Istanbul, 14 September 2022 — The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) warns against the escalations by the Syrian regime forces in Daraa, who is mobilizing around the city of Jasem to launch an attack on it after detaining its young men and blackmailing their families to pay hefty ransoms. Today Daraa stands as a living example of the dubious and empty promises of the Syrian regime, and the utter failure of Russia as a guarantor of peace, any peace in Syria.

The current escalation in Jasem city asserts what SACD has repeatedly alluded on the ineffectiveness of the “reconciliation agreements” in Syria that have long been a tool used by the Syrian regime and Russia to seize areas they could not win over by military force. 

The instability of the security situation, topped with deteriorating living conditions, has created new waves of displacement from Daraa to Europe and other host countries. The agreement that was signed to allegedly bring peace, stability and pave the way for the return of the displaced turned out to be a tool used by the regime to continue its illegal and criminal practices of arbitrary detentions, torture, assassinations and forced conscription.

According to SACD surveys, 94 per cent of those interviewed in reconciliation areas reported not feeling safe, where the sense of insecurity was triggered by forced conscription, the widespread assassinations and arbitrary arrests. While 68 per cent reported feeling unsafe due to the violations of rights, abuse, and extortion that they experienced first-hand, against themselves or others from their family or community.

Hence, evidence clearly shows that the Syrian regime, alongside its Russian and Iranian allies, does not aim to use “reconciliation agreements” to establish an environment suitable for the return of the displaced people, but rather to secure full control of the territory with negligible numbers of the original population. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to attract reconstruction funds, and eventually bring in populations loyal to the regime, often from different sectarian groups to replace the original population. Such efforts are intensively spearheaded by Iran and its loyal militias in the southern region of Syria, who have been extremely active in drug smuggling.

The obsolete “reconciliation” model that was applied in the Syrian south with Russian guarantees failed to achieve the lowest level of stability or secure the minimum public services needed for living. It instead resulted in a new military escalation of the region that features almost daily liquidation and conflicts.

This model and its effects confirm once again that the regime and its allies are unable to find a sustainable solution in Syria without a robust international presence that would guarantee people’s safety and wellbeing. On the contrary, they only succeeded in increasing the chaos and creating new waves of silent displacement from the areas of reconciliation.

Today, as the unprecedented displacement still goes on in various forms and a safe, voluntary and dignified return of more than half of Syria’s population remains the key issue for any hope of a lasting and stable peace in the country and the region, reporting on this reality is of paramount importance to prevent normalization and acceptance of such practices, which are designed to cement displacement and maintain the Syrian regime’s repressive grip on the Syrian population.  

The deteriorating security situation in Daraa is the safe environment as defined by Russia. In that “safe environment” Syrians still suffer from murder, kidnapping, arrest, displacement and death while trying to flee. Daraa is only a microcosm of what the reality for all of Syria would be if Russia was to “guarantee” safe environment for millions of displaced Syrians.

Russia did not only actively participate in killing and displacing Syrians, destroying their cities, and depriving them of means of life, but also is currently spending enormous efforts to normalize the Syrian regime and reap the fruits of its intervention in Syria. Yet Daraa remains a tragic reminder that there can be no sustainable, safe and dignified return with the Syrian regime in place nor under Russian guarantees.

One can only imagine the reality of Daraa imposed on the 13 million displaced persons and refugees if they were forced to live under the authority of Assad. The Syrian regime’s policy of revenge and killing against anyone who has ever dared to demand freedom and dignity would result in hundreds of thousands more dead and disappeared.

We, the 13 million displaced Syrians, refuse to allow Russia to impose its own vision of “safe environment” in Syria. The international community must come together to put an end to the Russian leverage and hegemony over Syria, to actively work towards securing a comprehensive political solution that not only brings peace and stability but also puts an end to the increasing waves of migration to Europe and effectively supports in establishing the safe environment that gives displaced Syrians a safe, voluntary and dignified return.