SACD in 2022

SACD in 2022: The Timeline

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
  • - January 2022

    At the end of 2021, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity published its “Weaponization of Aid” report, which examined the mechanics of the methods the Syrian regime uses to control and direct the work of humanitarian aid agencies in Syria, including some UN agencies and international aid organizations, as well as myriad Syrian organisations that are often directly established by the regime’s institutions or proxies. The report was based on interviews with 45 Syrians and several internationals, who work in international aid organisations, UN agencies, and Syrian humanitarian and civil society organisations (CSOs). Different percentages of them confirmed that the regime was determining who benefits from these organisations (and who does not), appointing directors and managers, and hiring employees, and directing help and benefits to military and security agencies and personnel. Most local organisations are founded by individuals close to the regime as a means of obtaining funds, in addition to the fact that Relatives of regime-linked figures and those associated with the regime are appointed to most aid organisations to monitor and report to the regime and the parties that secured their employment about the activities of the organisations and their workers. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) issued a statement to strongly condemn the amnesty decree No. (24) of 2022 issued by the Syrian regime, to pardon “military defectors,” as a dangerous attempt to entice displaced Syrians, especially young men, back to an unsafe Syria where they face forced disappearance, arbitrary arrest, torture and death. We believe that the regime which continues to imprison tens of thousands of detainees without a valid reason, which has relentlessly killed, tortured, imprisoned, starved and displaced its people has no legitimacy to issue amnesties and that it is the members of the regime who should be the ones seeking pardon. 

    Shortly after the 2020 conference on refugee return organized by Russia in Damascus, the Syrian regime began to pressure the displaced to return to their areas, through confiscating their property and assets claiming they were “ownerless”. SACD illustrated how the Assad regime is actively engaged in forced displacement and demographic change all over Syria.  

    Expropriation of land and displacement have been employed as tools of collective punishment. Its victims see no way to get any sort of justice; many are simply struggling to survive. And while the people of Hama have been targeted by the Assad regime for decades, the Assad regime continues its oppressive practices against them by using demolition of informal housing as a method of forced and planned displacement.  

    SACD has always been keen on engaging with communities of Syrian refugees to properly understand their circumstances and convey their difficulties and suffering. In a candid interview, Tarek Saadeldine, who has been living in Denmark with his family for nearly seven years, explains how erroneous and inaccurate the assessment that Damascus is safe for returns. “We fled not because Damascus is safe or not safe, but for fear of arrest, pursuit and oppression,” says Tarik whose nephew has been spotted in the Caesar images among those tortured to death.  

    Despite that many people think that it will be safe in Syria when the war ends , and based on that refugees need to return to their home country, SACD interviewed IDPs in Damascus to show that there are so many security, economic, and social threats that would make people feel unsafe in Syria. 

    In another interview, A.M. a master’s student at Damascus University explains “What worries us most is compulsory military service. This is a terrifying issue for me & any young man. When we see a regime checkpoint asking us for IDs, we get a great feeling of fear.” 

  • - February 2022

    The Syrian Association for the Citizens’ Dignity, in cooperation with the Turkish organization SOLARIS held a major international symposium in the capital of Turkey, Ankara, on February 10-11, 2022, with the participation of dozens of Turkish academics, representatives of civil society organizations, Syrian and Turkish political, and media figures.  The symposium was an essential starting point for a serious and open discussion aimed at building a common understanding of the situation experienced by Syrian refugees today in Turkey and everywhere. 

    A two-day conference held in Ankara, titled “Safe environment and dignified return for Syrians” marked a significant starting point of a serious and open discussion which aims to build a common understanding of the situation in which displaced Syrians find themselves today in Turkey and everywhere. The closing statement summed up the main message of the conference: It’s not safe for Syrians to return. The silent and not so silent attempts to normalize the regime only make return more impossible, as Syrian regime, as main cause of displacement, practices repression and terrorism upon Syrian people. 

