11-year-old conflict has devastating impact on Syria, UN 

QAMISHLI, Syria (North Press) – Presenting the latest UN Human Rights Council-mandated report on the 11-year-old conflict at a virtual press conference in Geneva, Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, described the “devastating” impact on communities.

Today, the poverty rate in Syria is an unprecedented 90%; 14,6 million people in Syria depend on humanitarian aid, the Syrian pound lost 80% of its value, and food prices have increased by over 200%, the report read.  

“Hundreds of thousands have been killed, more than half of the pre-war population – somewhere in the order of 22 million – have been displaced,” the report said.

“More than 100,000 are missing or forcibly disappeared. Syria’s cities and infrastructure have been destroyed,” the UN added.

Turkey fails to stop violations in Afrin 

Afrin, which has been controlled by the Turkish forces and the Turkish-backed armed Syrian opposition factions since March 2018, witnessed an increase in violence, arrest-related extortion, and housing, land and property-related violations.  

“The factions continued detaining people arbitrarily, outside of such processes. Former detainees reported that factions conducted arrests and were responsible for the running of detention facilities, with Turkish intelligence officials sometimes present at or directing interrogations,” the report noted. 

“Properties, including homes, schools, shops and factories, in Afrin city continued to be occupied by Syrian National Army factions (SNA), particularly affecting displaced owners. While patterns of looting, pillage, occupation and confiscation of property, including through taxes, continued.”

The report pointed out that a number of owners living abroad or who are internally displaced faced administrative challenges in managing their properties and have had their crops taken and sold although they had provided the necessary power of attorney for the management of their properties.

The Commission’s report holds Turkey responsible to ensure public order and safety, “Turkey remains bound by applicable human rights obligations vis-à-vis all individuals present in such territories. Where Turkish forces fail to intervene to stop such violations when made aware of them, they may violate the above-mentioned obligations.”

ISIS remains active in northeast  

As for the areas held by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), the Commission of Inquiry said, fighting continued in and around the cities of Ain Issa in Raqqa countryside, and Tel Tamr in Hasakah countryside, “leading to deaths, injuries and ongoing displacement among civilians”. 

The report indicated that remnants of ISIS sleeper cells have remained active in northeast Syria, and have continued to carry out attacks. The most recent was the attack on al-Sina’a prison in Ghuweiran neighborhood in Hasakah city on 20 January 2022.

Regarding the Turkish attacks on the region, the report noted, “the Commission received reports of multiple drone strikes suspected to have been carried out by Turkey.Investigations are ongoing.”

As for the situation in Hawl Camp, the Commission said, “Radicalization and insecurity prevailed within certain sections of Hawl camp.A number of states remain reluctant to bring home their adult nationals from the camps.

The Commission recommended the UN member states to repatriate their nationals held in northeast Syria “for alleged association with ISIS, in particular children with their mothers”.  

Hostilities intensify in northwest   

“Hostilities intensified in the first half of 2021,” the Commission said in regard with the situation in northwest Syria, adding “the frequency of attacks by pro-government forces increased in the run up to the summit between the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir V. Putin, and the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Sochi.”

“As part of an ongoing systematic effort to stifle political dissent, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham continued to curtail fundamental freedoms, detaining people perceived to be affiliated with opposing parties, critics of the ruling authorities, and journalists and media activists.”

The Commission confirmed that the HTS continued to detain people arbitrarily, including journalists, media activists and women.

“Its enforcement of so-called morality codes disproportionately affected women and girls, amounting to gender-based discrimination in the enjoyment of their rights. Arrests and interference in the media violated the right to freedom of expression,” it stressed.

Tens of thousands in government areas remain missing

In the Syrian government-held areas, the report said that the 10-week siege of Daraa southern neighbourhood of Daraa al-Balad in July 2021, accompanied by a pro-government forces military offensive, led to the killing and injury of civilians and resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands. 

“Hostilities culminated with a Russian-backed agreement on 9 September.”

The Commission added that reports indicated that government forces concluded “reconciliation agreements with over 12,000 people and collected 1,700 weapons”.

“Government forces continued to arbitrarily detain persons, and to torture and ill-treat detainees, in some instances until death.”

“Tens of thousands of individuals forcibly disappeared by government forces remain missing. Government forces continue to inflict cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment on the missing individuals’ relatives through the deliberate practice of concealing their fate and whereabouts,” the report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said. 

Reporting by Shella Abdulhalim

Editing by Jwan Shkaki