Millions of IDPs Live in Tents in the Freezing Cold, Refusing to Return to Their Homes in Areas Controlled by the Syrian Regime
Press release (Link below to download full report):
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its monthly special report summarizing the human rights situation in Syria, outlining the most notable human rights violations documented by the SNHR in December 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, in which it notes that millions of IDPs live in tents in the freezing cold, refusing to return to their homes in areas controlled by the Syrian regime.
The 25-page report outlines the most notable violations SNHR documented in December 2021, including the death toll of civilian victims who were killed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces, as well as the record of cases of arrest/ detention and enforced disappearances. The report also highlights attacks on civilian objects, which SNHR was able to document during this period.
The report draws upon the ongoing daily monitoring of news and developments, and on an extensive network of relations with various sources, in addition to analyzing a large number of photographs and videos.
The report documents the deaths of 69 civilians, including 16 children and seven women (adult female), in December 2021, with the highest percentage of killings being carried out at the hands of other parties. Among the victims were seven individuals who died due to torture, in addition to one massacre committed by the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria.
The report documents at least 242 cases of arbitrary arrest/ detention in December 2021 at the hands of the parties to the conflict and the controlling forces in Syria, including four children and four women, with the largest percentage of these carried out by Syrian regime forces in the governorates of Damascus Suburbs then Aleppo.
The report documents at least two attacks on vital civilian facilities in December 2021, one of which were carried out at the hands of Syrian regime forces, and one by Syrian Democratic Forces.
As the report reveals, December saw the continuation of the military campaign launched in mid-2021 by Syrian-Russian alliance forces in the Idlib region of northwest Syria, during which time, the pace of the Syrian regime’s ground attacks decreased. The Russian Air Force continued its periodic attacks in areas of northwest Syria, mostly targeting the areas west and north of Idlib city, on Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s military headquarters. The same aircraft also targeted poultry barns, mostly on the outskirts of Ma’aret Misreen city in the northern suburbs of Idlib and Darat Ezza city in the western suburbs of Aleppo.
The report adds that intermittent clashes continued in December between Syrian National Army forces and Syrian Democratic Forces in the villages of Ein Eisa district in the northern suburbs of Raqqa, which are under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces, with both sides using heavy weapons, without any change in the distribution of zones of control.
In terms of bombings, the report monitors several bombings using explosive devices in Daraa governorate and the suburbs of Aleppo, as well as in Ras al Ein city in the suburbs of Hasaka. December also saw continuing civilian deaths due to explosions caused by landmines and munitions remnants in various governorates and regions of Syria, mostly in the suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour, Idlib and Hama; SNHR documented the deaths of 10 civilians, including four children, as a result of landmine explosions in December. The report also records killings of civilians in the villages and towns of the eastern suburbs of Deir Ez-Zour by unidentified gunmen believed to be affiliated with ISIS. We also recorded killings by persons whose identities we were unable to identify in Daraa, Idlib and Suwayda governorates, in addition to continuing killings in al Hawl Camp.
As the report reveals, the living conditions and the economic situation have worsened in all regions of Syria, coinciding with heavy rain and wind storms and a sharp drop in temperatures in the region, with the resulting suffering exacerbated by the severe shortage of heating materials and the increase in their prices.
In northwestern Syria, the sharp deterioration in the exchange rates of the Turkish lira, which is the currency used in the region, led to further deterioration in the general situation, as the depreciation of the Turkish lira versus the US dollar reached record levels. On December 9, a convoy of aid from the UN World Food Program entered northwest Syria from areas controlled by the Syrian regime in Aleppo through the Saraqeb crossing, east of Idlib city; this convoy is complementary to cross-border aid, in line with Security Council Resolution 2585.
In December, the report monitors an escalation of restrictions by the security apparatus of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham and the Office of Media Relations imposed on the work of media activists intended to limit their ability to film and report the events in those areas. The report also documents restrictions on the al Ghazawiya and Deir Ballout crossings, separating the Idlib suburbs and the areas of Afrin suburbs in northwest of Aleppo, by members of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham.
The areas controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces are also witnessing an increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs, in addition to the scarcity of sugar and bread, which exacerbates the deterioration of the already harsh living conditions there. Several demonstrations took place in the cities, towns and villages of Deir Ez-Zour and Hasaka suburbs throughout the month, calling for an improvement in the living situation and the release of detainees.
