73 neue Frauenkommunen in Til Hemis

Im nordsyrischen Til Hemis in Qamişlo wurden im September 73 neue Frauenkommunen gegründet, um die gesellschaftlichen, ökonomischen, kulturellen, politischen und rechtlichen Interessen der Frauen durchzusetzen.

ANF / QAMIŞLO, 9. Okt. 2018.

Die Kongreya Star, der Dachverband der kurdischen Frauenbewegung in Rojava, hat im letzten Monat im nordsyrischen Til Hemis in Qamişlo 73 neue Frauenkommunen gegründet. In der Region bestehe die Notwendigkeit für Plattformen, an denen über Angelegenheiten entschieden wird, die ausschließlich Frauen betreffen. Die Kommunen in den Vierteln Abu Jirin, Til Ahmad, Ukaz und Jaza seien nun der richtige Ort, um die gesellschaftlichen, ökonomischen, kulturellen, politischen und rechtlichen Interessen der Frauen durchzusetzen.

Ferdos Setam, Repräsentantin der Kongreya Star in Til Hemis, berichtet zu den Arbeiten: „Im September haben wir unsere Aktivitäten hier intensiviert. Außerdem haben wir Seminare zu den Themen Kinderheirat, Gewalt an Frauen, Polygamie und Verwandtenheirat durchgeführt“.

Im Rahmen der neuen Frauenkommunen wurden auch Verteidigungs-, Gesundheits-, Wirtschafts- und Bildungskomitees aufgebaut. Die Frauen sollen in alle Bereiche des Lebens eingebunden werden, damit sie sich in jeder Hinsicht emanzipieren können. Fast überall in Til Hemis haben Frauen die Kongreya Star mit offenen Armen empfangen. Doch mancherorts sei die Frauenbewegung auf Hindernisse gestoßen, berichtet Ferdos Setam. In ein paar wenigen Dörfern bestehe die Bevölkerung auf ‚Traditionen‘ wie Männerherrschaft und patriarchalen Gesellschaftsstrukturen. „Durch intensive Gespräche und vielen Diskussionen ist es uns aber gelungen, diese Schwierigkeiten zu überwinden“, so Setam.

Berlin mauert

„Junge Welt“ aus: Ausgabe vom 04.10.2018, Seite 7 / Ausland.             Tausende inhaftierte Islamisten in Nordsyrien. Kurdische Behörden fühlen sich mit Problem im Stich gelassen

Von Nick Brauns
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Rückkehr nach Sudan: Anhängerin des »Islamischen Staates« und ihr Baby werden von Abdulkarim Omar (l.) den Behörden ihres Heimatlandes übergeben (Kamischli, 20.9.2018)

In der nordsyrischen Region Deir Al-Sor läuft derzeit eine Offensive, um die letzten noch vom »Islamischen Staat« (IS) kontrollierten Dörfer und Kleinstädte östlich des Euphrat zu befreien. Die Syrischen Demokratischen Kräfte (SDK) werden dabei von der US-geführten »Anti-IS-Koalition« mit Luftangriffen unterstützt. Indessen fühlt sich die Administration des unter SDK-Kontrolle stehenden Selbstverwaltungsgebietes, das rund ein Drittel des syrischen Territoriums umfasst, mit Tausenden inhaftierten ausländischen IS-Angehörigen im Stich gelassen. Denn nur syrische Staatsangehörige, nicht aber die ausländischen Kämpfer und ihre Familien, werden in Nordsyrien vor Gericht gestellt.

»Wir haben mehr als 500 IS-Kämpfer, 500 Frauen und 1.200 Kinder aus 44 Ländern in Gewahrsam, die für uns eine große Last darstellen«, erklärte der Außenbeauftragte der Selbstverwaltungskantone, Abdulkarim Omar, nun in einem junge Welt vorliegenden Schreiben an die innenpolitische Sprecherin der Linksfraktion im Bundestag, Ulla Jelpke. Die Region sei weiterhin instabil, jede chaotische Situation könne zur Flucht der IS-Kämpfer führen, die weiterhin eine große Bedrohung für Europa und die »internationale Gemeinschaft« darstellen, warnte Omar.

Auch die Frauen und Kinder seien im Sinne der IS-Ideologie indoktriniert worden. Auch darauf müsse man reagieren. Die örtlichen Behörden in den Selbstverwaltungskantonen könnten dies nicht alleine gewährleisten. »Daher sollte jedes Land seine Verantwortung wahrnehmen und seine Bürger zurücknehmen und ihnen auf eigenem Territorium den Prozess machen«, so Omar. Nur wenige Länder wie Russland und Indonesien kamen diesem Ansinnen bislang nach. Vor wenigen Tagen übergaben die Behörden auch eine sudanesische IS-Anhängerin mit ihrem Baby in Kamischli einem Diplomaten des nordostafrikanischen Staates.

Ein Großteil der inhaftierten ausländischen IS-Angehörigen war bereits vor einem Jahr bei der Offensive auf die syrische Stadt Rakka in Haft geraten. Während die gefangenen Kämpfer sich in Gefängnissen befinden, leben ihre Frauen und Kinder zumeist in einer abgetrennten Sektion eines Flüchtlingscamps in Ain Issa.

Acht gefangene IS-Kämpfer sowie zehn Frauen und 15 Kinder sind nach Omars Angaben Deutsche. »Wir bekräftigen unsere Bereitschaft, diese deutschen Staatsbürger der Bundesregierung zu übergeben. Doch die Bundesregierung hat uns bislang nicht in dieser Frage kontaktiert«, erklärte Omar gegenüber Jelpke, die sich auf Bitten von Angehörigen der Gefangenen nach deren Situation erkundigt hatte.

