A few days ago the Washington Post prominently featured an article chronicling the trials and tribulations of returning Syrian refugees at the hands of Assad’s security forces.
Assad urged Syrian refugees to come home. Many are being welcomed with arrest and interrogation.
By LOUISA LOVELUCK | The Washington Post | Published: June 2, 2019
BEIRUT — Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been arrested after returning home as the war they fled winds down – then interrogated, forced to inform on close family members and in some cases tortured, say returnees and human rights monitors.
Many more who weathered the conflict in rebel-held territory now retaken by government forces are meeting a similar fate as President Bashar al-Assad's regime deepens its longtime dependence on informers and surveillance.
For Syrian refugees, going home usually requires permission from the government and a willingness to provide a full accounting of any involvement they had with the political opposition. But in many cases the guarantees offered by the government as part of this "reconciliation" process turn out to be hollow, with returnees subjected to harassment or extortion by security agencies or detention and torture to extract information about the refugees' activities while they were away, according to the returnees and monitoring groups.
Almost 2,000 people have been detained after returning to Syria during the past two years, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, while hundreds more in areas once controlled by the rebels have also been arrested.
"If I knew then what I know now, I would never have gone back," said a young man who returned to a government-controlled area outside Damascus. He said he has been harassed for months by members of security forces who repeatedly turn up at his home and stop him at checkpoints to search his phone.
"People are still being taken by the secret police, and communities are living between suspicion and fear," he said. "When they come to your door, you cannot say no. You just have to go with them." (WaPo)
I have no reason to doubt the heavy handed scrutiny and harassment faced by returning refugees, as well as the extraction of ransoms from refugees’ families. A similar report appeared last February about the experiences of Syrian refugees returning from Germany and there has been a steady stream of similar articles. Assad’s security forces never had a reputation for finesse. However these reporters fail to mention Syria’s real national security concerns of weeding out, or at least identifying, jihadists and their sympathizers among the returning refugees. This is especially true in light of IS determination to continue the jihad as they insinuate themselves into the Syrian populace. Such is the nature of war, especially in this region.
My guess is that this article was featured so prominently in the WaPo as part of the general campaign to depose Assad and keep Syria down as a broken, war torn country. I have also noticed an increase in the wailing about the barbarity of Assad and Putin in bombing and shelling the long suffering inhabitants of Idlib. As the SAA continues its slow, steady, hard won advances against the Idlib jihadis, the wailing is bound to get louder.
Loveluck’s article was reprinted in “Stars & Stripes” where I read it without being subjected to Jeff Bezos hawking a subscription to the WaPo.