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The Displacement Continues

Exclusive interview with Om Amran on her Displacement from Daraa

Edited by Joanne Roberts

Last time we spoke with Om Amran she was in Daraa after being displaced by Assad for the fifth time. When asked whether she thought she would be displaced again. She said "No...... do not worry". Little did she know at the time that her days there were numbered.

I do not think the World let alone the Syrian people thought that Bashar Al Assad would actually empty another town of all it's inhabitants. Displace thousands of families and for what? Their only crime in this conflict was that they spoke the truth and spoke up against oppression and war crimes.
They asked for Freedom.

Q1 Whilst in Daraa is it true that the regime dropped leaflets asking you all to surrender or die? What did you think when you saw these threats?

About two months before the invasion of areas outside control of the regime in Daraa, the regime's planes occasionally dropped leaflets. The leaflets included messages from the regime which called on the people to fight terrorists and insurgents and promised that the militants would die if they did not lay down their arms. The words and phrases used by the regime were sometimes nice but often violent, included was the threat of death and murder. It should be noted that the areas where leaflets were dropped became areas of de-escalation under the truce declared in South-west Syria on July 9, 2017. It was under the control of the armed opposition factions that were not classified by the International community as extremist or
extremist terrorist groups or extreme Islamic groups.

Q2 Were you shocked to lose Daraa? Did you think it would fall so quickly?

Before answering this question I must briefly talk about the truce of 9th July, 2017. It was agreed upon between America, Russia and Jordan. It had been agreed that the areas of south-western Syria (Daraa - Quneitra) beyond the control of the regime will be reduced to de-escalation zones and the cessation of all warplanes and combat operations. Therefore, the people and the armed opposition thought that the solution would be political in Daraa and Quneitra. They did not think there would be fierce fighting let alone mass displacement of the people.

But our shock was when the Russians announced in June 2018 about a battle for control of the areas beyond the control of the regime in Daraa and Quneitra. The shock was even greater when the Americans announced they would not support the armed opposition factions and would stand on the sidelines. On June 21, 2018 the Russian warplanes began to bombard Daraa with great violence. From this point the people and the armed opposition knew the fate of Daraa would be like the same fate of Eastern Ghouta.

The shelling was very severe and dozens of towns and villages were destroyed and thousands of people were displaced from their homes. The Russians used scorched earth policy if the people and the armed opposition factions did not agree to hand over their territory. This forced the people and the gunmen to engage in reconciliations and negotiations with the Russians to stop the bombing and the displacement of the people. Thus the villages and towns of Daraa start to fall one by one into the hands of the Russians as a result of their violent policy.

Q3 Why did you not stay in Daraa once it fell to the regime? What was your greatest fear?

For me, I am with negotiations and reconciliations and I prefer the political solution now because Syria has become destructive and exhausted because of the war. Unfortunately the Russians have followed a wrong policy in Syria. The Russians used violence and heavy shelling to force people to negotiate and reconcile and they will remain the enemies because they killed and displaced thousands of people from their homes. In addition the Russians did not make real concessions to the opposition that made the opponents feel reassured enough to agree to return home and negotiate with the regime and the Russians. The fear is what we have seen and heard that the regime in Eastern Ghouta and in other areas which it was able to control with the help of the Russians have not carried out their promises. They have begun arresting young people and stealing furniture and property from the people.

Q4 What possessions were you able to salvage and take with you?

I have told you before that during 7 years of the war I have been displaced about 5 times so I had a feeling that furniture and private property had no value in my life. I will tell you that I spent three years without a bed to sleep on. I put my clothes in boxes so that I could carry them when I moved from one place to another. Of course all I could take when the bombing started was a few pieces of underwear and my identity papers. It was very difficult for anyone to take property or furniture because the shelling was so violent.

Q5 How did you get out of Daraa ? Where did you have left to go?