Auf eine kleine Anfrage der Linksfraktion hatte die Bundesregierung im August deutlich gemacht, dass deutsche Staatsbürger grundsätzlich auch dann ein Recht auf Rückkehr haben, wenn sie in Verdacht stehen, für den IS gekämpft zu haben. Sie müssten sich dann vor Gericht verantworten. Nach jW-Informationen hatten Agenten des Bundesnachrichtendienstes schon vor Monaten die inhaftierten deutschen IS-Angehörigen in Nordsyrien befragt. Viele von ihnen würden in Deutschland als »Gefährder« eingestuft und umgehend in Untersuchungshaft genommen. Doch eine Rückholung wird von Berlin offenbar nicht gewünscht.

Die Bundesregierung sei weiterhin bemüht, deutschen Staatsangehörigen in humanitären Fällen eine Ausreise aus Syrien zu ermöglichen, hieß es zwar auf Nachfrage Jelpkes Anfang Oktober aus dem Auswärtigen Amt. Doch aufgrund der Schließung der deutschen Botschaft in Damaskus und der schwierigen Sicherheitslage sei eine konsularische Betreuung in Syrien faktisch nicht möglich, eine Lösung könne daher nicht herbeigeführt werden. »Während die Bundesrepublik Länder wie Tunesien unter Druck setzt, sogenannte Gefährder zurückzunehmen, stiehlt sie sich aus der Verantwortung, deutsche Terroristen aus dem Ausland zurückzunehmen«, kritisierte Jelpke. »Wir dürfen die junge Demokratie in Rojava mit diesem Problem nicht alleine lassen.«

Krieg, Vertreibung und Migration: Wo sind die Rechte von Frauen?

(Am letzten Wochenende, am 6. und 7. Oktober 2018, fand in Frankfurt die „1. Frauenkonferenz – Revolution in the making“ statt, mit weit über 450 Teilnehmerinnen.)

Im Workshop „War, displacement and migration“ haben drei unterschiedliche Rednerinnen gezeigt, wie wichtig es ist, die Rolle der Frau in Zeiten von Krieg, Vertreibung und Migration ernsthaft in den Blick zu nehmen und einen Systemwechsel anzustreben.

„Krieg, Vertreibung und Migration: Wo sind die Rechte von Frauen?“ weiterlesen

Class and Exclusion in Syria

The Marginalised Socio-Economics of Forced Displacements

Only available online

Destruction Assad Militias Inflicted on Baba Amr, Homs Civilian Houses CC BY 2.0, Freedom House

Since Russia’s intervention in Syria began in 2015 – and, prior to that, the proliferation of Iranian-backed militias around the country beginning in 2013 – the Syrian regime has won a series of military victories after years of territorial losses; victories which have allowed Bashar al-Assad to markedly improve his prospects for post-war political survival. This “triple alliance” has employed several military and political tactics to defeat rebellious communities in the main urban centres of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.

The so-called Local Reconciliation Truces (LRTs) are considered a keystone of the Syrian regime’s project to restore control over opposition-held areas, in a parallel de facto trajectory to its nominal participation in internationally-backed negotiations. The LRTs comprise agreements between the Syrian regime and its allies (Russia and Iran) on one side, and besieged rebel-held towns on the other. In general, the character of “truces” varies, encompassing ceasefires, the lifting of sieges, and full or partial evacuations of both combatants and civilians to other opposition-held areas. The recent LRTs add another socio-economic layer to the conflict besides the more well-known sectarian and political dynamics. Rural and poor communities have been systematically transferred through these truces in many cases, likely to be replaced by people from different political affiliations, sects, or social classes. The story of three different rebel-held areas (Homs, rural Damascus, and Aleppo) will be examined to illustrate how the Assad regime employs the issue of land, property management and selective reconstruction as a tool for self-enrichment and political control. The Syrian regime has a long history of politicising and manipulating such issues: this notably took place in the 1950s land reforms, which mainly targeted large Sunni landowners, as well as in the building of the “Arab belt” in North East Syria, which aimed to reduce the Kurdish proportion in the country’s wealthiest region. After the 1982 massacre in Hama, the regime demolished several houses and built new ones to be occupied by loyalists instead of rebellious families.[1]

Forced displacement is one of the main components shaping the dynamics of the Syrian conflict. According to the UNHCR, there are more than six million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) inside Syria – adding to the more than five million refugees outside of the country, which in sum represents half of the country’s total population. The prospect of any future return of these displaced people to what used to be their homes has become significantly endangered. Prior to 2011, less than 50% of land in Syria was officially registered, while one-third of Syrians lived in informal settlements (40% in Damascus and 50% Aleppo). Many houses were built without official permits, particularly in the poor and informal settlement areas around the cities, where the level of destruction has been (deliberately) higher throughout the conflict.

Moreover, many Syrians did not possess any statutory documents attesting to their Housing and Land Property (HLP) rights at the time they were displaced – either because they did not have such documents in the first place, or because their papers were damaged by bombardment. The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that 70% of refugees lack basic identification documents, while most of them face significant obstacles to the issuing or renewal of identity and civil documents. Many reports accuse the regime of targeting, bombing and burning HLP administration buildings and offices (especially in the opposition-held areas in Homs and Damascus), in addition to confiscating such documents at checkpoints. Such episodes weaken owners’ claims to HLP assets in the future, and facilitate the transfer and occupation of such properties by other individuals and/or commercial establishments. 

