Rights abuse allegations as displaced Syrians head to gov’t areas

Allegations of torture and mistreatment by Syrian forces have surfaced as people in the besieged Rukban camp along the border with Jordan are moved to government-controlled areas.

The United Nations, in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), has commenced the transfer of displaced Syrians residing in the desperate Rukban camp to regime-ruled Homs, where they face the risk of human rights violations, critics say.

While the operation is based on voluntary registration for people who wish to leave the camp, the Syrian Association for Citizen’s Dignity (SACD) said it was “saddened” by the UN’s involvement in the transfers.“We are surprised the UN is involved in such activities in areas which are really not safe at all,” Atassi said. “The Syrian regime is not trustworthy. We can’t trust the regime with these people.”

The Syrian government with the support of its Russian ally has blocked aid into the camp since September 2019, forcing some 21,000 people to leave the desperate situation in Rukban.

The estimated remaining 12,000 people are left with next to no food or water and a lack of sanitation in the camp.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokeswoman Danielle Moylan, 88 individuals have registered to leave the camp as part of the UN-supported mission.

“On September 11, a convoy of five trucks entered Rukban with the sole purpose to support these registered families to voluntarily leave Rukban with their belongings,” Moylan told Al Jazeera in a statement.

“However, while inside Rukban a small group of individuals obstructed the convoy and assaulted a driver. As a result, the mission was cancelled and the convoy immediately departed Rukban.”

‘Criminal regime’

“I am one of those people who would never return back to areas under [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s control, no matter how bad my situation gets,” IA, originally from al-Qaryateen village in eastern suburbs of Homs, said.

“I will never return to an area ruled by the criminal regime who still kills civilians and treats them brutally.”

Rukban lies in an arid “no-man’s land” between the border of Syria and Jordan, close to the US military base al-Tanf.

The majority of the displaced Syrians in Rukban fled from the armed group ISIL (ISIS) when it controlled Raqqa in 2014, and once Jordan stopped accepting refugees into the country in 2016 it became a de facto camp.

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