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Situation Assessment 12 June, 2013

Deadly Neighbors: Jdaidet al-Fadl—A Paradigm for Sectarian Genocide in the Damascus Region

Keyword

Unit for Contemporary Syrian Studies

​The creation of the Unit for Contemporary Syrian Studies is the latest research initiative by the Doha-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. The unit is concerned with Syria’s present-day political, economic, social, and cultural affairs, approaching them in an academic manner in order to provide the Arab public with scholarly papers that can facilitate a deeper understanding of the reality in Syria. Currently, the unit’s main area of study is the Syrian revolution. In an effort to provide a better understanding of the state and society in Syria, the unit monitors the revolution’s developments and the impacts they have domestically, regionally, and internationally.

Introduction

The Syrian crisis has over the last two years witnessed a series of bloody massacres in which hundreds of people have been killed in the most barbaric manner. Most Syrian and international human rights groups hold regime forces or associated militias (the shabiha) responsible for the murder and summary execution of non-combatant civilians. These actions have aimed to deter and punish Syrians for taking part in the revolution. Large-scale massacres first occurred in regions of Syria where there is a sectarian mix (e.g., Homs and Hama). The number of victims has been rising throughout the crisis, reaching a peak with the Houla massacre in May 2012 when, according to rights organizations, 108 people were killed.[1] Such events soon spread to other areas of Syria, including the capital Damascus, where the focus became centered in its peripheral slums that include neighborhoods with an Alawite majority contiguous to those with a Sunni majority.

Massacres have followed a specific pattern. Mostly, they start with an army-imposed siege on the targeted neighborhoods, cutting the electricity and water supplies, as well as communications, to coincide with the onset of shelling. Following this, security forces cleanse the area of any popular resistance prior to the final and most savage phase during which local, civilian militias are allowed to enter the neighborhood and begin the task of liquidation-slaughtering any men, women, and children they encounter, in addition to acts of theft, looting, and rape. Operations conclude with efforts to destroy evidence of the crime by setting fire to entire neighborhoods. While these atrocities are taking place, over a few hours or a number of days, the army and security forces ensure complete cover and provide a network of protection for the militias by preventing anyone from entering or leaving the neighborhoods until the task is completed.

The massacre in Jdaidet al-Fadl, a suburb on the edge of Damascus, stands out in the series of massacres that Syria has witnessed during the revolution because of the number of victims, the extended time-frame of the extermination, and its proximity to the capital (i.e., outside the traditional zones of sectarian friction in the country's center and west). Because there are neighborhoods divided by sectarian lines, housing Sunnites or Alawites, in a number of areas of Greater Damascus, the massacre of Jdaidet al-Fadl may become a familiar pattern for violence against civilians in the future, given escalating sectarian tensions and the regime's insistence on punishing the civilian incubator for the revolution in preparation to finishing it off.

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[1] "Horrific Details of the Massacre," 2013.