The Syrian regime has issued many laws and decrees to facilitate the manipulation and transfer of HLP ownership: these include Decree No. 5 of the 1982 Urban Planning law, Law No. 15 of 2008 which facilitates the foreign ownership of land, Decree No. 8 of 2007 which allows for the construction of large-scale developmental projects, and Law No. 26 of 2000 (later replaced by Law No. 23 of 2015) which “regulates” the state expropriation of lands in urban centres (a process commonly known as “regulation”, often of slums and “unauthorised” housing). Crucially, the recently-promulgated Law No. 10 of 2018 authorises the formation of new local administrative units which allow for the confiscation of property by the state without compensation if the owner fails to register and prove their property ownership within 30 days (this was later extended to a year) – a common reality for most IDPs and refugees. This law was widely criticised internationally, as it threatens the return of refugees and IDPs despite the regime nominally promoting it as means to re-develop the informal slums and war-torn areas.

The recent 2018 law No. 10 is based on the former Law No. 66 of 2012, which aimed at developing “unauthorised” housing and informal residential settlements and transforming them into high-end commercial and residential redevelopment projects. The main barrier faced by owners seeking to establish ownership or authorise power of attorney for a representative to do so is the short time-window allotted, which is insufficient particularly for refugees living abroad as many of them require “security clearance” before conducting any bureaucratic action, in addition to the substantial fees they are expected to pay. Women IDPs and refugees (especially widows) in particular face serious legal, social and economic barriers which preclude them from establishing their HLP rights, especially with regards to inheritance.

Decree No. 63 of 2012 empowers the Ministry of Finance to seize (im)movable assets and property from people who fall under Law No. 19 of 2012, the counterterrorism law. According to Human Rights Watch, the former law “provides a dangerously broad interpretation of what constitutes terrorism, and unfairly criminalises a large segment of the population without any due process rights or fair trial.”

These sets of laws give the regime full power to appropriate lands and properties or transfer their ownership for political, security and commercial reasons. The Syrian conflict provides the regime with valuable opportunities to implement its pre-war plans for socio-economic alterations to many urban centres, which would promote higher economic benefits for its politico-financial patronage networks. The dynamics of LRTs – which have entailed besieging, bombarding and evacuating these slums and the areas populated by the poor under the banners of “reconciliation” and “fighting terrorism” – work to accomplish these plans. Since the Syrian regime launched its economic liberalisation programme in the 1990s, the merchant class has re-emerged to restore its historical alliance with the state bureaucracy – replacing the working class that temporarily benefited from the populist regimes of the socialist post-independence era. Such a transformation marginalised a large part of society which lost its social welfare safety net.

This socio-economic dimension features markedly in the cases of the city of Homs, the rural suburbs of Damascus, and Aleppo, where the uprising was overwhelmingly centred in the disadvantaged rural suburbs, as well as areas hosting the poor and (informal) working class. Such areas were exposed to the regime’s intensive aerial assault and military operations, followed by forced population transfers.

Homs

In their report No Return to Homs, The Syrian Institute demonstrates that the Assad regime deliberately and systematically displaced more than half of the population of the city of Homs between 2012 and 2014 through the use of tactics including massacres, torture and siege. The majority of the destroyed neighbourhoods were from the poorer Sunni demographic. The report shows that the pattern of destruction closely traces the master plan of the “Homs Dream” urban development project – a pre-war government project to establish high-end and modern residential and commercial neighbours (including skyscrapers, shopping malls and parks), supplanting the densely-populated poor areas.

In September 2014, the regime’s Homs Provincial Council declared the Baba Amro and Abasiya neighbourhoods (the first neighbourhoods to witness displacement in the city in 2014) “random residential settlements” – allowing the council to demolish all buildings in these areas (and the surrounding neighbourhoods) in line with Decree No. 66 of 2012. Notably, the regime prevents the return of the population to  neighbourhoods which were approximately 80% destroyed, while restricting the right of return to those able to provide proof of ownership as well as a special “security permit”. However, the fear of detention, conscription or torture deters many displaced persons from returning. The reconstruction plan for these areas encompasses medium-rise residential towers with commercial facilities, financed by private investors and shareholding companies.

Damascus

Relying on Law No. 66 of 2012, the regime suggests two “regulatory” zones in Damascus: the Basateen Mezzeh district and the area spanning from Qadam to Darayya. Notably, many of these neighbourhoods have been affected by the LRTs’ evacuations (for example, Darayya has been fully emptied). Marouta (“sovereignty”) and Basiliya (“heaven”) are the chosen names for these two projects; the latter (which will transform Damascus into a smart city with a higher level of luxury, as announced by the project’s official website) will be implemented by the newly-established company called “Damascus Holding”. The main parts of the project will be carried out by three businessmen: Samer Fouz (who owns the Damascus Joint Stock Security Company), Mazen al-Tarazi, and Rami Makhlouf (through his company Rawafid Damascus Joint Stock). The aforementioned names belong to the regime’s inner political and economic circles.

The government has started evacuating and demolishing all buildings in the areas included in its master plan (most of which were held by rebels or ISIS and were affected by LRTs). The issues of ownership and compensation are still ambiguous and do not include unoccupied properties, unless the owners designate attorneys (representatives) to prove their possession; otherwise, the law transfers ownership to the government, which will subsequently entail awarding construction and development contracts to private companies and investors. The form of compensation for owners comes in the form of offering shares in these “regulatory companies”, which they can either sell or create a company with other shareholders to invest in the divisions. If the owners refuse to do so, their shares will be sold in a public auction. Naturally, the original owners will lose their agency over decision-making on their former properties when they become small shareholders within these large companies.

Compensation is calculated according to the value of the property prior to “regulation”, which is woefully inadequate to buy a comparable residential unit following the project’s completion. This increases the probability that the structure of social classes in these areas will be altered.

