Syria: Displacement continues as anti-government protests grow
|Publisher||Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)|
|Publication Date||15 July 2011|
|Cite as||Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Syria: Displacement continues as anti-government protests grow, 15 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e3944ce2.html [accessed 12 December 2013]|
Anti-government protests in Syria continue to grow despite four months of coercive repression, and the military responses against cities and towns have continued to cause displacement throughout the country. Protests started in Daraa on 11 March and covered most of the country by May. Tanks moved into Daraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in May, and into Jisr al Shughur, Khirbet al Juz, Darkush, Hitya and Maarat al Numaan in June. Over 1,300 civilians and over 350 security personnel were killed and over 10,000 people arrested by the start of July, but the subsequent Fridays saw the largest protests yet for a peaceful transition to democracy.
Information from within Syria remains limited, with international humanitarian or news agencies unable to get a clear picture of displacement in the country. Protesters have reported the destruction of their homes and farmland in military operations, particularly in Daraa, Tel Kalakh and Jisr Al-Shughur. The entire 41,000 population of Jisr Al-Shughur reportedly fled in June in fear of military retaliation following the death of some 120 security personnel there. In June it was also estimated that about 70 per cent of the 100,000 population of Maarat al Numaan had been displaced. Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have confirmed reports of internal displacements.
The government's limited ability to control the whole of the country has forced its forces to move between areas allowing some to seek safety in displacement temporarily, with IDPs and refugees returning home after the security forces loyal to the government have left. Syria is controlled by the Allawite minority while the protesters and displaced are from the disfranchised Sunni majority, which makes up three quarters of the population. The government of President Bashar al-Assad has relied on limited loyal forces and irregulars, while many conscripts have deserted the regular army.
In the first week of July, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was granted access to Daraa and Idlib after it criticised the poor access in early May and its president visited Damascus in June. Together with the Syrian Red Crescent, they distributed essential food items for over 5,000 people and sleeping kits for over 2,500 people. The High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is yet to be given access to Syria after establishing a fact-finding mission on 29 April.
Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have told IDMC that they have found no significant secondary displacement of Iraqi refugees in Syria. Both organisations have made contingency plans to assist the million Iraqis in Syria, who are at a significant risk of being displaced again.