    SACD Programs Director, Rudaina Alkhazam delivered the opening speech by talking about the situation of refugees, especially in Turkey. After which Dr. Mazen Kseibi, member of SACD Board of Trustees, spoke about the absence of a safe environment in Syria and the continuation of displacement. On the second day of the conference, Dr. Mohannad AlHosini, member of SACD diplomatic team, elaborated on the definition of a safe environment according to the displaced Syrians themselves. And finally, the closing statement asserted that Syrian refugees and displaced persons cannot return without a safe environment. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity organized a press conference in the Danish capital Copenhagen, in collaboration with Refugees Welcome, and with the participation of Human Rights Watch, Refugee Protection Watch and Amnesty Denmark. The press conference discussed the recent reports documenting the harsh reality in Syria to which refugees are supposed to return, the condemnations of the Danish Immigration Service’s report by experts who provided information for it and the implications of the policy for other countries hosting Syrian refugees, such as Lebanon, and the possible long-term consequences of premature return, including further displacement of even larger numbers of Syrians.  

    SACD continued to draw attention to the suffering of Syrians trapped in Rukban. Located in a deserted area between Syria and Jordan, the Rukban camp has been suffering from a severe shortage in aid due to Russia’s attempt to block the delivery of much needed supplies and food. Children have been dying from inadequate medical care and shortage of food, let alone being deprived of education and registration. Some families were forced to leave the camp, but only to face the brutality of the Syrian regime forces awaiting them.  

    Emad, from the town of Qarayteen in Homs northern suburbs, explains his displacement story, how he ended up in Rukban camp, the difficulties they face and his message to the international community. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity has been adamantly working to shed light on what the Syrians face in the various refugee hosting countries. The Association conducted an interview with A. K., who is originally from Daraa and was born and lived in Damascus in 1975. She is currently married and lives with her husband and family in Lebanon. 

    “Despite the suffering we are experiencing in Lebanon and the high cost of living, I would rather stay than go back to Assad’s hell and his unjust regime,” says a Syrian refugee living in Beirut.
     

  • - March 2022

    On the anniversary of the start of the peaceful demonstrations and civil struggle in Syria, the displaced Syrians demanded the international community to give them what they have given the Ukrainian people: support and humane treatment. 

    After more than a decade of peaceful demonstrations in Syria calling for freedom and dignity and eventually demands to overthrow the regime, the struggle of the Syrians continues despite being subjected to repression, killing, torture, and war crimes that have killed at least half a million Syrians and have displaced more than half of the Syrian people. 

    As the world obsessively looked on in horror while the largest conflict on European soil since World War II unfolded, Syrians mostly felt tired. Many wonder what it would have taken to get the same attention for the killings and human rights abuses that served as a training ground for the aggressors and trial runs for their weapons.  

    If Russia‘s aggression is to be addressed successfully in Ukraine, it also has to be addressed where it began – in Syria. Without this, it is just a matter of time and place when and where it will spread, SACD warned in March. 

  • - April 2022

    In April, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) highlighted Putin’s criminality in Ukraine, which mirrored Russia’s crimes in Syria since the beginning of the conflict. SACD warned that if Russia is not held accountable for its crimes in Syria and Ukraine, it will not stop, and the scenario of Syria and Ukraine will be repeated elsewhere.  

    It’s not hard to see the same perpetrator and different response in Rukban in Syria and Mariupol in Ukraine. At a time when aid was flowing swiftly to support Ukrainians forcibly displaced by Russia, the very same perpetrator supporting the Syrian regime and denying aid delivery to Rukban camp, people in Rukban camp were left to choose between starving to death and dying for lack of medical care or surrendering themselves to the Syrian regime, without any security guarantees, risking being arbitrarily detained, tortured to death and forcibly disappeared. 

    In this context, SACD released a statement strongly condemning the latest reports of displaced Syrians in the besieged Rukban camp being forced to make the bitter choice of returning to Assad-held areas due to harsh living conditions in the camp as a result of deprivation from humanitarian assistance. 

