Civilians, rebels leave long-besieged Daraya

Activist describes horrific conditions in Daraya, confirming that all farms that families used to depend on for food were captured by regime forces.

Citizens gathering as they prepare to evacuate from Daraya

2016/09/04 Issue: 71 Page: 9

The Arab Weekly
Abdulrahman al-Masri

ONTARIO - Under pressure of star­vation, barrel-bombing and incendiary weap­ons, thousands of ci­vilians have evacuated Daraya after an agreement with the Syrian regime to end a siege of the Damascus suburb.

The four-year blockade forced rebel troops in Daraya to surrender to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in a deal reached Au­gust 25th that includes the evacua­tion of people there.

Rebel forces — estimated at about 800 fighters — and their families have been relocated to rebel-held Idlib governorate. About 7,000 ci­vilians were taken to “reception centres” around Damascus under regime control.

Some residents voiced concerns over the evacuation, fearing they would be arrested by the regime as happened in negotiated surrenders in Homs and other Damascus sub­urbs.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staf­fan de Mistura said in a statement that the United Nations was not consulted or involved in the nego­tiation of the Daraya deal.

The Daraya civil council repeated­ly called on the international com­munity to take action and to end the siege. De Mistura said Daraya’s appeals have not been heeded and now “the world is watching.”

The Assad regime had been put­ting pressure on rebels in Daraya, intensifying barrel-bombing and storming the suburb from the south-west. Rebels had lost signifi­cant territory in southern and west­ern Daraya before the evacuation agreement.

Malek Refay, a media activist and photographer from Daraya, described horrific conditions in Daraya. He confirmed that all farms that families used to depend on for food were captured by regime forces and the destruction of the last hospital in the town, which was reportedly targeted with incendiary weapons.

“It is the same message since the revolution started,” Refay said, “‘As­sad or we burn the country.’ There is no third option.”

A blockade was imposed on Daraya in late 2012. Only once dur­ing the siege were the United Na­tions and Syrian Arab Red Crescent allowed to make a delivery to the town and the trucks carried only medical supplies and baby formula. Food aid was barred.

After a ceasefire brokered in Feb­ruary 2016 between Russia and the United States, Daraya was rela­tively calm. However, after 75 days of ceasefire, the regime launched a fierce campaign against the town.

As the regime’s military cam­paign against Daraya escalated, chemical weapons, such as napalm, were reportedly used in recent weeks.

Daraya is 7km from the centre of Damascus and is near crucial re­gime bases, including the Mezzeh Military Airport, the Republican Guard’s headquarter, and the ar­my’s elite 4th Armoured Division base.

Since the start of the uprising against the regime in 2011, Daraya had symbolised a consistent resist­ance and resilience despite terrible siege conditions.

Abdulrahman al-Masri covers politics and news in the Middle East and Syria in particular. He can be followed on Twitter: @AbdulrhmanMasri

As Printed
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar


Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor

Subscription & Advertising:

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved