Before the war, about one-fifth of Syrians were employed in agriculture, while nearly one-third of the labor force was found in industry, including mines, electricity supply and construction. The public sector was also a major employer. Unemployment was high even before the war, although reliable figures were lacking. Many young men have been recruited into armed groups on the rebel or government side.
According to calculations by the ILO, which is reproduced by the World Bank, 2017 employed almost 70 percent of all men over the age of 15, and 12 percent of women. For both sexes, the proportion has decreased during the civil war. Wages are often low and many Syrians are forced to have several jobs to support themselves. The economic liberalization of the 21st century (see Economic overview) increased the wage gaps.
The law says that children under the age of twelve are not allowed to work, but according to the UN Children’s Fund Unicef, before the war, about 4 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 worked to wipe out the family’s low incomes. Judging from the outset, child labor has become much more common since the outbreak of the war in 2011 and is also common among refugee families in Syria’s neighboring countries, especially Lebanon.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Syria, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.
Unemployment was high even before the war, although reliable figures were lacking. In 2018, when the Assad government regained control over several disputed areas, the army began to leave home soldiers who had been summoned. Many young men had also been recruited into armed groups on the rebel side during the war. The supply options for those returning to civilian life are uncertain.
Before the war, it was common for Syrians to travel abroad for guest work in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf or Lebanon, which has always had a large Syrian labor reserve.
In government-controlled parts of Syria there is the General Workers’ Union (abbreviated to GFTU), a trade union organization affiliated with the ruling Baath Party and several similar individual trade unions, all of which are somehow controlled by the government. The opposition has launched free trade unions, but these have no greater practical significance.
FACTS – LABOR MARKET
8.2 percent (2019)
19.6 percent (2019)
Almost 3,500 civilian casualties in 2019
2019 became the least deadly since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, according to data presented by the SOHR. A total of 11,215 deaths have been reported, of which 3,473 are civilians, of which 1,021 were children.
Stepped up position between the US and the militia
The US is attacking weapons stockpiles in western Iraq and eastern Syria, which are linked to a pro-Iranian militia group. The attacks are justified by the fact that rocket attacks have occurred two days earlier against a base in Kirkuk, Iraq, where both US and Iraqi personnel are serving. An employee of a company that worked for the US armed forces has lost their lives. More than 20 militiamen are killed in the US strike, according to the larger Shiite and Tehran-backed militia al-Hashd al-Shaabi, which formally forms part of Iraq’s defense force.
The regime intervenes against business magnetism
Syrian authorities seize assets for the country’s richest businessman Rami Makhlouf, who according to previous reports has been placed under house arrest. Makhlouf is poorly regarded, but has previously nurtured his fortune by staying well with the Assad regime, not least during the war years. Analysts put the measures against him in connection with Syria’s faltering economy. International sanctions against the regime have, among other things, led to a shortage of foreign currency.
The UN veto stops emergency aid
Russia and China veto a UN resolution that would have enabled emergency relief supplies to about four million people in northern Syria for a year to come, via the Turkish and Iranian border. On January 10, 2020, the UN Security Council adopts a missed resolution, which extends for six months. It only allows emergency aid deliveries via border crossings controlled by the Assad regime: the aid flow via a border crossing from Iraq to Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria is aborted.
Refugee wave from Idlib during attack
According to SOHR, at least 23 civilians can kill when the government side attacks villages in the Idlib region, where the last opposition parties are located. According to SOHR, daily attacks or clashes occur in Idlib, and about 250 civilians have lost their lives since the Assad regime’s Russian allies announced that a ceasefire should prevail (see August 30). On December 27, Ocha, the UN humanitarian coordinator, states that 235,000 people have taken to the Turkish border over the course of two weeks. Most are on the run from the city of Ma’arrat al-Nu’man, which is being besieged while government forces are fighting against jihadist groups.
Corruption targets against the president’s uncle
An uncle of President Bashar al-Assad is facing trial in France, accused of having built up a private empire with money from the Syrian Treasury. The investigation into, among other things, tax crimes and money laundering has been going on since 2014. Rifaat al-Assad is known by the nickname ” Hamas butcher,” because he is also pointed out for leading the state forces that defeated a Sunni Muslim uprising in 1982. He lives in exile since then. 1984, when he staged a failed coup against his brother, Syria’s then-President Hafiz al-Assad.
OPCW receives money for strengthened authority
106 Member States of the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organization (OPCW) are voting to approve the organization’s budget for 2020. This is despite the fact that Russia has discouraged the funding of a personnel force that can identify those responsible for nuclear weapons attacks. So far, OPCW has only had the opportunity to investigate whether nuclear weapons have been used, and what substances may have been present (which has happened in Syria). In practice, the budget decision means that OPCW will be able to make use of its new, strengthened powers. Russia, China and Syria are among 19 countries voting against.