I was displaced with my friends to an area close to the Syrian-Israeli border, a relatively safe area because it was part of the 1974 Convention. The Agreement on Disengagement between Israel and Syria was signed on May 31, 1974. I stayed there for about 2 weeks. In this area of small geographical area there were camps and tens of thousands of displaced people who fled the bombing. The regime forces backed by Russian aircover, began to sweep the villages and towns of Daraa one by one. Before the forces of the regime advanced the areas of the 1974 agreement the Russians told people who refused reconciliations and compromises that they could go to Idlib with green buses as they were called. Myself, a group of civilian activists, media and civil defence elements who refused reconciliation and settlements decided to go to Idlib.

Q6 Did you ever in your lifetime think that you would become an internally displaced person (IDP) in your own country?

I do not think anyone in the world has ever thought to be an IDP, it's a very strange idea. It would be an acceptable idea if the person who made you an IDP was someone from outside your own country. What happened in Syria was the people have been abandoned by their Country's President and his army and then he asked for support from the Russians and Iranians.

Nobody wishes to leave their home. I want to tell you there are some Syrian people who are tired, sad and very hurt. They now hate their homeland of Syria and do not want to return because they are very tortured just because they wanted freedom and wanted justice and democracy.

Q7 How does a woman alone in this war cope?

Of course, it's hard to be a woman alone in this war but sometimes I thank God for that. When I was watching parents suffering to look after their children. There were babies that needed milk, diapers and medicine. Parents were struggling to provide the children's necessities in the camps for the displaced. Dozens of children died in the camps due to Scorpion bites. In addition to that as a woman alone I could find places to sleep, while dozens of families with their children did not find a place to sleep, cook or rest.

Q8 What are your memories of your time in Idlib ? What was the mood ?

The trip to Idlib was very difficult and I remember the first question I asked myself when I arrived in Idlib was "Was my decision true?" ... "What am I going to do now? " and I remember that I stayed for three days in a row. I dreamed that the army was beating me and I was running from place to place to hide from them. The family that greeted me in Idlib was very nice and their members always tried to help me to stay well and optimistic.

Q9 What do you think will happen to the people of Idlib?

I will tell you a little about Idlib. Idlib is called "Green Idlib" because it is famous for it's beauty and green land and the abundance of olive trees in it. It is located in North-Western Syria and has long borders with Turkey.

The population of Idlib is currently about 3 million. This number includes the people who were displaced from Eastern Ghouta, Homs, Qalamoun, Daraa and others. These people are civilians, activists, media and armed men who rejected compromises and reconciliations with the regime. It also includes the Islamic factions which were also deported to Idlib from the regions which I mentioned above. We can say that the regime and the Russians gathered all their opponents in the North of Syria, especially in Idlib.

The issue of Idlib is very complicated because of several things. The most important are:-

1. The presence of Turkish checkpoints in the areas and towns of Idlib
2. The presence of extremist groups such as Front Of Victory and ISIS
3. Intention of the regime and Russia and their strong desire to restore Idlib's control to them.

Apart from the above there are a large number of civilians who did not carry weapons. In fact I do not know what will happen to Idlib because there is a conflict between Russia and the regime on one hand and Turkey on the other in addition to many International parties.

Q10 What would you like to tell the world? What can they do to help all those innocent men, women and children in Idlib?

I am very sorry because this question made me laugh. The world and the international community did not and will not do anything so I will not send any message to them.

The reason is that Syria after nearly eight years of war has about 60% of it's villages and cities destroyed. There are close to 6 million refugees who fled abroad and approximately 6 million internally displaced people. About half a million people are now dead and more than 250,000 are forcibly disappeared. There are children without parents and physically disabled people because of the war. Thousands of women have lost their husbands and families.

What did the Security Council or the international community do? Nothing!

I do not deny that there is extremist groups in Syria but in my view those who brought these groups and made them strong are the regime and the Russians. They had a reason then to say they were fighting terrorism!

I just say to the people of Idlib -"My Heart is with you and I hope you will be fine"

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