria lacks basic services such as water and electricity.

Some towns have plunged in total darkness, while others are witnessing a 20-hour rationing, he said.

Residents are transporting water from wells on their cars and tractors, and are buying bread from bakeries outside the region despite promises by the regime on the return of services.

Furthermore, the security situation is not very stable, said the man. The regime has erected many checkpoints, spreading fears among residents that they would get arrested or their houses searched.

Another resident from Daraa’s eastern countryside, also speaking on condition of anonymity, complained of similar problems.

The lack of basic services is coupled with fears of arrests, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“My situation is similar to thousands of men in southern Syria, who would either be arrested, dragged to military service or be able to start a new life,” he said.

A member of the factions that have reached a settlement with the Syrian regime through Russian sponsorship said the factions in Daraa would either join the regime’s fifth legion, which is run by Russian forces, the fourth legion run by Maher Assad, the brother of regime head Bashar Assad, or the border guards.

Most of them decided to stay in Daraa rather than be part of the deal to evacuate opposition fighters to Idlib, he said.

Read More ...