Israel attacks targets near Damascus
20th of November
Israel confirms that air strikes have been conducted against “terror targets” near Damascus, where heavy detonations have been heard. SOHR reproduces the mission of 23 dead, most of whom are described as combatants from abroad. The day before, rocket attacks have occurred on Israel from Syrian territory and the Israeli defense force holds Iran accountable. Israel has conducted hundreds of aerial or robotic attacks against Syria since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, but rarely comments on the attacks. They are usually targeted either at Iranian posts or at Lebanese Hezbollah, which, like Iran, participates in the war on the part of the Assad regime.
Car bomb and rattles in town near border
A car bomb detonates northeast of Aleppo, at a bus station in the city of al-Bab, controlled by forces on Turkey’s side in Syria. 19 people die, of which 13 are civilians, and over 30 are injured. The following day, riots erupt between protesters and police who intend to hand over a suspect to Turkey. Proturean forces conquered al-Bab from IS “caliphate” in 2017, and there have been a number of violent incidents in the city since then. Turkey now claims that it is a Kurd who carried out the car bomb attack, while local sources point out a former IS member.
Turkey deports IS members
Turkey starts deporting IS members to their home countries. Among the first are a German, a Danish and an American jihadist, but it is not clear if they have been arrested in Turkey or in Syria. In connection with Turkey announcing its deportation plans a week earlier, the country’s interior minister said that Turkey has nearly 1,200 IS supporters in detention, and that 287 have been arrested since Turkish forces launched their latest offensive in northern Syria. Turkey has criticized Western countries for not addressing citizens who joined the IS, in particular the UK, which has deprived over 100 jihadists of their British citizenship. France points out that there has been an agreement with Turkey since 2014, according to which a number of French IS supporters have been sent home.
New IS leaders with demanding names
IS confirms via its own propaganda channels that both the leader of the movement and its spokesman have died (see October 27). The new leader is named Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, while Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi is named as spokesman. The names signal a relationship with Prophet Muhammad, the new IS leadership thus claims to be legitimate in the eyes of other Muslims. Later, in January 2020, new messages will come: A Turk from Tal Afar in northern Iraq will be selected as a new IS leader. According to sources in spy organizations for the British newspaper The Guardian, the man’s name is Amir Muhammad Abd al-Rahman al-Mawli al-Salbi. (Later IS leaders will also be called upon by the US with that name.) Under IS terror, the man must have had a leading role in the atrocities to which the Yazid minority was exposed.
Struggles between government armies
Six Syrian soldiers lose their lives in confrontations between Syria and Turkey’s government forces. The battles are the first between the government armies since Turkey went offensive in Syrian territory (see October 9 and October 13).
The IS leader dies in connection with US raids
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the IS jihadist network that proclaimed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, blasts with a bomb belt to escape a US special forces in northwestern Syria. He takes children with him to death. According to the United States, his identity can be confirmed by genetic testing. The event nevertheless raises many questions: How has the IS leader been able to move through northern Syria, where all possible parties in the war are scouting and having roadblocks, to a hiding place in the Idlib province? How does the US know exactly where it is? How can the American Council, with eight helicopters, be carried through the airspace in northern Syria? Kurdish representatives state that the raid has been prepared for some time but has been delayed by Turkey’s military offensive. In a separate raid near the city of Jarabulus, Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir, IS spokesman, is killed,
The US is monitoring oil wells
While the United States has withdrawn other military personnel from northern Syria, the Americans have begun to bring troops from Iraq into Syrian territory. According to a military US source, the purpose is to protect oil wells so that they are not taken over by IS or any other operator (see February 14, 2018). Positions near the oil recovery are strengthened in cooperation with the Kurdish-dominated SDF forces, it is called.
Trump repeals US sanctions
US President Donald Trump reinstates the sanctions he imposed on Turkey on October 14. The reason for the sanctions was Turkey’s military offensive against the Kurds in Syria, but Trump estimates that Turkey has now fulfilled a ceasefire that was promised three days later. Both congressional and military leaders in the United States strongly criticize Trump’s decision to withdraw the US forces from Syria that have supported the country’s Kurds.
Russian and Turkish patrol in northern Syria
The Presidents of Turkey and Russia agree on joint patrolling of Syria’s border area in the north, along the border with Turkey. They demand that the Kurdish YPG militia be withdrawn so that it is not closer to the border than three kilometers. The agreement means that Turkish forces remain on Syrian soil, while the Syrian government army – on whose side Russia is acting – is back in areas it has not held for several years. It is not clear if Turkey will take seriously its plans to move Syrian refugees to the border zone. What will apply in the border town of Qamishli, which has a large Kurdish population, is also unclear.
Increased refugee wave during offensive
The UN estimates that 166,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in northeastern Syria during the week since Turkey launched an offensive across the border. Syrian exile organization SOHR has published significantly higher numbers, up from 300,000. The UN Food Program WFP prepares food aid for over half a million people in October. Details of how many lives were required during the fighting are difficult to examine, but SOHR states its calculations: 114 civilians, 250 soldiers from the Kurdish-Arab SDF forces and 190 Syrian forces rebels acting as ground troops on behalf of Turkey.