In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, December saw a decrease in documented COVID-19 infections across Syria compared to November. As the report reveals, the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health officially announced 2,108 cases of COVID-19 infection and 148 deaths in December. The report adds that more infections and deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in December in northwestern Syria, with the Early Warning Alert and Response Network (EWARN) announcing the documentation of 802 infections and 76 deaths related to COVID-19. As for northeastern Syria, the Self-Management Authority of Northern and Eastern Syria has returned to publish statistics on the status of infections and deaths from the coronavirus, after it stopped publishing these details the previous month due to the lack of materials needed to conduct tests with the lab suspending its work.
In regard to asylum, displacement and forced displacement, In the beginning of December, the northwest region of Syria witnessed a windstorm. On December 18, the northwest region of Syria witnessed a heavy rainstorm, which lasted for four days and caused flooding in areas where IDP camps are located, resulting in damage to a large number of tents. In addition, the Idlib region’s camps also witnessed several fires, most of which were caused by the incorrect use of heating equipment.
In al Hawl Camp, on December 13, Syrian Democratic Forces allowed a group of IDPs to leave al Hawl Camp in the eastern suburbs of Hasaka and return to their villages and towns, consisting of 51 families or approximately 200 individuals, from Manbej city and its villages in the northern suburbs of Aleppo.
The report further reveals that evidence gathered by SNHR indicates that attacks have been directed against civilians and civilian objects, with Syrian-Russian alliance forces continuing to commit various crimes of extrajudicial killing, arrest, torture, and enforced disappearance. In addition, the indiscriminate attacks they have carried out caused the destruction of various facilities and other buildings. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the war crime of attacking civilians has been committed in many cases.
The report stresses that the Syrian government has violated international humanitarian law and customary law, and a number of UN Security Council resolutions, particularly resolutions 2139 and 2042 concerning the release of detainees, as well as resolution 2254, all without any accountability.
The report adds that the instances of indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardment carried out by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are considered to be in clear violation of international humanitarian law, with such indiscriminate killings amounting to war crimes.
The report calls on the UN Security Council to take additional steps following its adoption of Resolution 2254, and stresses the importance of referring the Syrian case to the International Criminal Court, adding that all those who are responsible should be held accountable including the Russian regime whose involvement in war crimes has been repeatedly proven.
The report also calls on the Security Council to adopt a resolution banning the use of cluster munitions and landmines in Syria, similar to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and to include advice on how to safely remove the remnants of such dangerous weapons.
The report additionally requests that all relevant United Nations agencies make greater efforts to provide food, medical and humanitarian assistance in areas where fighting has ceased, and in internally displaced person camps, and to follow up with those States that have pledged voluntary contributions.
The report calls for the implementation of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine after all political channels have proved fruitless through all agreements, the Cessation of Hostilities statements, and Astana agreements that followed, stressing the need to resort to Chapter VII, and to implement the norm of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly.
The report calls on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) to launch investigations into the cases included in this report and previous reports, and confirms the SNHR’s willingness to cooperate and provide further evidence and data, with the report calling on the COI to focus on the issue of landmines and cluster munitions within their next report.
The report also calls on the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria to condemn the perpetrators of crimes and massacres and those who were primarily responsible for dooming the de-escalation agreements, to reschedule the peace process so that it can resume its natural course despite Russia’s attempts to divert and distort it, through empowering the Constitutional Committee prior to the establishment of a transitional governing body.
The report also emphasizes that the Syrian regime must stop its indiscriminate shelling and targeting of residential areas, hospitals, schools and markets, and stop using prohibited munitions and barrel bombs, as well as complying with UN Security Council resolutions and customary humanitarian law.
The report stresses that the states supporting Syrian Democratic Forces should apply pressure on these forces in order to compel them to cease all of their violations in all the areas and towns under their control, adding that Syrian Democratic Forces must immediately stop conscripting children, hold the officers involved in such violations accountable, and pledge to return all children who have been arrested for conscription immediately.
The report also calls on all Armed Opposition factions and the Syrian National Army to ensure the protection of civilians in all areas under their control, and calls on them to take care to distinguish between civilians and military targets and to cease any indiscriminate attacks.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for humanitarian organizations to develop urgent operational plans to secure decent shelter for internally displaced persons, and to provide protected facilities and vehicles, such as medical facilities, schools, and ambulances, with distinctive signs that can be distinguished from long distances, as well as making several additional recommendations.