The advertised photos and videos for these development projects include scenes of high-end, glass-fronted buildings and skyscrapers, shopping malls and restaurants which explicitly reflect the new social class that is more likely to afford living in these kinds of neighbourhoods – built on the ashes of the houses of the former middle and lower classes. The issue also affects the surrounding neighbourhoods of these first-class luxury areas, as the living costs, rents and business-operating expenses will increase exponentially, forcing much of the population to cede their places to the upper social classes who can afford the new reality.[2]

Aleppo and Rural Hama

The same scenario was repeated in Aleppo and rural Hama, where the Random Housing Law No. 15 for 2008 additionally specified three “random housing” areas, including Tal Al-Zarazeer, Al-Haidarieh, and Wadi al-Joz. Notably, all of these neighbourhoods were occupied by working-class and poor populations, and became centres for anti-regime demonstrations after 2011. The three areas witnessed intensive bombardment by the regime and many of their buildings were subsequently “lawfully” razed following their recapture. The Wadi al-Joz slum in Hama, for example, was encircled by regime forces in 2013. Even after the withdrawal of Free Syrian Army combatants, the regime demolished most buildings in the slum over several few days and ousted the whole population. The same also happened in the al-Arb`een slum in 2012. Both neighbourhoods are located on the Hama-Aleppo highway and contain high commercial value, which also highlights the economic over military rationale at play in displacing their inhabitants and demolishing their properties following regime recapture. The other two areas in Aleppo were affected by the LRTs, and after the regime took them back its bulldozers immediately began demolishing the remaining buildings.

The aforementioned episodes added a layer of “social cleansing” to the fundamental nature of these truces and reflected the Assad regime’s blueprint for reconstruction. Furthermore, the regime uses “selective reconstruction” as a conflict tool against poor and rebellious communities, and as a reward for its allies and patronage networks.

Consequently, the long-term cultural and socio-economic implications of such destruction, expulsion, dispossession, reallocation measures and selective reconstruction are more likely to affect social cohesion and national reconciliation in the long term by deepening the sense of injustice and dispossession, in addition to the “intentional change” of what constitutes the notion of “Syrian society” across social, economic and ethnic levels.

 

Munqeth Othman Agha is a postgraduate student in the department of International Relations at the University of Sussex as a Chevening Scholar. He holds an MSc in Economic Development from Clermont-Auvergne University. His main research interests are local governance in Syria, the political economy of conflict and post-conflict reconstruction.

 


[1] HIC-HLRN. “Reconstruction: The Next Struggle in Syria.” Chap. 7 n Habitat International Coalition—Housing and Land Rights Network. The Land and Its People: Civil Society Voices Address the Crisis over Natural Resources in the Middle East/North Africa. (Cairo: Housing and Land Rights Network, Habitat International Coalition, 2015): 253–258.

[2] See for example: Damascus Holding Company. “Marota City.” YouTube, August 17, 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2lOhyRCwJo; samatv2. “إعادة الإعمار || مشروع تنظيم 66 – بساتين خلف الرازي بـ دمشق.” YouTube, March 18, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGtLgmITrB8; HomsDream. “Homs Dream – حلم حمص.” YouTube, Febraury 15, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcCo-hLAKk0

Berichte von AFRIN (Rosa Luxemburg-Stiftung)

Author: Loubna Mri

Copyright Doha Hassan
Copyright Doha Hassan Doha Hassan, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, 5.9.2018.

 

It was just after 12:30 on 11 March 2018 when Muhammad Billo, a resident of the northern Syrian city of Afrin, sent a message to his wife over WhatsApp: “Pack, we are fleeing the city.” Before that day, the 40-year old journalist had never entertained the idea of fleeing.

On 20 January 2018, Turkish armed forces launched a military assault on the PYD (the Kurdish Democratic Union Party) in Billo’s hometown, Afrin. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that the goal of the operation – dubbed Operation Olive Branch – was “to eliminate the terrorists completely” and for the people of Afrin to be “freed from oppression and persecution of these terrorists”.

Turkey was not alone in this fight. The Free Syrian Army, originally formed in 2012 to fight Assad’s army, joined Turkey and served as front-line forces under the cover of Turkish air support.  Afrin was placed under constant bombardment from both land and air. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that Operation Olive Branch “put hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk.” 

“For two months, we survived the siege and constant shelling from the Turkish side. I believed the city would fight back and that the Turkish army would never enter,” Muhammad remembers.  But when the news arrived that the Turkish army was only two kilometers from the city, he was terrified. Not only did he not know what to expect from these “liberating” forces, he was scared because he was a prominent source for those keeping up-to-date on the ongoing battle for Afrin. He had been quoted frequently and appeared on local news channels to speak about recent developments in the city. He largely focused on atrocities, reported casualties figures, and detailed the kinds of human rights violations that Turkish state media were desperately trying to deny.

He had no other choice but to escape.

Within hours, Muhammad, his wife, and their 8-year-old son were escaping through Jabal Al-Ahlam, the last remaining route from Afrin to the northern suburbs of Aleppo. This route had been controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces and Kurdish forces since 2016. Eventually, Muhammad and his family made it to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, where he is currently based.

Muhammad was not alone in his escape. According to the UN, more than 183,500 civilians escaped Afrin and resettled in refugee camps throughout the suburbs of Aleppo and northern parts of Syria between 20 January and 24 March. Afrin, a once-vibrant city of 400,000 residents, had had become a ghost town by late March.

