Statement by The Syrian Women’s Political Movement On Forced Displacement and the al-Fuah and Kafraya Deal

On July 17, 2018, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) (previously known as al-Nusra Front) made a deal with Iran about the two towns of al-Fuah and Kafraya, stipulating the evacuation of residents and armed people of the two towns who remained there after the last deal reached between the two parties in March 2017, which was known as the “Four Towns” file. That deal resulted in the evacuation of a number of residents of the two towns and transferring them to the Assad regime-held areas, in exchange of the forced displacement of residents of the two towns of al-Zabadani, and Madaya to the north of the Syria.

In this last deal, 1,400 detainees were released from the Syrian regime prisons, and about 40 detainees, who are HTS fighters, from the prisons of the Lebanese Hezbollah. A small percentage of the released detainees was arrested before 2013, whereas the greater percentage – about 70% – were arrested in 2017 and 2018, with the majority of those who were arrested by the regime in the past two months in areas of reconciliations. Most of the released detainees are charged with criminal felonies based on the acts of theft, robbery, and looting in those areas after their original residents have been displaced.

We, in the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, denounce this deal for the following reasons:

1.     Such deals feed into the forced displacement and demographic change policy. We see that the eviction of locals from any area in Syria, the way it was done in this case as well as in Dara, Afrin, Homs, Damascus and its countryside serve these policies that amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. All parties that participated in committing this crime must be held accountable. This is a policy that was systemically pursued by the Assad regime to empty entire areas of their inhabitants. It was pursued by other parties in other areas as well.

2.     The issue of detainees is not for negotiations and we refuse using it as a card for trade off and linking it to field settlement processes by the de facto forces in an irresponsible way, away from the efforts exerted by the parties formally concerned with the issue of detainees which are keen on releasing detained men and women under the risks of torture and execution in the prisons of the Assad regime, in particular when the issue is used in a deal that serves the interests of suspicious parties involved in violations against the Syrian people.

3.     The political solution that we support and are committed to is one that comes within a comprehensive political process in accordance with relevant international resolutions. We believe that such political solution cannot be achieved in the presence of forces that contribute to committing crimes against the Syrian people through practices leading to forced displacement and demographic change in Syria.

We, in SWPM, demand the international community to take all available measures and means to stop the crimes being perpetrated against the Syrian people and to start developing and executing practical steps to hold all perpetrators accountable. We also call for establishing a special tribunal of war crimes through the UN General Assembly away from the Security Council, that has been paralyzed by the Russian Veto, to prosecute war criminals in Syria from all parties, with the Syrian regime on top of them, as a mechanism to reach a just political solution and prevent further crimes from being committed.

May martyrs rest in peace, the detainees and disappeared persons be free and our great people emerge victorious

General secretariat of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement

July 22, 2018