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Last update: September 2020

COI summary

[Main COI reference: Targeting, 5.3]

Civilians perceived to be collaborating or supporting the government or (pro-)government armed forces and/or to oppose anti-government armed groups are targeted by several groups, mainly HTS and ISIL.

In areas where HTS is operating, individuals were targeted for affiliation with the Syrian government and HTS carried out operations to arrest persons suspected of being in contact with the regime. HTS targeted civilians who opposed the group’s policies and practices, as well as activists and public figures, with the aim to intimidate the society in areas under its control. The HTS considered civilians opposing it as agents, infiltrators, or ‘frogs’ (a Syrian opposition moniker for someone in surreptitious contact with the GoS and prepared to “jump” to the other side) [Targeting, 5.2]. Civilians are unlawfully detained, kidnapped, tortured and executed for expressing political dissent or because they are suspected government and pro-government informants, i.e. people suspected of communicating with the GoS and the Russians. This includes civilians who are in favour of reconciliation with the government. HTS also cracked down on populations that were seen as supportive of the FSA and the values of the original Syrian Revolution. [Targeting, 5.3.1]

While ISIL ceased to control territory in Syria, it still maintained presence in government-held territories such as Homs and Dar’a governorates, and a latent presence in Idlib governorate. ISIL claimed low-level attacks targeting in particular reconciled opposition group leaders, as well as local security forces and pro-GoS paramilitary groups. There also are several reports of ISIL attacks in which civilians were killed, including women and children. ISIL-claimed attacks are hard to dissociate from the ongoing insurgency in southern Syria - the emergence of groups such as the Popular Resistance in Dar’a and Saraya Qasiyoun as well as the latent Al Qaeda presence in the south. [Targeting, 5.3.2]

With regards to targeting civilians who fall under this profile outside of the areas of control of armed groups, it was reported that rebel groups in Idlib governorate continued to kill Syrian soldiers as well as civilians in neighbouring areas of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo. [Targeting, 5.3.1]

Risk analysis

Actions to which individuals under this profile could be exposed could be of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. detention, torture, killing).

Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: regional specifics (depending on the presence and activity of anti-government armed groups) and level of (perceived) support or collaboration, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is highly likely to be for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.