On 18 March, less than a week after Muhammad’s departure, Turkish state media announced the liberation of Afrin from “Kurdish terrorist groups”. Muhammad’s hometown is now completely controlled by Arab forces backed by the Turkish Army. From Erbil, he wept as he watched videos of Arab and Turkish fighters looting refrigerators and washing machines, followed by photos of soldiers towing cars and motorcycles. Afrin was drowning in chaos. As more news emerged from the newly “liberated” city, Muhammad knew that fleeing had been the right decision. Three of his colleagues were detained—the photojournalist Dalshan Qarh Chul, Ahmad Shafek, and Abdelamjed Shiekho.

A week later, Muhammad received a text message from his neighbour. A family from Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, had broken into his house and was currently living there. Muhammad was furious. “When we fled, we did not have the time to pack or to hide any of our personal belongings. Everything was still there. Family pictures on the wall. Dirty laundry. Even our beds were not made. We took nothing except the clothes we were wearing.”

Four days later, Muhammad tried to get ahold of the new squatters. Fortunately, with the help of one of his neighbors, he was able to talk to one of the family members.

“When I finally spoke to him, I realized that we were both in an identical situation,” Muhammad recalled. “We were both fathers who were forced to flee with our families to seek shelter somewhere very far from home. I fled Afrin. They fled Eastern Ghouta. In the end, I found myself debating whether I should be angry at him or feel sorry for him.”

The refugees who took Muhammad’s house were among the 60,000 Syrians transferred in green buses from Eastern Ghouta to rebel-held northwestern Syria as a part of a deal between government forces and the rebels back in March. Although the final destination of these buses was almost 100 miles away from Afrin – an area called point zero, in the suburbs of Hama – thousands of those displaced ended up going to Afrin. Many took advantage of the chaos and the empty houses  civilians had left behind.

Many others went to Afrin, but ultimately returned. One example is Majd, a 25-year-old from Eastern Ghouta who was evacuated with his mother on March 27. He recalled:

“In Idlib, where we were first resettled, every three families were put in one house. The villages were packed, and shelled daily. Then, through word of mouth, we started to hear about Afrin, where there were free and empty houses, no daily bombardment, and were welcoming brigades. (…) I went there to see whether this was true. I could not deny this truth, but it was extremely disturbing. With the help of soldiers, we walked into dozens of houses. They had been looted and turned upside down. Even mattresses and pillows were stabbed, with the inner foam lying out. Closets and kitchen cabinets were emptied onto the floor. The floor itself was covered with clothes and broken glass—so much so that you couldn’t even see it. It was as if these soldiers were looking for something in particular, but all you could see was personal items. (…) I was afraid of asking questions. Although I am against the Syrian government, what I saw and heard made me ashamed of the rebels. Ashamed that I might be taking someone’s house because the government and its thugs took mine. I am not a geopolitics expert, but I didn’t need to be one in order see what Turkey was doing. They were attempting demographic change by hiding behind Syrian Arab soldiers, who broke into houses that belonged to Kurds and encouraged displaced Arabs to take over. They broke the door and told us everything is fine and that we could stay here. But it’s not. These are not their houses. What right do they have to break the houses and install new families?”

The looting and seizing of houses is not the only problem facing the residents of Afrin. Humiliation and harassment by Turkish-backed Arab soldiers became an everyday occurrence. In a recent video  circulated on social media, an elderly woman is seen looking at the camera, addressing her son in Kurdish, asking him to send her money after Arab brigades stole her electric water pump.

Another picture showed banners installed by rebel brigades in the streets of Afrin encouraging women to not only wear the burqa, but also advising them on how to wear it and making sure it is not transparent (Similar banners are often seen in Al Qaeda–and ISIS-held territories). Another video, however, showed demonstrators protesting atrocities committed by Arab brigades against Afrin civilians.

According to Shero Alo, a Kurdish journalist and founder of the Afrin Now Facebook page – which, according to locals, is one of the most accurate news sources about Afrin – people are humiliated and harassed on a regular basis; some brigade members wait outside high schools to cat-call girls.

“These reported atrocities against Kurds are only a small fragment of what is happening in Afrin. It is obvious that these brigades are doing whatever they can to push out the Kurds who did not flee during Operation Olive Branch,” Shero told me.

According to another source based in Afrin, almost every brigade counts one Turkish soldier serving as a supervisor. These brigades cannot commit any of these violations without the approval of the Turkish army, or at least without them turning a blind eye to the violations. “There is no way these atrocities would have taken place if the Turkish army did not give them the green light,” the resident explained in a WhatsApp message, requesting that he not be named.

“But what terrifies me the most is the arbitrary detentions. They have been detaining civilians for questioning. People disappear from the streets and their houses in the middle of the night. For these brigades, every Kurdish civilian is a YPG affiliate until he proves the opposite,” he told.

Such stories are completely absent from coverage by Turkish state media. Instead, on state-run TRT, for example, one comes across titles such as “Sport and stability return to Afrin.” This article in particular backs up its claims with footage of a football match between two local groups and a quote from one of the players that “football was not possible when the YPG was controlling the city.” In short, if you rely on Turkish state media for coverage on Afrin, you would be led to assume that the situation is safe and could not be any better. The reality is far different: Afrin today is facing extreme demographic changes and various horrifying human rights violations, which continue to be documented and condemned by human rights organizations.

On 2 July, Turkish foreign ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy stated in a press conference in Afrin on TRT television that its residents established their own municipal parliament, incorporating Kurds, Turks and Arabs. He added that security and military forces were slowly withdrawing from the city, and that they are “’leaving Afrin to the people of Afrin„. A statement which left Billo, the exiled Afrin native, outraged. “Leaving Afrin to what people? The criminal brigades? People they installed in our houses?  These are not Afrin people.”

