This profile refers to civilians from areas associated with opposition to the government, in particular (former) opposition-held areas in Dar’a, Rural Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Quneitra. It addresses the situation of civilians from recaptured areas as well as, briefly, areas which continue to be under the control of anti-government armed groups. See also the general COI summary under Persons perceived to be opposing the government.
The government’s territorial gains over the course of the Syrian conflict were followed by continued arbitrary arrests and detention [Targeting, 1.2.3]. Arbitrary arrests and forced disappearances of alleged opposition supporters took place in recaptured areas [See e.g. Recaptured areas, 184.108.40.206; Security 2020, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, 22.214.171.124].
GoS treats individuals from former opposition-held areas with a heavy degree of suspicion. The intelligence agencies created a wide network of informants and used phone surveillance to ensure that the government kept a close watch of the most mundane aspects of Syrians’ everyday life and restricted criticism of Assad and his government [Targeting, 1.1.1]. The scrutiny of individuals from former opposition-held areas is the highest in Damascus, given the concentration of security personnel in the city as well as the importance of the capital to the government. The GoS also restricted the access of civilians that wished to return to Damascus and Rural Damascus and unlawfully demolished houses of residents [Targeting, 1.2.3].
Furthermore, civilians were arrested for communicating with their relatives or friends in rebel-held territory or abroad and they were prevented from establishing further contact [Targeting, 1.1.1]. GoS also punished family members of alleged opposition supporters by applying a number of laws that violate their individual property rights. Women with familial ties to opposition fighters were reportedly detained for intelligence-gathering purposes or retribution [Targeting, 1.2.3].
There are also reports of deliberate targeting of civilians in areas held by opposition groups. Starting in February 2019, ground offensives and airstrikes on areas controlled by anti-government armed groups escalated significantly, with reports pointing to the deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, residential areas, agricultural resources. [Security 2020, 126.96.36.199, 2.1.3]
Some actions to which individuals under this profile could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. arbitrary detention, forced disappearance).
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 aspects (who is in control in the area, whether it was considered an opposition stronghold, etc.), and level of (perceived) support or collaboration with anti-government forces, familial ties or other connection to (suspected) members of anti-government armed groups and/or political opposition members, (perceived) support for the government, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is for reasons of (imputed) political opinion.