Reconciling with death, disappearance and fear

Hundreds of Syrians forced to “reconcile” with Assad’s regime under Russian guarantees have been killed or disappeared in a systemic campaign of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearances and forced recruitment as cannon fodder in the ongoing fighting in the north of Syria.

Since 2016, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, with the help of its Russian and Iranian allies, has employed indiscriminate attacks and siege warfare to negotiate surrender of several areas formerly held by the opposition forces. Many of these negotiated surrenders have included so called “reconciliation deals” mostly offered to people formerly affiliated with the opposition forces, but in some cases to the entire population who chose to stay after the area was retaken by the regime. These “reconciliation deals,” whose implementation was supposed to be guaranteed by Russia, nominally envisaged that those who stayed in the areas retaken by the regime would, in exchange for detailed “confession” of their affiliation with the opposition forces, have their rights restored, be free from persecution, harassment and, importantly, from the forced recruitment into Assad’s forces for at least six months. The regime’s propaganda has hailed these agreements as a model for return of the displaced Syrians, often tricking some of those most desperate, living in the increasingly difficult conditions of displacement, to return.