“I believe that Afrin will, eventually, return to its people,“ he said. „But for now, we can’t do anything other than expose these brigades’ atrocities and hope that, one day, justice will take place and our confiscated town will be ours again.”

Loubna Mrie is a Syrian activist who participated in the Syrian revolution. She reports on Syria for Reuters and is currently studying at New York University.

“We encourage every Syrian to come back to Syria“

When Assad asks Syrians to come home, here’s what he really means
© Getty Images

“We encourage every Syrian to come back to Syria,” President Bashar al-Assad told reporters last month. His comments, part of a larger Russian-led charm offensive targeting Western support for reconstruction and refugee repatriation efforts, paint the portrait of a leader willing to receive every member of his vastly-displaced citizenry with the most welcoming of arms.

The reality, however, could not be further from the truth.

Missing from Assad’s invitation to Syrian refugees and expatriates is one nonnegotiable caveat. It is not every Syrian he intends to welcome, but rather, every Syrian who is deemed sufficiently loyal to the regime.

To drive home this point, the Assad government has begun reconstructing a Syria that is built on two primary principles: a zero-tolerance policy for dissent, and absolutely no remorse for mass atrocities of the past. 

Just last week, Air Force Intelligence head Jamil al-Hassan — for whom Germany has issued an international arrest warrant for war crimes — reportedly told a room of 33 officers: “A Syria with 10 million trustworthy people obedient to the leadership is better than a Syria with 30 million vandals. … After eight years, Syria will not accept the presence of cancerous cells and they will be removed completely.”

Disclosing that more than 3 million Syrians are currently wanted, and that judicial cases for all of them have been prepared, al-Hassan stated that anyone considered to be a “hindrance” to the regime’s plan to consolidate power would be labelled a “terrorist” and dealt with accordingly. Referring to refugees intending to return home as “sheep,” he explained that the corrupted sheep would be filtered out and that the “good ones” would be used.

Al-Hassan’s remarks are not merely words to inspire regime loyalists behind closed doors. As early as March of this year, the Irish Times reported that a number of refugees returning to Syria faced significant threats, arrests and even death. At least four Syrian refugees returned home and were killed — three of whom had been arrested less than three months after coming back and who died in military prison between two and four months thereafter.

Other refugees who have returned have had their passports confiscated, been called in for questioning by authorities on numerous occasions, and been accused of having ties with the Syrian opposition. Those who have fought against the Syrian army, or spoken publicly against the regime, have been required to undergo a “reconciliation” process that does not always guarantee their safety, but that requires them to pledge not to partake in any dissent-related activities.

However, it is not only repatriated refugees who are being forced to partake in these processes. In areas in which the Assad regime is re-exerting its control, residents reportedly have been given the “choice” between being displaced from their homes or agreeing to “reconciliation.” Last month, Al-Modon published a copy of the forms used in these “reconciliation” arrangements. Per the process, signatories are required to sign documents in which they commit to a number of pledges, including not protesting “outside of the confines of the law”; not publishing written content that insults the government and security establishment; and immediately informing security officials of any pieces of information that may implicate the security situation.

Additionally, the forms ask signatories to disclose details about their involvement in protests; the roles that any family members may have played in the Syrian “events”; and personal information such as their passport numbers and electronic accounts, presumably social media.

While Assad attempts to set a diplomatic tone with the hope of mesmerizing Western observers and capitalizing on their limited attention spans and memories, his regime’s actions show no willingness to take responsibility for the atrocities of the past seven and a half years. A law that  threatens to make permanent the forced demographic changes initiated by the regime as a result of forced displacement during the war already has begun being implemented in areas of strategic importance. Mass atrocities — including the shelling and bombing of neighborhoods, the torture and killing of detained persons, and the targeted extermination of citizens — continue with impunity and no regard for international condemnations.

Most recently, and in an example that best personifies the way in which the regime regards its return to power, Assad officials have begun callously issuing death certificates for individuals who were tortured to death while in detention. Instead of being properly notified, families are by chance going to civil registries and finding out that their missing loved ones have been dead for years. The families are not given the chance to say goodbye and to receive the bodies; to add insult to injury, the death certificates of the tortured detainees list “heart attack” or “stroke” as the cause of death.

As the regime begins preparing for a new phase in the post-2011 period, there is no doubt that it will — with the various administrative, legal, and extrajudicial tools at its disposal — work towards re-introducing an authoritarianism that is stronger than before and built on zero tolerance for dissent and admission of fault. It is a regime that again will work to pit citizens against each other through an expansive network of informants, to strengthen its system of monitoring and surveillance, to silence anyone who colors outside of the lines, and to consolidate a culture of fear — all of which were essential pillars upon which the Syrian state was built.

As Western governments consider the repatriation and reconstruction proposals brought before them, they would do well to recognize that the Syria they may be financing is one for which millions of Syrians have been killed, terrorized and displaced — only to be ultimately told never to come home.

Mai El-Sadany is a human rights lawyer and the legal and judicial director at Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP). Her published work has covered legal and constitutional issues in Egypt, human rights issues in Syria, transitional justice in the Middle East, and the split between Sudan and South Sudan. She previously worked at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, among other organizations. Follow her on Twitter @maitelsadany.

Rojava: Kostenlose Gesundheitsversorgung in Hesekê

Ein Gesundheitszentrum in Hesekê bietet kostenlose medizinische Versorgung an.

ANF / HESEKÊ, 30. Sept. 2018.

