Iranian-backed armed groups fuel chaos in Aleppo

By Ardo Juweid

ALEPPO, Syria (North Press) – Diaa Makansi, 55, resident of Ashrafiyeh neighborhood in Aleppo said that the neighborhood is experiencing a state of chaotic turmoil and witnesses occasional use of weapons, which has had a negative impact on the lives of the residents in the second roundabout area of the neighborhood.

Makansi believes that the chaos is caused by armed groups affiliated with the Syrian government. These groups engage in destructive activities, spreading fear and terror among the residents, especially women and children who face harassment on the neighborhood streets.

In an interview with North Press, he noted that the absence of security forces in controlling the movements of these armed groups has increased the security chaos and the lack of law enforcement, as if it were intentional. This has led many residents to prefer leaving their homes and relocating to a safer place rather than risk being shot by a stray bullet.

In the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood near the second roundabout, there is a group of civilians recruited by Iran, the ally of the Syrian government, operating under the name of “Local Defense.” They belong to the Baggara and Hazouri tribes.

Makansi further explained that both tribes have taken control of multiple buildings and commercial shops along the main street. They conceal their activities by using the sale of used furniture as a cover, and they have also established a military outpost in the area to instill fear and terror among the residents. They are armed and active day and night, moving around in cars.

Their headquarters is located within a distance of no more than one hundred meters from the joint security checkpoints present in the neighborhood, overlooking the outskirts of the Ashrafiyeh entrance.

Periodically, clashes arise between the two groups, involving robberies or smuggling. Surprisingly, the nearby security forces fail to intervene, allowing the groups to terrorize residents and maintain control without consequences.

Black market neighborhoods

Iranian-backed armed groups control eastern areas of Aleppo. These areas are witnessing an escalation of violence, resulting in occasional casualties and injuries.

The enforced disorder caused by these armed groups, who have implemented a Shia identity in the eastern neighborhoods, impacts the residents’ daily activities and social connections in those areas.

Some of these neighborhoods include al-Marjah, Bab al-Nayrab, al-Salhin, Karm Homad, al-Mayysar, and the guesthouses of Iranian-backed tribes of Baggara, Barri family, al-Asasina, Hamra, and Shahid.

Ayman al-Zain, 40, has been displaced from the villages of al-Fu’ah in Idlib countryside since 2013. He describes living with these groups, saying: “We have no choice but to work and deal with them, even in illegal activities like arms and drug trafficking. We do so under the protection of Iranian-backed groups and certain members of the Syrian People’s Council who enjoy immunity, such as the Baggara, Omar al-Hussein, and Hassan Shahid families.”

In Turn, Issam al-Zain, 22, a displaced person from the villages of al-Fu’ah in the countryside of Idlib, told North Press that “The groups provide them with cover and protection primarily from the Syrian security, especially since they serve their military service within these groups.”

Despite the absence of Syrian security, these neighborhoods have a relatively better environment, as they provide all the basic necessities for the residents and serve as an outlet since they have a black market for all essential supplies.