Short ceasefire with demands for Kurdish retreat
US Vice President Pence and Foreign Minister Pompeo announce agreement with Turkey on temporary ceasefire: The SDF militia in Syria, which is dominated by Kurds, will have five days to withdraw from areas where the Turkish military is heading. From a Kurdish point of view, a stop for the fighting is welcomed, but the agreement is also seen as the US now giving Turkey the go-ahead to occupy part of Syria. In the city of Afrin, Russian forces take over a base that the US military has evacuated, which has symbolic significance – not least in the American debate about the power measurement between major powers that also takes place within the framework of the war in Syria.
Stepped up insomnia between NATO countries
The US is facing financial sanctions against Turkey and calls for a halt to the military offensive into Syrian territory. The sanctions are aimed at a couple of ministries and several ministers. In addition, President Trump tweeted that US tariffs on Turkish steel should be raised to 50 percent and that negotiations on a major US-Turkey trade agreement be frozen.
Syrian army against the border with Turkey
Turkey’s offensive into areas in Syria controlled by Kurds is causing growing refugee flows. The UN organization Ocha counts 130,000 refugees. Syria’s government army is rolling units to the Turkish border following a settlement with the Kurdish-led forces, the SDF. The United States announces that virtually all remaining US military who have been in northern Syria for cooperation with the Kurds will be withdrawn. A significant part of the ground forces fighting for Turkey are Syrian rebels, who fought the Assad regime during the civil war. These mercenaries are now charged with war crimes against Kurds, including the murder of a young female politician. Nearly 800 relatives of IS jihadists are reported to have managed to exploit the clutter during the offensive to leave camps where they were detained.
The US takes over important IS prisoners
Prior to the Turkish offensive in Syria, the United States has taken over two notorious IS prisoners from the Kurdish forces. Both have been part of a group of British jihadists who went by the name of “The Beatles” and committed the bestial murder. Among other things, they are accused of beheading an American journalist, James Foley, in 2012. President Trump confirms the takeover of prisoners but does not say where they will be held captive.
Turkish offensive against northern Syria initiated
Turkish forces have crossed the border into northern Syria, declares Turkey’s President Erdoğan. Communities and Kurdish posts along the border are subject to aerial and artillery attacks, which are followed by ground troops. Deaths, both civilian and military, are already reported on the first day, and international criticism of Turkey is sharp. It is Turkey’s third military offensive into Syria since 2016.
Trump message raises concerns and may create room for IS
Faced with Turkey’s plans for a march in northern Syria to establish a buffer zone on its own to return Syrian refugees, a message from President Trump on US troop withdrawal is interpreted as giving the US green light for a Turkish campaign (compare August 7). The Kurds in Syria, who with US support have fought the jihadist movement IS, see the message as a betrayal. Since it is the Kurdish militia that captures and prosecutes IS members, the threat of an invasion – when the Kurds would move warring units to the north to fight the Turkish military – raises fears that IS will succeed in seizing the opportunity and re-emerge as a terrorist group, with international reach (see September 16). Trump warns Turkey to go too far, but responds to the criticism that responsibility for dealing with IS lies on Turkey and the jihadists’ homelands.
Constitutional Assembly formed
The UN announces that a committee has now been formed to write a new constitution for Syria, with both the regime and opposition representatives. Of the 150 members, 50 have been appointed by the Assad regime, 50 by the opposition and 50 by the UN. The Kurdish administration, which controls northeastern Syria, has complained that it cannot participate, even though there are Kurds among the elected members. Requested expertise has moderate expectations for the work to be successful, especially since the regime since the idea was raised at a conference in early 2018 has moved its positions militarily and regained control over much of the country.
IS leaders urge prisoners to be released
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been ousted from his position as self-proclaimed caliph, but he urged the movement’s supporters to free jihadists and relatives who are being held captive in Syria and Iraq. The audio recording is published by IS propaganda agencies. In Iraq, more than 500 foreign nationals have been sentenced to severe penalties for connection to IS, but the authorities do not state how many IS faithful prisoners are imprisoned altogether. Kurdish authorities that operate camps in northern Syria expect that only women and children who are foreign nationals amount to 12,000, from 40 countries. The Red Cross has warned that there are “apocalyptic” conditions in the camps and calls on the homelands to ensure that the families of IS fighters are brought home.
Amnesty with unclear scope
President Bashar al-Assad issues an amnesty that releases some prisoners and shortens the punishment for others. Among those covered are people convicted in accordance with a law against terrorism from 2012. The death penalty is compensated for some by life with criminal work, while life sentences are given their sentences limited to 20 years. It is unclear how many people are released and how many who receive shorter sentences. At a similar amnesty in 2014, opposition SOHR claimed that the regime greatly exaggerated how many were given penal relief.
Jihadists killed in US attack in Idlib
At least 40 people are killed in a US attack in Idlib, according to the US Department of Defense targeting al-Qaeda leaders. SOHR confirms that a robotic attack was carried out against a meeting held by leaders of a number of allied jihadist groups near the city of Idlib.
