Syria harassing ex-foes in former opposition zones

According to the UN, at least 380 people were arrested or detained in Daraa province in recent times. Over 200 of these were subjected to enforced disappearances. (AFP/File)
Updated 21 May 2019
0

Syria harassing ex-foes in former opposition zones

  • Damascus targeting people who have already signed reconciliation deals with the regime: HRW

BEIRUT: Damascus has carried out a wave of arbitrary arrests against former activists in opposition areas that surrendered under deals brokered by its ally Moscow, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The so-called “reconciliation” agreements that restored government control over swathes of central and southern Syria last year were heavily criticized from the start because they were signed under the pressure of military blockade and intense air and artillery bombardment.

The regime offered amnesty to all who agreed to end their political activities.

But thousands of residents, particularly former fighters and their families, chose to be evacuated to remaining opposition-held territory rather than accept renewed rule by Bashar Assad’s regime.

Human Rights Watch said its research showed that former government critics and opposition activists who signed up for “reconciliation” had paid heavily for their decision.

It said it had documented 11 cases of arbitrary detention and disappearance in three areas retaken by regime forces last year — the southern province of Daraa, the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, and southern neighborhoods of the capital.

Syrian organizations had documented at least 500 arrests in the three areas since August, it added.

“Active combat has ended in much of Syria, but nothing has changed in the way intelligence branches trample rights of perceived opponents of Assad’s rule,” said HRW’s acting Middle East director, Lama Fakih. 

Active combat has ended in much of Syria, but nothing has changed in the way intelligence branches trample rights of perceived opponents of Assad’s rule.

Lama Fakih, Top rights activist

“Lack of due process, arbitrary arrests, and harassment, even in so-called reconciled areas, speak louder than empty government promises of return, reform and reconciliation.”

HRW said those targeted included family members, as well former opposition activists and fighters.

“In all cases, the people targeted ... had signed reconciliation agreements with the government,” it said.

The UN on Tuesday said that, between 26 July 2018 and 31 March 2019, at least 380 people were arrested or detained in Daraa province alone.

At least 230 of these were subjected to enforced disappearances, while the rest were released after a few days in detention.

“Many families in Daraa continue to have limited or no information about their missing or detained relatives,” said Marta Hurtado, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Assad’s forces secured full control of Daraa province from fighters in July, in a massive blow to the country’s ill-fated revolt that erupted in the southern city.


Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

Updated 54 min 34 sec ago

Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

  • Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepared to celebrate its National Day with entertainment events, firework displays and cultural events, Iran staged a military parade in Tehran on Sunday with tanks, missiles and armored vehicles.

President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian military leaders saluted as ranks of soldiers marched past them in tight unison, followed by an array of military hardware.

Among the weapons on display in the parade, held to mark the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, was an upgraded warhead for the Khorramshahr ballistic missile, said to have a range of 2,000km, and the Kaman 12 drone with a range of 1,000km. Speedboats and warships were shown in video footage on state TV.

Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities in the east of the Kingdom. After the attack the Pentagon ordered US troops to reinforce Saudi air and missile defenses.

In a speech at Monday’s parade, Rouhani denounced the US presence. “Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” he said.

“If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race.

“Their presence has always brought pain and misery ... the farther they keep themselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be.”

The US aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops are for “deterrence and defense,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

“If that deterrence should continue to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary,” he said.