Locals say government exploits insecurity in Suwayda for increased control

Suwayda, Syria (North Press) – After a relatively peaceful year in Suwayda, following the popular uprising against a so-called “gang” affiliated with Syrian government forces, which was the main reason behind the abductions and robberies that occurred in Suwayda over the past two years, unstable security and chaos have re-emerged.

Former Syrian diplomat Saqer al-Mulham believes the breakdown in security in Suwayda is “a well-thought out plan of the higher security authorities.”

He stressed to North Press that “the purpose of creating chaos by unleashing mafias related to security forces is to push supporters to call for help from the army in order to interfere. This time, the intervention is led by the Fourth Division, Hezbollah, and Iranian-backed militias.”

The diplomat said that there were suggestions in secret meetings in Amman and Jeddah that “the regime resolutely refused to suspend captagon exports before being paid in return, and the Gulf countries have refused to do so.”

As a result, al-Muhlam believes, “A plan to mobilize Iranian militias on Jordan’s borders to put pressure on the Jordanian side is currently underway. This requires a reason for Iranian militia to enter Suwayda, which is effected through the creation of insecurity.”

North Press recorded the kidnapping of four civilians in Suwayda in May, including three on the Damascus-Suwayda highway between al-Masmiyah and Baraq villages.

Nidal Muhammad, from Suwayda, was kidnapped, and his car was found on the Damascus–Suwayda highway as well.

Talal al-Jabai was also kidnapped on the road to Shahba, in the northern countryside of Suwayda.

In mid-January, Ayham Ghanem was released after his relatives paid a ransom following his kidnapping on the Damascus–Suwayda highway.  

A relative of one of those kidnapped, who preferred remain anonymous, told North Press that he holds “the security services” responsible for the kidnapping.

He explained that the region where these young men were kidnapped on the Damascus–Suwayda highway, between al-Masmiyah and Baraq villages, “is considered to be under the control of security and military checkpoints.”

The 110km long road between Damascus and Suwayda has five security checkpoints, starting with the Qaser al-Motamarat (House of Conferences) checkpoint at the beginning of the road. Next is the al-Adliyah checkpoint; then al-Masmiyah, where kidnappings occur frequently; then a checkpoint in the village of Hazem; and a checkpoint near the village of Tel Shihan, near the city of Shahba.

Unstable security and drug trade

Some people in Suwayda believe the increase in car theft inside Suwayda Governorate goes in tandem with the suspension of the drug trade after the airstrikes that occurred in the village of Shaab in early May.

Samer Ahmad, from Suwayda, said that the suspension of the drug trade and smuggling after Jordan changed its attitude towards this issue “has prompted some drug dealers to look for another source to make money through stealing cars and blackmailing the owners to pay half the price before returning them.” North Press documented the theft of eight cars during May.

One person whose car was stolen believes that “these thefts are politically-motivated…. It confirms that the unstable security in southern Syria is a winning card for the regime in order to control it.”

Reporting by Razan Zeinaddin