    SACD called on the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Rukban, to monitor and report on the fate of those forced to return to the hands of the Syrian regime and Russia and to respect people’s right to a voluntary, safe and dignified return instead of facilitating forced return into uncertain fate. 

    Moreover, SACD spoke to A.H., a former member of the Civil Negotiations Committee in Duma, who accurately described Russia’s role in the bombing and besieging of the city, killing and forcibly displacing thousands, and that the Russian regime used the same war tactics in Mariupol. 

    He said: “Despite the regime’s propaganda that ‘war’ is over, it is tough to make ends meet in areas under Assad’s control. We hope that justice will prevail in Syria, that rights will return to their owners, and we return to our homes and live a dignified life.” 

    The month of April witnessed several waves of forced displacement of Syrians as part of the plan of the Assad regime, Iran, and Russia to serve their policy of demographic change in Syria, and the most prominent examples of this were the displacement of Zabadani and Madaya, under what was called the “Four Cities Agreement.” 

    This displacement was not the only product of this political agreement, but also the siege and starvation policies pursued by Hezbollah at the border, in addition to the indiscriminate bombing of civilians, which played a significant role in forcing the people and the factions in those areas to leave their towns and cities. This siege and bombardment resulted in the death of more than 300 civilians, 84 of whom died of starvation. 

  • - May 2022

    As the “Brussels VI Conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region“ convened, more than 13 million displaced Syrians faced increasingly dire prospects with growing unilateral calls from some hosting countries for the return of Syrian refugees to an unsafe Syria, without any guarantees or the minimum conditions for a safe, voluntary and dignified return. 

    The Syrian Association for citizens Dignity clearly communicated that the political process must be reformed to elevate the safe environment to the top of the political agenda. The special Envoy’s office must focus on securing the rights and minimum conditions for return expressed by refugees and IDPs as a fundamental part of any political solution and its elements, such as the new and credible constitution or elections. Adventurism and dubious “pilot projects” on the return must be rejected and abandoned.  

    Mr. Wasim Alhaj, member of SACD, participated in the session “Giving Space for Syrian Voices” at the Sixth Brussels Conference to Support the Future of Syria and the Region. These are the essential points he touched on: 

    • At the top of the list of priorities, the Syrians are looking forward to a safe and neutral environment with absolute international guarantees that guarantee their return to their cities and villages, which they have longed for. 
    • Syrians feel very disappointed with society, as there is still no real international will to implement a comprehensive political solution. 
    • The Syrians are deeply concerned about the normalization processes pursued by some countries with the Assad regime because this means that the situation in Syria will not change but will increase. 
    • 90% of those I interviewed expressed their desire to emigrate outside Syria if they had the opportunity to do so. 

    On the other hand, the deteriorating conditions in reconciliation areas have led to waves of silent displacement from Daraa to the north of Syria, which confirmed the impossibility of the displaced Syrians’ safe, voluntary, and dignified return. SACD illustrated how Daraa stood as a striking example that Russia, the perpetrator who committed crimes of killing and forced displacement against Syrians, cannot be the guarantor of any peace and stability in Syria. 

    SACD asserted that it is quite unfathomable that the world that sees Russia as an aggressor in Ukraine would even consider it a guarantor of any peace efforts in Syria. As long as Russia is not held accountable for its crimes, it will not stop in Syria and Ukraine, but its sway will also expand to other regions. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) and the Association of Revolutionary Activists in Homs, in cooperation with the Local Administration Councils Unit LACU, participated in an event entitled “Syria is ours” on May 21st in Azaz, northern Syria. The event included an exhibition of photos of Syrian activists who documented with their lenses the displacement of Syrians to remind the whole world of the tragedy of the displacement of the Syrian people. The participants in the event also affirmed their insistence on their right to return to their original homes, a safe, dignified, and voluntary return within the conditions of a safe environment that the Syrians themselves define. 

  • - June 2022

    In June, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) participated in the Freedom and Justice Campaign (2), organized by the Coordination of France and the Syrian Home Association under the supervision of the Union of Syrian Coordinators. The campaign included demonstrations and a photo exhibition, where a group of Syrians and Ukrainians distributed leaflets related to the conflict in Syria and Ukraine. 