Armistice announced in Idlib
Russia announces that the government side has agreed to a unilateral ceasefire in Idlib as of August 31. Ceasefire should now be observed after the advancement on the ground that started a few weeks earlier, with extensive civilian casualties as a result. Despite this, it is also reported in September that Russian fighter aircraft attacks Idlib.
The regime establishes a corridor from Idlib
The Syrian government announces that a humanitarian corridor has been opened for civilians who want to leave rebel-held areas in Idlib. So has the regime done in earlier times when it has been in the process of military offensive to recover land from rebels, in other countries. Those leaving Idlib through the corridor end up in a government-controlled area, where many fear they will be arrested or forced to do military service. The day before, the Syrian army has taken full control of Khan Shaykhun, who has also cut off the roads north of the soldiers at a nearby Turkish post.
Turkish army vehicles are halted in Syria
A Turkish military column of 50 vehicles en route to Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province is stopped by Syrian air force by attacking the road in front of the vehicles (so the Turkish army does not have to make losses, however, the attack should have claimed the lives of three Syrian rebels). The intention of sending Turkish military against Khan Shaykhun is unclear, but Turkey may want to slow the Syrian regime’s expansion into Idlib – perhaps because it can trigger a new stream of refugees against Turkey.
The army on the road take over disputed city
Intensive battles are reported by SOHR as the government army’s ground forces enter Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province for the first time since losing control of the city in 2014. The battalions are said to have claimed about 90 lives among the combatants. The government side has attacked the city from the north and from the west to surround it and take control of the highway through Idlib, which inter alia connects the major cities of Damascus in the south and Aleppo in the north. The largest jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham has tried to stop the government forces by carrying out suicide attacks.
Ground strength into southern Idlb
Government forces occupy a rural town on Idlib’s southern outskirts. It is said to be the army’s first operation with ground troops since the spring, when air strikes escalated to jihadist-held areas of the province.
Buffer zone between Kurds and Turkey
Turkey and the United States agree to establish a buffer zone in northern Syria and coordinate the zone from Turkish soil. The multi-mile zone in question here should extend between the Turkish border and areas in Syria under Kurdish control – thus a different buffer zone than the one planned in Idlib (between the Syrian army and rebel groups, see August 1). The Kurdish-dominated SDF forces in northern Syria, which cooperated with the United States against the extremist movement IS, have been alarmed by Washington’s announcement that US forces should be withdrawn. The Kurds fear that it would then be free for Turkey to once again, like 2016 and 2018, cross the border into Syria and strike against Kurdish areas.
Report: Around 15,000 active IS fighters
Remaining supporters of the Islamic State (IS) have managed to rally in attacks against forces holding their former “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, according to a US Defense Inspector General’s report. The report examines the impact that US forces have largely withdrawn. IS was forced off with US military support in both countries, but the forces that took over (in Syria, especially Kurdish units) find it difficult to maintain control long-term and coordinate their actions against IS, it says. IS performs murder, ambush and bombing. The report estimates the number of IS- jihadists in Syria and Iraq to be between 14,000 and 18,000, of which 3,000 are shipped from other countries.
The UN calls for attacks against civilian targets
The UN will investigate several attacks in northwestern Syria targeting civilian targets and UN-supported facilities, the Secretary-General said. The decision irritates Russia, whose deputy UN ambassador calls reports that such attacks have been carried out by Russian forces or Syrian government forces for “fake news”. On September 13, the Secretary-General announces that the UN will in particular investigate attacks carried out against hospitals, which have tried to prevent military attacks by providing information (coordinates) showing where they are located.
New trial with ceasefire in Idlib
The Syrian government agrees to a ceasefire in a buffer zone in Idlib, on condition that the zone is monitored by Turkish and Russian troops and that jihadist forces leave the zone. Such an agreement was reported in September, but it failed. Instead, the area that would be protected by the buffer zone has been repeatedly attacked by the Assad regime and Russian forces, especially since the spring. More than three months of air strikes against targets in Idlib have driven over 400,000 people into flight, according to the UN organization Ocha. SOHR, which collects local reports on the war events, counts at least 780 killed civilians. The largest jihadist group in Idlib, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, rejects all claims to retreat from the buffer zone. Already on August 5, the Assad regime resumes its attacks against Idlib.
Suggestion: “Nuremberg Trial” for IS
For a year, the British lawyer Karim Khan, on behalf of the UN agency Unitad and with a staff of almost 80 people, traveled around Iraq to collect evidence and testimony of crimes committed by the Islamic State (IS). Investigators have, among other things, investigated death victims in mass graves, called video films and examined documents from the IS Caliphate’s own bureaucracy. Khan believes that a tribunal should be set up to address the crimes, in the style of the Nuremberg Trials against Nazi leaders after World War II (see June 3, 2019). In Iraq, IS supporters are now sentenced daily, some to death, but victims and witnesses of criminal offenses are not admitted – for convicting, terrorist membership is enough. Khan believes that a tribunal, like after Nazism, would help to reduce the appeal of the violence-glorifying movement.
