The latest report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic stated on Sept. 14 that Syria is "not fit for safe and dignified returns of refugees." The report found that between July 2020 and June 2021, armed conflict increased in the country. The report documented 243 civilian deaths, but estimated that the total number of fatalities is actually far greater. The report also stressed the humanitarian crisis and ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Conditions were also found to be precarious for the 6.7 million displaced persons within the country.
The Turkish military is unveiling a new upgraded "unmanned combat aerial vehicle," the Bayraktar Akıncı, developed by private drone manufacturer Baykar Defense, which is owned by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar. The Akıncı, which is Turkish for "raider," is a more advanced version of Turkey's iconic Bayraktar TB2, able to fly higher and stay in the air longer as well as carry more missiles. The TB2, developed in collaboration with another Turkish defense contractor, Roketsan, has been used by Ankara against Kurdish PKK guerillas in northern Iraq, and against Syrian regime forces in Idlib provice. Turkey is said to have 75 of the TB2 drones in its own fleet.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) charges in a new report that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are violating US sanctions imposed under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act by supplying oil and gas to the Bashar Assad regime. The report claims the sales come to some six million barrels of oil annually, amounting to profits of $120 million. The report covers the period from enactment of the Caesar Act in June 2020 through July 2021, and asserts that the oil has enabled "perpetration of atrocious violations" by the regime. The report also warns of toxic pollution caused by primitive oil extraction methods used at the SDF-held oil-fields.
Kurdish rebels launched a mortar attack on a Turkish military position in northern Iraq, killing one soldier Aug. 13. The troops were stationed at the outpost as part of Ankara's "Operation Claw-Lightning" to hunt down fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey's Defense Ministry said its forces immediately retaliated for the attack, and three PKK fighters were "neutralized" (killed). (Al Jazeera) The following day, thousands of Kurds marched in Dusseldorf, Germany, to protest ongoing Turkish military operations in Turkey's eastern Kurdish region, in northern Iraq, and in Syria's Rojava region. The demonstration was timed for the 37th anniversary of the start of the PKK's armed struggle against the Turkish state. Organizers reported that local police banned slogans calling for the release of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan. (Rudaw)
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department on July 28 imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of al-Assad's regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians.
A suicide bomb killed at least 30 in Baghdad on July 19, exploding in a busy market as people prepared for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the blast. Nearly four years after the liberation of Mosul, remnants of the militant organization are regrouping to stage scattered attacks across the country. Violence is not the only legacy that IS, and the fight against it, left behind. In a new report from the Norwegian Refugee Council, Mosul residents offer sobering testimony on the challenge of trying to restart their lives despite a failure to rebuild much of the city's devastated homes, infrastructure, and economy. There are still around 1.2 million Iraqis displaced across the country, including 257,000 in Nineveh province, where Mosul sits. Aid groups warn that these people are being exposed to new risks, including from COVID-19, as Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government move to close camps, leaving some with nowhere to go.
Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib June 1, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO). Syria was elected to the board for a three-year term by the 22 countries of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region—the latest coup for normalization of the Assad regime. "How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues, my friends?" said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib, in a WhatsApp message. Read a banner at the protest: "We reject the idea that our killer and he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board." Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northwest of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics.
Kurdish forces shot dead at least eight protesters at the town of Manbij in northern Syria on May 31. Demonstrations broke out against military conscription by the Kurdish-led autonomous administration, amid growing discontent over economic conditions. A curfew was imposed on the town, as many shops heeded a call for a general strike. Representatives of the Kurdish administration and its Asayish police force held talks with Arab tribal leaders on June 2. A joint statement said military conscription will be halted pending review and dialogue. All detained protesters are also to be released under the agreement.