    The campaign was launched on June 8 in front of the Paris Municipality and passed by the Court of Justice, handing it a letter deeming Putin and Bashar Al Assad war criminals and demanding an investigation into the crime of liquidating detainees in prisons.  

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity exposed Russia’s false claims that it is the guarantor of peace in Syria. The reconciliation agreements, brokered by Russia under its guarantees, gave the Syrian regime a golden opportunity to execute its opponents in areas covered by agreements. Raid campaigns, arrests, and assassinations continue daily, which impugns all claims by Russia that its model of reconciliations brings stability and enhances security. Daraa stands as a striking example that Russia, the perpetrator who committed crimes of killing and forced displacement against Syrians, cannot be the guarantor of any peace and stability in Syria. 

    SACD commented on the issuance of the Syrian regime a farcical law criminalizing torture on March 30. The timing and circumstances of issuing this amnesty law No. 7 of 2022. Indicate that it is politically motivated. 

    The pardon decrees issued, despite the relief they bring to a few families, are merely a tactical move the regime uses when it feels threatened. This time it was after the Tadamon massacre that has shown the world the regime’s natural face.  

    “The timing and circumstances of issuing this amnesty law indicate it’s politically motivated. The Syrian regime wants to give the impression that it’s taking steps to create conditions to encourage normalization,” wrote Mohamad Al Jouja, a member of SACD. 

    The Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) joined numerous organizations and public figures calling on the UK government to reverse its decision to deport asylum seekers, including several Syrian refugees, to Rwanda. 

    In a letter addressed to Jonathan Hargreaves, the UK Special Envoy on Syria, the SACD Board of Trustees expressed dismay at the “disturbing news of several Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United Kingdom being threatened with deportation to Rwanda under the new policy by the UK Home Office.”  

    Only a few miles away from Damascus, a small number of Syrians who never left Eastern Ghouta, opting to trust that the reconciliation agreements brokered by Russia would bring peace and stability to the region, found themselves living under a merciless security grip that threatens, abuses and kills Syrians amid deplorable living conditions.  

    To get a complete picture of the living reality in the reconciliation areas, we spoke with Umm Khaled, who decided to remain in her hometown, Hamouriyeh, after the displacement agreement was concluded in 2018. She is one of many Syrians who believed Assad and Russia’s false promises of safety and security and described “My sons signed reconciliation agreements in Eastern Ghouta. One was forcibly recruited to the army, one died under torture, and the third one forcibly disappeared.” 

    On World Refugee Day, SACD took the opportunity to raise global awareness of the hurdle facing Syrian refugees who are not sufficiently informed about the dangers facing them in Syria should they be forced to return to the current reality. We called upon the UNHCR to fulfill its responsibility to notify Syrian refugees and IDPs of the truth in Syria and prevent the unsafe and premature return of displaced Syrians to an unsafe Syria. In addition, SACD conducted several interviews with key Syrian voices to comment on the reality of return to Syria. 

    On World Refugee Day, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity and Voices of Displaced Syrians Forum organized an online panel discussion titled “Syrians Have the Right to Know the Reality in Syria Before Returning” to raise global awareness of the problem facing Syrian refugees who are not sufficiently informed about the dangers facing them in Syria should they be forced to return in the current reality. 

    In cooperation with the Syrian Networks League, the Syrian Association for Citizens’ Dignity (SACD) organized a one-day workshop in Azaz titled “Cross-Border humanitarian response in Syria: legal determinants and the role of humanitarian organizations and UN agencies” to discuss the latest developments on the Syrian crisis in general. Especially with the approaching date of the Security Council vote on extending the cross-border aid transfer decision and Russia’s attempt to put pressure on the international community to stop the resolution and move to cross-border aid transfers. It will also discuss the grave danger that stopping the transfer of aid across the border poses to civilians and the displaced in northern Syria.