Violence among IS supporters in camps
Several months after IS’s “caliphate” was dissolved, adherents hold on to the jihadi movement’s methods in al-Hol camp in northern Syria: the Kurdish guards are stabbed, aid workers are subjected to stone throwing and IS’s black flag is raised. In the largest camp alone, there are still about 70,000 people with an IS connection. According to Kurdish authorities, the various camps where relatives of IS fighters gather also house 4,000 women from other countries and their approximately 8,000 children (see May 10 and May 15, 2019).
Flying attack against vegetable market
About 50 casualties, almost all civilians, are required in air strikes in northwestern Syria. The majority of the victims are people who are in a vegetable market in Maarrat al-Numan in Idlib province. According to SOHR, attacks are carried out by both Russian planes and the Assad Regime’s air force, but Russian intervention is denied.
Sabotage against the regime
A freight train laden with phosphate tracks off and begins to burn in a bombing operation in central Syria. No one takes responsibility for the deed, but it is part of what looks like a pattern of sabotage directed at the Assad regime. Just a week earlier, a gas pipeline in Homs was damaged. In 2018, a Russian company received a 50-year concession on phosphate extraction near Palmyra.
Britons stop Iranian oil for Syria
A crude oil tanker with cargo from Iran is boarded and seized by British forces at Gibraltar. The cargo is on its way to the regime in Syria. Iran calls the action against the ship, registered in Panama, a act of piracy and calls on the British ambassador to protest. The intervention against the ship must have been called for by the United States, but the legal basis for British action is the EU sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria, not the US sanctions on Iran.
Intensive Israeli seizures
Israel has carried out attacks on targets near Damascus and Homs during the night. The robots have claimed 15 lives according to SOHR, which also states that the targets are military positions used by Hezbollah in the Syrian civil war (see September 2018). An anti-aircraft robot, manufactured by Russia and fired by Syrian government forces, misses its Israeli target and strikes Cyprus, not far from Nicosia. This event is notable not least as a sign that the Syrian war also carries risks to civilian flights to and from Cyprus.
Attacks against Idlib hit ambulances
Two health workers from the White Helmet organization are among nine civilian casualties in Idlib province. Their ambulance is met in an air raid in Khan Shaykhun by the Assad regime and its Russian allies, reports SOHR. The day before, Mark Lowcock, UN Secretary-General, confronted Russia in the UN Security Council and requested an explanation for at least 23 hospitals and clinics meeting since the Russian-backed regime forces launched intensive attacks against the Idlib province in April.
Fowl hens were ravaged by war
The Syrian government will provide families in war-ravaged countryside with free poultry and feed for the equivalent of about SEK 20 million. There will be 15 chickens and 50 kilos of feed per family. The government also promises support for irrigation and animal husbandry, including vaccines. Prior to the outbreak of the war, a quarter of the Syrian labor force was employed in agriculture. By 2019 – when the war has largely ebbed, except in the northwest – the number of farm workers had halved, according to a state report.
USA rings in Assad friendly businessman
The US faces sanctions on businessman Samer Foz, who is accused of enriching the Syrian president’s family through his corporate empire. He also defied US sanctions through oil deliveries from Iran to Syria. In 2018, he became the majority owner of a luxury hotel in Damascus that has been able to stay open despite the war years since 2011. Among its guests, the hotel has UN staff, which has raised questions about how UN money is used.
Disappearance in war is increasing
Syria is one of the countries where most disappearances occur. On the Kuwaiti initiative, the UN Security Council has now adopted its first resolution on people who have disappeared during armed conflicts. The International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) states that the number has increased in recent years. Last year, 45,000 names of missing persons in the world were added by human rights organizations. 10,000 Syrian names are on the list.
UN warns of refugee wave from Idlib
The Assad regime and its Russian allies are attacking several places in Idlib province. Seven children are among 25 civilian death victims according to opposition SOHR. In total, the organization has received reports of 360 killed civilians since the end of April. The UN, which has estimated the number of internally displaced persons during the period to be 270,000, warns of a new refugee disaster, although analysts do not believe that the government side is about to conduct a full-scale offensive against the movements that control Idlib.
The “goalkeeper of the Revolution” falls
Football goalkeeper Abd al-Basit al-Sarut dies, wounded in violation of government forces in Idlib. The sportsman, who was previously part of the youth team, became a protest singer in his hometown of Homs during the Arab Spring of 2011. When the Assad regime cracked down on the demonstrations, he chose to take up arms. He was part of a force that runs counter to the regime under the name Jaysh al-Izza. The goalkeeper is also known from a documentary about the war.
Tribunal against IS on the agenda
The Swedish government is holding an international meeting to discuss how a tribunal to try suspects for crimes committed by IS could be implemented (see May 20). The meeting at the official level includes, among others, several Western countries and the UN. On the same day, IS relatives who are Syrian citizens begin to leave the large al-Hol camp, where they have gathered since Kurdish forces took IS’s last stronghold in Baghuz. They are taken by chartered buses to their homes. The camp accommodates over 70,000 people, mainly women and children who have lived in IS-controlled areas.
