Turkey hopes that by helping life return to normal in at least some parts of the war-torn country, some of the more than 3 million Syrian refugees can be convinced to return home. Turkey’s fear of self-rule for the Kurds in a post-war Syria, which could further embolden the Kurdish movement at home. Apparently, ‘turkifying’ parts of Syria is not considered to be a nail in Syria’s coffin.
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The Syrian Presidency announced in August 2018 that Asma had breast cancer, after which she was treated for an early stage of a malignant tumour, according to official Syrian statements. Asma took advantage of her illness to carry out a series of activities on social media and make various appearances wearing a scarf on her head as one way to demonstrate that she underwent chemotherapy. She participated in World Breast Cancer Awareness Day in a way that was described as spontaneous, engaging in chats with women undergoing cancer treatment at the hospital.
An agreement to limit the influence of Iran in Syria could be the key for pacifying the current situation. However, an increase of strong reactions from Russia towards Israel, like continuing to limit Israel’s possibility of military actions in Syria, could lead Syria to become the theatre of a strength show that the country doesn’t need if it wants to keep its relative stability.
This normalization seems to be the goal set by the al-Assad regime in order to regain its place in the region and then the world, as he claimed early October that Western and Arab countries are preparing to restore their presence in Syria after years of absence. Al-Assad stated that “for many Arab countries, there is a great understanding between us and them, and many Western countries have begun planning and preparing to open their embassies (in Damascus).
Indeed, after Bashar al-Assad took over from his father, al-Turk played a large role in the so-called Damascus Spring, a period of political debate and demands for democratic change in June 2000. In August 2001, al-Turk appeared on al-Jazeera calling for all political factions to unite. “What we need today is reconciliation, and [we] have to work for a new future, forgetting mistakes of the past. In the past, we had a problem with the dictator, and now that problem is over – the dictator is dead,” he said.
On the ground, no one knows how large-scale reconstruction will eventually happen or even when it will start. With no clear economic or political view of the future, refugees might not be tempted to return home. Reconstruction has already become so political, even before the war has ended, that a solution to the issue might take years to be found.
Local and international human rights organizations have documented the inhumane conditions in Syrian detention facilities, and testimonies from the prisoners who managed to be released focused on the torture they faced inside. Prisons are overcrowded and unsanitary. Detainees are given inadequate food and sometimes starved, and suffer from medical neglect. Torture is routinely and systematically implemented, on a very large scale. Women, and men, have suffered rape and sexual abuse.
Yarmouk’s former residents do not seem to be a priority in Syria, where many questions regarding reconstruction and resolutions remain unanswered. In the meantime, refugees have been forced to leave the country or stay in Idlib, which is still controlled by the jihadist alliance Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. The fate of Palestinian refugees in Syria continues to be unclear as the regime pursues its objective of regaining control of the entire country.
Whenever the war comes to an end, this challenge will become particularly difficult to manage. The shabiha will not disappear once their military purpose has ended. Instead, they will likely linger as organized crime groups, further eating away at the state’s legitimacy and slowing the country’s economic and social recovery.