Die Selbstverwaltungen in Rojava arbeiten daran, eine ständige Gesundheitsversorgung für alle Menschen in der Region zu gewährleisten. Die autonome Selbstverwaltung von Cizîrê hat im Juli 2016 ein Gesundheitszentrum im Viertel al-Kelasê in Hesekê eingerichtet, um auch materiell schlecht gestellten Menschen eine nahtlose Versorgung anbieten zu können. Es handelt sich um das erste Gesundheitszentrum in der Region. Zahllose Kranke sind dort bereits kostenlos behandelt worden.

Im Gesundheitszentrum werden zwischen 8.00 und 11.00 Uhr Herzerkrankungen und andere internistische Krankheiten behandelt. Zwischen 11.00 und 14.00 Uhr werden Kinderkrankheiten behandelt. Zwei Ärzte, zwei Hebammen, zwei Krankenschwestern und ein Notarzt stehen bis nachts um 2.00 Uhr zur Verfügung.

Wie Mihemed al-Abdullah von der Zentrumsleitung erklärt, hat sich die Anzahl der Fälle mit Hautkrankheiten in letzter Zeit erhöht.

 

Syrien: Schattenreich der Angst

von Katja Maurer / medico international, 25. Sept. 2018.

Gibt es in diesen Trümmern eine Zukunft für die palästinensische Gemeinde in Syrien? Der Damaszener Stadtteil Jarmuk. (Foto: Jafra)

Assads Macht scheint gesichert, aber der Konflikt ist nicht zu Ende. Ein Überblick aus Sicht der medico-Partner.

Von Katja Maurer

Junge Frauen werden über Nacht alt, sechsjährigen Jungen sprießt plötzlich ein Bart. Das ist keine Variante des magischen Realismus auf Arabisch. In ihrem kürzlich auf Deutsch erschienenen Roman „Die Verängstigten“ beschreibt die syrische Schriftstellerin Dima Wannous, was mit Menschen geschieht, die Angst als Grundvoraussetzung ihrer Existenz erfahren. Ein ganzes Land mit seiner multireligiösen Bevölkerung lebt seit Jahrzehnten im Schatten dieser Angst. Dieser Schatten tut so weh, wie die Angst selbst, sagt die Mittdreißigerin. Ihre Beschreibung verletzter Seelen spielt deshalb immer wieder beim Psychiater in Damaskus. Nur wer kann Wunden heilen, die vielen schon in den 1980er Jahren zugefügt wurden, als das Assad-Regime den Aufstand der Muslimbrüder mit einem Massaker in der Stadt Hama beendete, bei dem bis zu 30.000 Menschen ums Leben kamen? Für die syrische Schriftstellerin ist das einer der Ausgangspunkte der Zerstörung, die nun das ganze Land erfasst hat. Man könnte auch die Niederschlagung der kurdischen Demonstrationen 2004 nennen. In allen kurdischen Gemeinden und Stadtvierteln Syriens kam es zu Massenverhaftungen insbesondere von Jugendlichen, viele erlebten Folter.

Diese Angsterfahrung ist mit der Niederschlagung der „Revolution“, wie die syrischen Aktiven den demokratischen Aufstand von 2011 nennen, weil er alle eingeübten Mentalitäten mit einem Schlag verändert hatte, allgemein geworden. Der syrische Menschenrechtsanwalt Anwar Al-Bouni, der selbst jahrelang im Gefängnis saß und jetzt in Europa im Exil lebt, wirft am Telefon einige Schlaglichter: Seiner Schätzung nach sitzen 150.000 Menschen in Syrien im Gefängnis, zumeist aus politischen Gründen. 80.000 davon seien namentlich bekannt. Aber es gäbe viele Tausend Verschwundene. Manches Schicksal hat sich mit der bitteren Euphorie des vorläufigen Sieges von Assad geklärt: Das Regime gab den Tod von mindestens 5.000 Gefangenen bekannt. Offenbar in der Annahme, dass keiner sich mehr traut, den Skandal syrischer Gefängnisse beim Namen zu nennen: ein Staatsverbrechen.

Die aktuellen Zahlen zur syrischen Katastrophe lassen sich nicht in eine Sprache fassen, die die Anonymität der Ziffern aufheben kann. Die Todesopfer des sieben Jahre anhaltenden Konflikts liegen zwischen 300.000 und 500.000. Es gibt laut der UNO sechs Millionen Binnenvertriebene. 5,6 Millionen sind in die Nachbarländer geflohen. Zwei Drittel des Landes haben die Regierungstruppen mit Hilfe der russischen Armee und einer militärischen Strategie, die keine Rücksicht auf Zivilisten und Völkerrecht nimmt, zurückerobert. Es verbleiben die kurdischen Gebiete im Norden, die unter der Kontrolle der PYD (mit Unterstützung der US-Armee) stehen und die Region Idlib, wohin alle verbracht wurden, die nicht in den eroberten Gebieten bleiben konnten oder wollten.

Niemandsland Idlib

Nach Idlib sind auch Kolleginnen und Kollegen aus der medico-Projektregion Ost-Ghouta geflohen, die im lokalen Komitee von Erbin u.a. die freien und demokratischen Schulen in Kellergeschossen betrieben hatten, sowie Frauen aus dem Frauenhaus in Douma. Der in Deutschland lebende syrische Sozialwissenschaftler Omar Sharaf, mit dem medico immer wieder zusammenarbeitet, kommt aus der Region Ost-Ghouta und steht im Kontakt mit den Kollegen vor Ort. Idlib, so Sharaf, sei ein Niemandsland ohne staatliche oder lokal legitimierte Institutionen. Jederzeit könne man Opfer eines Übergriffes irgendeiner Gruppierung werden. In der Grenzregion zur Türkei leben drei Millionen Menschen, zwei von drei sind intern Vertriebene. Viele hofften, das Land Richtung Türkei verlassen zu können. Manche Familien hätten es mehr als zehnmal erfolglos versucht, seien dabei ausgeraubt und von Schleppern zusammengeschlagen worden.

