Syrian Democratic Forces fire on Arab protesters


The final defeat¬†of ISIS in Syria’s northeast has left many Arab-majority areas of the region under occupation by the¬†Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces¬†(SDF)‚ÄĒa situation obviously fraught with political risks. Over the past weeks, protests have mounted in Arab villages across¬†Deir ez-Zor¬†province against the SDF, with residents¬†demanding better services, employment and a greater role in decision-making. On May 9, SDF fighters apparently opened fire on protesters in the village of Shheil, killing one person. This first fatality of the protest wave was reported by Associated Press, citing¬†the DeirEzzor24 activist collective.¬†The protest came after an overnight raid in the village, in which SDF fighters¬†killed six people.

Despite reports that the SDF is seeking a tactical alliance with Assad, the regime’s SANAnews agency reported the overnight raid as a “massacre.” SANA cited local sources saying that SDF forces besieged the district of al-Katef in the village for more than two hours, before storming the neighborhood with “heavy and random shooting, claiming the lives of six civilians, injuring others and arresting a number of the locals.”

The fact that the SDF are backed by the US, and fears of imperialist designs on the region’s oil,¬†have also apparently fueled the protests.¬†Al Jazeera¬†reports that in the town of¬†Greinej, near oil-fields now in the hands of the SDF, protesters chanted “No to the theft of our oil.”

The SDF have pledged¬†to turn control of areas taken from ISIS over to civilian control, but this process has been hindered¬†by political conflct. Raqqa, the former ISIS capital, is now contested by¬†rival councils‚ÄĒone put in place by¬†the SDF, and one made up of civil resistanceactivists who were in control of the city before ISIS took over there.

The new conflict is all the more worrisome given past claims of¬†“ethnic cleansing” of Arabs by the SDF’s constituent Kurdish miltia forces. An Arab-Kurdish ethnic war¬†in northern Syria looms nearer following this escalation.

Image via Rudaw

  1. Syrian Kurds accused in massacre
    A video clip posted to the pro-opposition Syria Call shows a mass grave being exhumed by local residents in al-Bagouz, a suburb of¬†Deir al-Zour. The report asserts that they were “several men and women” summarily executed by¬†YPG¬†militia forces.

    Kurdish forces are also coming under criticism for the camp they are running for captive ISIS fighters and collaborators and their families. A report on NPR says conditions are “deteriorating” at the camp, but does not give its location other than “northeastern Syria.”

  2. ISIS flag raised at Syria detention camp
    The Independent reports that the ISIS flag was raised by protesters at the detention camp at al-Hol, where some 70,000 suspected jihadist militants and their families are being held.

  3. Kurds renew appeal for aid to judge jihadists

    Syria’s Kurds have renewed their appeal for international aid to put on trial thousands of captured ISIS fighters. Almost a year since the March 2019 fall of the last ISIS bastion in Syria, the victorious Kurdish-led forces still hold about 12,000 suspected Islamic State¬†members in the northeast. Most of them are Syrian or Iraqi nationals but their ranks include between 2,500 and 3,000 nationals from around 50 other countries. (AFP)

  4. Demand repatriation of women and children held in Syria camps

    UN human rights experts on Feb. 8 urged 57 countries to¬†repatriate more than 10,000 displaced women and children¬†associated with ISIS fighters from camps in northeast Syria. The experts expressed grave concern over deteriorating conditions at al-Hol and and Roj camps, citing a recent¬†uptick in violence and security threats. The camps house more than 64,000 people, most of whom are women and children ,and nationals of the 57 states that6 called upon by the UN.¬†The experts noted that the continued detention of women and children “on unclear grounds”¬†impedes progress in seeking “accountability, truth and justice”¬†for all who have suffered in the region. (Jurist)

  5. Crackdown on ISIS at al-Hol refugee camp

    Kurdish-led security forces have made arrests inside a camp in northern Syria holding family members of Islamic State militants. The operation at al-Hol camp was aimed at rooting out ISIS followers after violent incidents, some fatal. Several dozen people are reported to have been killed there so far this year. (BBC News)