In Syria, 821,210 people in 34 communities remain trapped under siege. Another 1.7 million people are under immediate threat of being besieged. Bashar al-Assad’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran, is claiming victory. Civilians opposed to his government are being forced to surrender. However, this so-called victory will not bring stability, as it will make the displacement of millions of people permanent.
These are the findings of the most recent Siege Watch report that was published today by PAX and The Syria Institute.
Since the fall of Aleppo, the Assad regime has accelerated its “surrender or die” strategy. This means that communities are being forced to surrender through campaigns of siege, starvation, bombardment of civilian targets and other war crimes. In the Siege Watch report published today, the seventh quarterly update of the project, PAX and The Syria Institute warn that more than 420,000 people in the besieged Eastern Ghouta are at direct risk of becoming the next victims in this campaign.
In the period between May and July 2017, two communities in Damascus have surrendered: Barzeh and Qaboun. Thousands of civilians were forced to leave. Qaboun was even entirely depopulated. In total, 12 communities have been depopulated entirely. Thousands of people from these areas have been deported to other provinces, mainly Idlib and Aleppo. These population transfers constitute one of the Assad government’s goals – to cleanse certain regions of the country of people sympathetic to the opposition. Under international humanitarian law, these are war crimes. In addition, at least six suspected chemical attacks were launched against opposition fighters in Jobar and Ein Tarma during May-July 2017.
See also siegewatch.org for an interactive map with more information about the besieged communities.