Five Civilians Killed, including Two Children, and no less than 184 Individuals Arrested
SNHR’s report, which was released today entitled, “Hay’at Tahrir al Sham Exploits the De-Escalation Agreement and Escalates Their Violations”, said that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham killed five civilians, including two children, and arrested no less than 184 individuals in less than two months, as the group has escalated their violations after the Turkish-Russian agreement came into force on September 17.
The report sheds light on the formation of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham group which is composed of Fateh al Sham Front (formerly al Nussra) in addition to a number of armed opposition factions, as well as Ansar al Din, who is an extremist Islamic group. The formation, the report notes, came in parallel with serious violations perpetrated by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham who carried out several attacks in areas in southern and western suburbs of Idlib, as well as the border areas with Turkey. The group continued their policies and methodology, enforcing whatever rulings they see fit through violence and coercion, as they actively sought to expand their areas of control at the expense of the moderate factions’ territories.
The 6-page report notes that the residents living in the areas that broke away from the Syrian regime’s control breathed a sigh of relief as rates of bombardment and killing dropped, enabling them to secure some basic needs, particularly those that require transportation between cities and villages. The forcibly displaced, namely the segment that was affected the most in those areas, were the ones who needed this kind of transportation the most. According to the report, however, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s violations resulted in destabilizing the state of security and stability which the society was in desperate need of, and caused panic in a number of villages and areas.
The report stresses that Friday’s demonstrations came back, as the indiscriminate aerial bombardment stopped in light of the most recent Turkish-Russian agreement, and some banners were notably seen in those demonstrations, where some local groups and activists were pursued by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham affiliates because of those banners and their discourse condemning the group’s practices.
The report sheds light on Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s violations between the start of September and mid-October 2018. The report draws upon SNHR team’s continued monitoring of news and developments during, before, and after the time period covered by the report, as well as an extensive wide network of relations with dozens of various sources that have been over the years, as the report contains two accounts, in addition to analyzing videos and photos posted online, or the ones sent by local activists via e-mail, Skype, or social media which showed Hay’at Tahrir al Sham affiliates opening fire on protestors in Kafr Halab village.
The report records the killing of five civilians, including two female children, in attacks by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham between the start of September and October 15, 2018, as the group carried out raids on three villages – two in western suburbs of Aleppo, while the third, Ein Larouz, is located in southern suburbs of Idlib. The group used heavy weapons, mortar shells, and opened fire randomly on civilians in those attacks.
The report also documents no less than 184 incidents of arbitrary arrest and abduction carried out by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham in the same period of time. Most of the arrests and abductions were concentrated in the villages and towns of Jabal al Zawiya, southern suburbs of Idlib governorate, and Sarmada, al Dana, and Atama areas in northern suburbs of Idlib governorate.
According to the report, the arrest campaigns involved prominent figures and sheikhs who refused to praise Hay’at Tahrir al Sham in their sermons, as well as local activists who criticized some of the group’s practices on social media. The arrests also involved demonstration organizers who raised banners in protest of the group’s policies.
The report stresses that Hay’at Tahrir al Sham is in control of wide areas where they enforce their rule over the residents. The group has a political entity and abides by a hierarchical structure to a large extent. As such, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham is bound by the international human rights law. However, the group has committed wide violations through arrests and enforced-disappearances.
In addition, the group has violated the international humanitarian law through indiscriminate shooting which resulted in the killing of many civilians.
The report calls on the international community and influential states to support, financially and logistically, the active local councils who are undergoing a conflict with Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, whether publicly od discreetly, as the group is trying to dominate or dismantle these councils, support the vital civil society groups in north Syria who stands as a line of defense against extremist groups by raising awareness and providing services.
The report also stresses that Iranian, Iraqi, and other extremist Shiite groups that are openly supported by Iran, as well as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and all are cross-borders organizations, should be added to the lists of designated terrorist organizations and targeted and obstructed in line with extremist Islamic groups.
Additionally, the report calls on the OHCHR to monitor Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s violations and its reflections on the lives of the civilians in Idlib, and submit effective recommendations to the international community in this regard.
The report adds that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) should start investigating the incidents in this report and try to include them in their next report.
The report calls on all of the factions that had joined Hay’at Tahrir al Sham to urgently detach themselves from this formation, expose the group’s practices, and organize awareness campaigns on the ideals of extremist groups and how they infiltrate societies and recruit youths in parallel with workshops highlighting the importance of respecting and defending basic human rights.
Lastly, the report calls on Hay’at Tahrir al Sham to immediately cease agitating a state of chaos, infighting, and social resentment, respect basic human rights in their areas of control, immediately re;ease all arbitrarily arrested detainees, and translate their defection from Al-Qaeda into actions in reality, rather than limiting this step to a verbal declaration.