Während Mitglieder der demokratischen Opposition aus Erbin versuchen, sich ins Ausland durchzuschlagen, regiert in Erbin das syrische Militär und die Baath-Partei. In Erbin, so Sharaf, sei das allerdings eine Truppe aus wenigen syrischen und russischen Soldaten, nicht mehr als 30 Mann, die sich als Machtdemonstration rund um das Rathaus aufhielten. Sharaf glaubt, dass Flüchtlinge aus den Nachbarländern zurückkehren würden, sobald die Kriegshandlungen zu Ende gingen und sie nicht persönlich von Verfolgung bedroht seien. Zu prekär sei etwa ihre Situation im Libanon und in Jordanien.

Jarmuk in Trümmern

Auch die palästinensisch-syrische Partnerorganisation Jafra ist mit der neuen Situation befasst. Erste Familien versuchen in das einstige Palästinenserlager in den Damaszener Stadtteil Jarmuk zurückzukehren. Der Stadtteil ist zu 80 Prozent zerstört. Es gab die Ankündigung, dass Häuser enteignet würden, wenn sich ihre Besitzer nicht binnen wenigen Wochen zurückmelden würden. Wesam Sabaneh, Gründungsdirektor von Jafra, berichtet, dass sich erste Familien zurückgemeldet hätten, aber die Klärung des Eigentums nicht gelungen sei. Es gab große Befürchtungen, dass die syrischen Autoritäten eine Wiederbesiedlung von Jarmuk durch Palästinenserinnen und Palästinenser verhindern würden. Immerhin fand hier 2011 eine der größten Demonstrationen zur Demokratisierung von Syrien statt. Syrisches Militär hatte den Stadtteil, in dem islamistische Milizen diverser Coleur die Kontrolle ausübten, jahrelang eingekesselt und ausgehungert. Mit dem fast vollständigen Exodus der ursprünglichen Bewohnerschaft schien die Hoffnung dahin, hier könne irgendwann ein Wiederaufbau unter palästinensischer Ägide stattfinden. Nun gibt es Versuche, alle palästinensischen Fraktionen, die sich in Gegner und Befürworter Assads zum Teil auch militärisch gespalten hatten, in dem Ziel zu einigen, Jarmuk wieder palästinensisch zu machen. Ausgang ungewiss.

Offen ist auch die Situation in den kurdisch dominierten Gebieten im Norden, die mehr als 25 Prozent des syrischen Territoriums ausmachen. Ein Repräsentant des Demokratischen Rats, der beansprucht, alle Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner gleich welcher religiösen oder ethnischen Zugehörigkeit institutionell zu vertreten, erklärte auf Anfrage von medico, dass der Konflikt zwar noch nicht zu Ende sei, aber Assad vorerst bleibe. Damit begründet der Rat die Gespräche, die seit Juli 2018 mit Vertretern aus Damaskus geführt werden. Es sei dabei vor allen Dingen um Absprachen im Dienstleistungssektor und auf Verwaltungsebene gegangen. Ziel des Rates ist die politische Autonomie der nordsyrischen Föderation, eine nur kulturelle Autonomie sei nicht akzeptabel. Eine politische Autonomie beinhaltet auch die Praxis, die schon jetzt in den nordsyrischen Gebieten stattfindet: Mehrsprachigkeit in Bildung und Ämtern, demokratische Wahl der Räte auf allen Ebenen, der Aufbau einer sozialen Infrastruktur, die allen gleichermaßen zugänglich ist. Die Hoffnung ist, dass die Schaffung neuer Institutionen entlang dieser Prinzipien auf lokaler Ebene langfristig die Autonomie sichern kann.

Leise Hoffnung

Das aktuelle syrische Szenario aus Angst, Flucht, Vertreibung, aber auch Rückkehr und leiser Hoffnung, je nach Region, könnte allerdings schon im nächsten drohenden militärischen Angriff untergehen. Die Koalition um Assad will nun auch Idlib unter ihre Kontrolle bringen. Schon jetzt gibt es einen Propagandakrieg. Im August veröffentlichte das russische Verteidigungsministerium eine Erklärung, in der die Weißhelme bezichtigt werden, Verteidigungsstrategien gegen Giftgasangriffe mit der Bevölkerung zu üben, obwohl doch klar sei, dass die Rebellen/Terroristen in Idlib das Giftgas einsetzten. Trump seinerseits droht schon mit Angriffen, falls es zu Bombardierungen in Idlib kommt. Und die russische Flotte weist große Truppenbewegungen im Mittelmeer auf. So viel Getöse schon vor der Schlacht. Mittendrin die Weißhelme, die ohnehin der Russen liebster Feind sind. Gegen die gut finanzierten und organisierten Zivilschutzmänner hat Russland über das Internet eine solche Schlammschlacht gestartet, dass man sich erst mal ein paar Seiten durchklicken muss, um auf Informationen zu stoßen, die nicht aus russischer Quelle stammen. Es ist eben auch ein Krieg um die Wahrnehmung, in dem die Wahrheit von der Haltung abhängt.

Für die vielfältigen Arbeiten in Syrien und mit syrischen Flüchtlingen im Libanon ist medico auf Ihre Unterstützung angewiesen, gerade dann, wenn es um Befreiungsbemühungen geht, die den Horizont eines demokratisch verfassten Syriens nicht aufgeben.

Spendenstichwort: Syrien


Dieser Beitrag erschien zuerst im medico-Rundschreiben 3/2018.