Crime technology on wish list for IS targets
Trials are underway in Kurdish autonomy against Syrian and Iraqi citizens who are accused of being members of IS. A judge, a woman serving in the Kurdish court for terrorism in Qamishli, tells Swedish Radio that evidence has been found in the form of sound and video in seized phones. However, the Kurdish judiciary lacks forensic resources for, for example, DNA analysis. For IS members moving in both Syria and Iraq, a trial in Qamishli may be preferable: unlike in Iraq, the death penalty is not applied.
Swedish children picked up from IS camps
15th of May
Seven children with Swedish citizenship, whose parents lived in Syria as members of the Islamic State (IS), land in Gothenburg after being taken out via Iraq. The parents – Swedish mother and Norwegian father – are reported to be dead. No general decision has been made on what will happen to Swedish children for IS supporters in Syria and Iraq. After IS collapse, there are believed to be 60-80 Swedish children in camps in Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria.
IS Kazakhs are transported home
Kazakhstan’s acting president states to media that 231 Kazakhs affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) have been transported to their home country from Syria in recent days. 156 of them are children, the majority under six. 18 are orphans. In January, 47 Kazakh citizens were reportedly returned home. It is unclear what happens to them after returning home. In the years of IS propaganda, there have been videos over the years showing how Kazakh children were trained as warriors.
Suspended assistance due to fighting
At least 16 UN-affiliated aid organizations stop their work in northwestern Syria. Attacks by the government army and its Russian allies make the work too dangerous, says UN coordinator in the OHCR. Among other things, the food program WFP sets food deliveries to villages and small towns with almost 50,000 inhabitants. At least 15 health institutions and 16 schools are reported to have been hit by bombings since the government-side offensive against rebels in southern Idlib began in late April.
Kurds and allies in a future meeting
Kurds and Arabs who are allies in northern Syria, and have expanded their territory by expelling IS, are holding a future conference in the city of Ain Isa. The goal is to find common positions in negotiations with the Assad regime. The SDF alliance is being pressured partly by opposition from Turkey in the north to Kurdish influence, and partly by Washington’s announcement that US military personnel who supported the SDF should be taken home. The regime in Damascus now demands that the areas SDF controls be returned under the Syrian central government’s rule, while the Kurds demand formal recognition for their regional administration.
The regime is pushing rebel Idlib
The Syrian regime and its allied Russian forces have for some time stepped up their attacks on rebel-controlled areas in the northwest: rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham controls large parts of the country. According to Ocha, which coordinates UN humanitarian efforts, the attacks have led nearly 140,000 people from northern Hama and southern Idlib to move to find safer areas since February. As a result of an agreement between Russia and Turkey (which supports some rebels), Idlib has saved a large-scale governmental offensive (see September 17, 2018), but around 200 civilian lives have been claimed since February, according to the UN.
Children of IS members are flown home
More than 80 children of Tajik who have joined IS have been fetched by air from Iraq, Tajikistan’s Foreign Ministry reports. The children are Tajik citizens (see March 11). Tajik authorities have previously stated that more than 1,000 Tajiks joined the terrorist group in Syria or Iraq, among them Gulmurod Halimov, who led the Interior Ministry’s special forces before announcing via a 2015 video that he had been recruited by IS. In Iraq, 43 Tajik women are convicted of terror-related crimes.
The IS leader calls for terrorist acts
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – who in 2014 declared a caliphate in Mosul in Iraq – appears in a video on the internet that is believed to be genuine. The video contains references to current events, in particular the defeat of the movement in the Baghuz fortress in Syria. It’s been five years since al-Baghdadi turned out in a similar way and he is now urging sympathizers to continue committing terrorist acts, as revenge. The terrorist group has also taken on concerted bombings against Christians in Sri Lanka on April 21, on Easter Day.
High death rates in raids against al-Raqqa
More than 1,600 civilians lost their lives during U.S.-led aerial and artillery strikes carried out against Islamic State’s al-Raqqa stronghold in 2017, according to testimony released by Amnesty International. Along with the Airwars organization, Amnesty has examined 200 targets for the attacks and was able to identify about 1,000 of the victims. The countries that took part in the offensive against the city stated that 180 civilian lives were required. The attacks were carried out in support of ground troops from the SDF, the local Kurdish-Arab forces, who expelled IS from al-Raqqa.
Sharpened gasoline rationing
From now on, private motorists in regime controlled areas may not buy more than 20 liters of petrol in five days at a subsidized price. For taxi drivers, 20 liters are allowed in two days. The queues at gas stations are long, and many people end up gasoline when they arrive. The stricter rationing rules are a result of trade sanctions that Western countries maintain against the Assad regime. The government controls about two-thirds of Syria’s surface, but not the most important oil fields in the northeast.
Trump accepts occupied Golan as Israeli
US President Trump recognizes the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 war, as an Israeli territory. As a result, Trump, in his Jerusalem decision of December 6, 2017, is breaking a long-standing US line. Protests come from other countries, especially Syria. The criticism is not just about the Middle East, but about the US deviating from a basic principle of international law – on which Washington also usually builds its own foreign policy: that one state must not take land from another by force. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the United States invoked the principle that Trump now violates. Trump and his immediate political circle have for some time shown open support for Israeli Golan control, which has been perceived as a way to support Prime Minister Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s imminent election.
