The Syrian opposition in the southern province of Daraa has called on Turkey to act as a guarantor and protector, as the regime of Bashar Al-Assad continues its assault on the area.
According to the Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah, the spokesperson for the Daraa opposition Muneef Al-Zaim criticised the regime’s allies Iran and Russia of no longer acting as viable guarantors and mediators between Al-Assad and the local committee, and called upon Turkey to replace those powers in the area.
Al-Zaim compared Daraa to the northern opposition-held areas in the country where Turkish forces are present, saying: “Similar to Idlib, Afrin and Operation Euphrates Shield and Peace Spring areas, we want Turkish soldiers to come here and act as guarantors.”
He explained that in the Al-Balad and Salamain neighbourhoods in Daraa, “we told the Assad regime forces that we cannot hand them over a list with 300 people, and they started bombing the area, which has over 350 residential units, like they have been doing in the past 10 years.”
Since Al-Assad’s recapturing of Daraa in 2018, Russia has acted as a mediator between the regime and the opposition, striking a deal which offered amnesty to former opposition members and implementing a reconciliation process. But after three years of continuously violating that deal by torturing to death at least 98 former opposition fighters in the province and disappearing many more, Al-Assad has turned on the province.
Tensions were especially exacerbated by the fact that Daraa, which was the birthplace of the Syrian revolution in 2011, has continued to resist the regime’s full military control of the province and the former opposition members – in line with the deal – refused to give up their right to light weapons. Back in May, residents of the province also refused to vote in the presidential elections which were labelled as “fraudulent“, protesting in various areas throughout the province.
The Syrian regime’s Fourth Division has now laid siege to the district of Daraa Al-Balad for over a month and has enforced a blockade. Despite a new deal being struck between the Daraa Central Committee and regime officers, negotiations broke down last month and a full offensive was launched by regime forces.
Local opposition militias have again formed in Daraa in efforts to resist Al-Assad’s forces, and last week made rapid gains by capturing multiple checkpoints and heavy weaponry. The bombardment of the area has only increased, however, raising concerns of the humanitarian situation within the province.
Al-Zaim, whose wife and daughter have reportedly been detained in Assad’s vast prison network for eight years and whose two sons fight in Daraa and Idlib, said that the regime’s “insistence on Al-Balad is because they want to make us feel like everything is over and to get revenge for their losses…We will not give up no matter what price we pay for it.”