After ‘reconciliation’: Syria regime’s silent crackdown

Beirut: Syrian army defector Salam had signed a surrender deal with the regime supposed to protect him, but after reporting for military service, he disappeared and months later was declared dead. “He went off and never came back,” his elder brother told AFP.

Salam is one of a growing number of former rebel fighters who disappeared, died or suffered abuse at the hands of regime forces, despite signing so-called reconciliation deals in areas the government has recaptured.

At least 219 people who have signed such agreements have been detained over the past two years, including 32 who likely died because of torture or poor conditions in regime jails, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Most are residents of the southern province of Daraa, the defeated cradle of Syria’s 2011 uprising. After the Russian-backed regime retook the area in 2018, most rebels decided to stay after signing reconciliation deal.

They included Ahmad, a former rebel fighter then in his late thirties, and his brother Salam, an army defector and opposition fighter turning 26 that year.

While Ahmad chose to join a Russian-backed regime unit, Salam decided to return to military service as requested under the surrender deal, despite objections from his brother, who feared he might be detained, or worse. - AFP