IS’s last bracket has fallen
SDF, the Kurdish Arab forces in northern Syria, raises its yellow flag in the last IS stronghold of Baghuz and declares that the final battle against the jihadist movement is over. This does not mean that all IS fighters have been disarmed or killed – in smaller places along the Iraq-Syria border, there are assumed to be scattered crowds – but IS no longer controls any part of its former “caliphate”.
The regime has set its sights on northern Syria
Syria’s government will take back the Kurdish-controlled areas of the north and rebel-controlled Idlib province in the same way the government army has recaptured all other parts of the country, declares Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyub. In his word choice, the areas are “liberated”, but the minister also says that it can be done “by force or reconciliation”.
Great need for refugee assistance – skepticism in donor countries
14th of March
UN and EU hold a donor meeting for refugees from the war in Syria – the seventh since the war broke out in 2011. The UN now estimates that it needs $ 5.5 billion for about 5.6 million Syrians who are in neighboring countries, while 3.3 billion dollars will go to efforts for people living in difficult circumstances in Syria. The pledges do not go that far, in total the participants promise $ 7 billion. Several countries emphasize that aid money must not be used to strengthen the Assad regime. Donor countries want to set conditions for contributing to reconstruction and, not least, demand that those responsible for abuse do not go unpunished. At the last donor meeting, in 2018, $ 3.4 billion was promised for efforts inside Syria, but only 65 percent of those promises were fulfilled.
UN appeal for children in IS families
11th of March
The UN Children’s Fund Unicef calls for children of IS members not to be considered terrorists. Unicef estimates that there are around 3,000 children suffering from at least 43 countries alone in the largest camp in eastern Syria, al-Hol (al-Hawl). In addition, there are even more children from Syrian and Iraqi jihadist families, which will be a challenge to integrate on site (see February 7 and March 1).
Daraa: Protest in reprisal against the regime
In Daraa in the south, the cradle of the Syrian revolt in 2011, a statue depicting former leader Hafiz al-Assad is being erected again – eight years after protesters tore it down. The regime secured its readmission of Daraa in the summer of 2018. Protesters have now once again protested against the statue. Hafiz al-Assad ruled the country with an iron hand for three decades. When he passed away in 2000, he left the Republic in inheritance to his son Bashar.
Assad review is requested from ICC
Lawyers representing 28 Syrian refugees in Jordan demand that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate cases where the Syrian regime is accused of crimes against humanity during the civil war. Syria has not signed documents that approve the ICC, but so has Jordan, and the group has taken an impression of how Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are trying to find a way to put the regime in Burma in charge of persecution. On March 4, EU countries increased the sanctions against Syria with the name of another seven ministers (see also February 19).
Britons indicate death toll after raids against IS
The British Air Force, RAF, participates in the US-led alliance fighting IS in Syria and Iraq, and British authorities estimate that RAF’s raids have claimed over 4,000 jihadists’ lives. The summation applies to raids carried out between September 2014 and January 2019. According to these data, three-quarters of the deaths have been required in Iraq. The British Ministry of Defense says it only knows of a civilian death victim, but the aid and research organization Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) which has obtained the information states that civilian death rates are underreported. The RAF has attacked around 1,000 targets in the IS strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa during the war years, and the military’s analysis of the effects is mostly done through aerial photography.
Temporary oil imports are allowed
4th of March
The state allows companies, such as factory owners, to import oil to cover their consumption for three months. Actually, private direct imports of oil and oil products are not usually allowed, but now the Syrian state is subject to sanctions, which means that there is a shortage of heating oil, not least for heating. Even where household gas is sold, the queues are long. The war has destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, and the largest oil and gas fields in the northeast are beyond the government’s control.
Final battle against IS in Baghuz
The Kurdish Caribbean forces in the SDF initiate what is described as the final battle against IS supporters in the last stronghold of Baghuz. Attacks have been halted to release civilians. Above all, relatives of jihadists – women and children, with clear signs of malnutrition – have taken off and been taken to collection camps (see February 7).
Inspectors confirm chlorine gas in Duma
Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have determined that chemical weapons were used against rebels in Duma 2018. Two gas tubes believed to have contained chlorine gas landed according to the inspectors’ conclusions in a multi-family house on April 7. Witnesses stated after the incident that at least 43 people had lost their lives. The US-led alliance accused the government side and attacked military installations (see April 21 and July 6, 2018). OPCW says nothing about the debt issue, as it was not included in the organization’s mandate at that time. However, after chemical analysis, OPCW rejects the regime’s claim that poison may have come from a rebel-controlled facility nearby.
Coordinator proposes new Syria forum
In March, the Syrian war is entering its ninth year. The most committed states should set up a new, joint forum to deal with the conflict, suggests the new UN Syrian Coordinator Geir Pedersen. From Russia, which has helped the Assad regime regain much of the country on the battlefield, comes a response that is benevolent, but stresses the need for stabilization. Russia also has the diplomatic initiative through the so-called Astana group with Iran and Turkey, which has put UN peace efforts in the shade, while the US government has marked diminished interest.
