For years, creating safe zones in Syria has been considered for a multitude of reasons – including improving humanitarian conditions, returning refugees, stopping the flow of civilians fleeing to neighboring countries and enabling foreign or local powers to exert control over an area. The Safe Zone platform provides a comprehensive overview of the various proposals over the last year, the key stakeholders and analysis on the real beneficiaries of these plans and whether or not they can be secure for civilians.
Syria’s Future Is Female
Complex problems and a lack of nuanced understanding have led to stereotypes and generalizations about Syrian women. And as a result women in Syria have largely been understood only in the context of the barriers they face or the violations carried out against them. Syria Deeply and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) explored issues facing Syrian women, such as access to education and healthcare; women’s role in politics, peacebuilding and preserving cultural heritage; and the impact of violence and violations against women.
Crimes and Justice
Despite the conventional wisdom that the Syrian conflict is winding down, human rights violations and war crimes have continued in several parts of the country. This year has seen a major push toward accountability and shedding light on the organizations exploring innovative avenues for pursuing justice.
• How the Syrian War Changed How War Crimes Are Documented
• How Amnesty Uncovered ‘a Universe of Degradation’ at Saydnaya Prison
• Building the First Criminal Case Against Assad’s Regime
• Analysis: The Political Impasse Over Syria’s Disappeared
Eyes On Damascus
As the Syrian government and foreign powers look to wind down the war in Syria, we have closely monitored developments on the ground in the capital, covering a wide range of developments such as financial restrictions on civilians and the cost of grave sites in Damascus.
• With No Room for the Dead, Graves Go up for Rent in Damascus
• Exchange Rates, Financial Restrictions and Subsidized Fuel
• Electricity, Pharmacists, Siege and Sports
Despite the Syrian government’s recent push for reconstruction and economic renewal in the country, the war economy has continued to take a devastating toll on civilians – in government-held territory, besieged areas and abroad.
• Elites, War Profiteers Take Aim at Syria’s Economic Future
• The Business of Smuggling Supplies in Besieged Eastern Ghouta
• The Maddening Maze of Getting a Syrian Passport Abroad
The past year has seen an uptick in involvement from international parties – both those who have a stake in the conflict and are hoping for a piece of post-conflict Syria and newcomers capitalizing on the conflict for their own interests.
• A War Within a War: Chechnya’s Expanding Role in Syria
• Israel’s Quiet Campaign to Gain a Foothold in Southern Syria
As the international community pushes for returns of refugees and IDPs, we have explored the deepening economic and social divisions challenging returns to Aleppo; the gap in public services; the absence of social and economic support systems; security risks facing those who return to Homs; and the reasons why some refugees are choosing to leave Europe.
• Analysis: Politics of Class and Identity Dividing Aleppo – and Syria
• Back Home in Homs: Challenges Facing Returnees to Syria
• Escaping Europe: Why Some Syrian Refugees Have Chosen to Leave
The Battle Against ISIS
The so-called Islamic State lost a significant amount of territory in Syria this year, from the SDF’s victory in Raqqa, ISIS’ former de facto capital, in October to pro-government forces seizing Deir Ezzor in November. Dismantling the caliphate, however, has taken a devastating toll on civilians who have been forced to flee fighting.
• ‘I Came for the Jihad’: Women Tell of Life in the Islamic State
• Analysis: Euphrates Fight May Beat ISIS Militarily, but Not Ideologically
• Inside Rukban Camp, One of Syria’s Most Desperate Settlements
Recommended Reads From Elsewhere
• The Century Foundation: The Economics of War and Peace in Syria
• Brookings: Rules for Reconstruction in Syria
• The Associated Press: In Syria’s Devastated Twin Towns, Tears Mix with Rubble
• The Financial Times: Syria: A Tale of Three Cities
• The New York Times: Russia Deploys a Potent Weapon in Syria: The Profit Motive
• Al Jazeera: Letters to Raqqa’s Missing
• The Associated Press: They’re Going for Death: Syrian Tells of Defection From ISIS