Swedish no to IS warriors
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven says that Sweden will not assist IS warriors with Swedish citizenship who want to return home. How Swedish authorities should deal with children for IS supporters has not been decided (see February 7 and February 19).
200 Americans remain
The United States will retain about 200 defense personnel in Syria following the troop withdrawal announced by President Trump, the White House announces. Nearly 2,000 Americans are expected to be taken home by April. The remaining persons, according to the message, which are not detailed, must have peacekeeping duties (see 1 November 2018 and 6 January 2019).
Syrians in Sweden police report the regime
Nine Syrians who have been abused by Syrian authorities report police, with the help of human rights organizations, named chiefs of Syria’s security services. The report is filed in Sweden with the hope that it will lead to international arrest warrants and trials. Such criminal investigations are ongoing in several countries. The initiatives are based on the fact that Russia and China use their right of veto in the UN to protect the Assad regime from scrutiny within the UN framework. In Germany and France, three suspects have been arrested. In 2018, German authorities also issued an arrest warrant against Jamil Hasan, general of the Syrian Air Force, who has been subject to sanctions in Western countries.
Jihadist wife is denied return to London
Britain puts the issue of close relatives of IS warriors at the forefront by revoking the citizenship of Shamima Begum, 19 years old. In 2015, she and two other teenage girls left London to join IS and the “caliphate” movement was set up in Syria and Iraq. Since IS was fought, Begum is in a camp in Syria with his infant; the child dies in March. Begum and her jihad mate from the Netherlands have previously lost two children during the years with IS. In March, it appears that other IS women who have ended up in Syria camp with their children have had their passports revoked, and the question of what will happen to the children has not been resolved. Men who have committed serious crimes in IS’s name have also lost their British citizenship, among them two who were part of a notorious quartet of jihadists (seeFebruary 8, 2018).
IS flees and SDF wants homelands to receive jihadists
Men, women and children are fleeing the last IS-held area in eastern Syria. In Baghuz on the Euphrates River, they surrender to the Kurdish-led SDF forces, which are also negotiating with IS to release captured SDF soldiers. This could lead to IS- jihadists being given free rein to Idlib, where there are still areas that the government side has not withdrawn from rebel groups. SDF for otherwise IS fighters and their families to detention camps in northern Syria and have for months pressed to get the homelands to receive them.
In the wake of the war: deadly house races
Four children are among at least eleven dead when a five-story house in Aleppo demolished by the war collapses. A child is brought to life. The district of Saladin was formerly held by rebels and heavily bombed by the government that took back the block at the end of 2016.
Court: Assad regime responsible for reporter death
Syrian state bears responsibility for war correspondent Marie Colvin’s death in 2012, a US court has ruled. The Court approves damages from relatives of over $ 300 million. Colvin and French photographer Rémi Ochlik were killed in an artillery attack in Homs carried out by the government army. According to the court, which regards the deaths as extrajudicial executions, the regime tracked journalists’ reporting before the attack.
US sanctions against militia
The United States imposes sanctions on two Shi’ites recruited to the Syrian war by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. One force (Fatimid Brigade) consists of Afghans, the other (Zaynabid brigade) of Pakistanis. “The regime in Iran exploits refugee groups and uses them as human shields in Syria,” said Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin. The sanctions are aimed at making money transfers to the militias difficult through the international banking system. The brigades are named for people in the early history of Islam: the Prophet’s daughter Fatima and the daughter of Zaynab.
Deadly IS deed in Manbij
IS takes on a suicide attack in Manbij that requires the lives of four Americans. Civilians from the locality are also among a total of at least 18 death victims. Manbij is close to the Turkish border and was recently controlled by Kurdish forces, allied with the United States. According to the US Defense Headquarters, the attack is the deadliest for the US since cooperation with the Kurdish forces began in 2014. When President Trump announced that US soldiers should be taken home, he justified the decision that the fighting against IS is over (see December 19 and 28, 2018).
Trump proposes buffer zone
President Trump is threatening Twitter with financial devastation if Turkey attacks Kurdish forces as US soldiers leave Syria. At the same time, Trump is urging the Kurds not to provoke Turkey. Foreign Minister Pompeo warned Turkey at the beginning of the year to “slaughter” Kurds. Trump wants to see a three mile wide buffer zone between Turkish and Kurdish forces, but does not specify who set it up and monitor it or where the zone should be located. President Erdoğan’s answer is that Turkey should set up a security zone. And it should lie on the Syrian side of the border – the Damascus regime, for its part, equates it with Turkish occupation. Turkey has been demanding an airbound zone near the border almost since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
US slows Syria retreat
President Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement that US ground forces should leave Syria is mitigated. They are withdrawn when the United States finds that IS has been completely defeated, security adviser John Bolton announces. Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo is sent on a round trip to eight capitals in the Middle East to clarify US intentions and discuss regional issues (see December 19 and 20, 2018).