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Common analysis
Last updated: September 2020

[Main COI reference: Security 2020, 2.9]

The governorate of Deir Ez-Zor is located in the east of Syria and is the second biggest governorate in terms of surface. It borders Iraq and the governorates of Hasaka, Raqqa and Homs. The governorate is divided into three districts: Deir Ez-Zor, Al-Mayadin and Abu Kamal. The Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics estimated that the population of Deir Ez-Zor governorate was 1 124 000 in 2016. Deir Ez-Zor governorate is rich in natural resources such as oil and gas, and ranking first in the production of cotton and third in the production of wheat.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, Deir Ez-Zor witnessed anti-government protests. The Arab tribes in Deir Ez-Zor showed a division of affiliation, as some factions joined the SDF, others were aligned with GoS forces, and the rest pledged allegiance to ISIL. By summer 2012, the FSA controlled more than three-quarters of Deir Ez-Zor city. In 2014, ISIL captured the FSA-held neighbourhoods and succeeded in capturing the province almost entirely. In 2017, Deir Ez-Zor city was recaptured by the SAA with the support of Russia and Iran, and ISIL lost its territorial control in the western part of Euphrates. On the eastern side of the river, the SDF engaged in fighting with ISIL, which ended with the recapturing of all ISIL-held areas in March 2019.

As of March 2020, the GoS controls the part of the governorate west of the Euphrates. The presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iranian-back militias, as well as of Russian forces, is also reported.

SDF controls the part of the governorate east of the Euphrates. The US also maintained a force of 500 to protect the oil fields.

Despite the loss of its last stronghold in Baghouz, ISIL maintained a steady low-level violence in Deir Ez-Zor’s eastern countryside.

Before the recapturing of the ISIL-held areas by SDF, there was an intensification of military operations that affected civilians in Deir Ez-Zor governorate. Many civilians were killed and injured during air and ground-based strikes, in particular in east and southeast Deir Ez-Zor governorate. After the fall of Baghouz, ISIL was taking revenge on the people of Deir Ez-Zor, condemning them as ‘guilty’ of its defeat. ISIL attacks included roadside bombs and drive-by shooting and assassinations of local SDF collaborators. The attacks concentrated in a strip along the Euphrates River between the towns of al-Buseira and al-Tayyana Arab. From March through mid-October 2019, ISIL claimed to have conducted 321 insurgent attacks in Deir Ez-Zor governorate [Security 2020, 1.4.6]. Reporting on the period between July 2019 and January 2020, the CoI noted that ISIL increased its attacks against pro-GoS forces, especially around Mayadin and Albu Kamal. Various incidents of infighting and clashes between components of the Syrian Armed forces and Iran-backed militias have also been reported.

ACLED recorded 1 029 security incidents (average of 20 security incidents per week) in Deir Ez-Zor governorate in 2019, the large majority of which coded as battles and explosions/remote violence. In the first two months of 2020, the number of security incidents in the governorate was 136, amounting to an average of 16 security incidents per week.

During 2019, security incidents occurred in all districts of the governorate, with the largest overall number being recorded in the district of Deir Ez-Zor.

In 2019, VDC recorded a total of 249 civilian fatalities and SNHR recorded a total of 549 civilian fatalities in the governorate. Compared to the official figures for the population in the governorate as from 2016, this represents approximately 22 or 49 civilian fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants.

According to the UNOCHA, around 57 000 displacement movements were recorded during 2019 from Deir Ez-Zor governorate, the vast majority towards Hasaka governorate. For the same period, around 52 000 IDP movements were recorded to or within Deir Ez-Zor governorate, of which around 49 000 were within the governorate while the rest came mainly from Raqqa governorate. Around 79 000 return movements were recorded to or within Deir Ez-Zor governorate in 2019, of which 41 000 were within the governorate, while the rest returned mainly from Damascus and Hasaka governorates.

Following the defeat of ISIL and the capturing of the group’s former territory of control by GoS forces and the SDF, there have been reports on increasing tension between the residents of those areas and the forces controlling them. Deir Ez-Zor governorate suffered major infrastructure damages, with approximately 23 % of its buildings damaged or destroyed. With regards to water supply, 30 % of the households in several governorates including Deir Ez-Zor relied entirely on water provided by trucks.  The governorate faced many damages in roads and bridges and only a few of them have been cleared of rubble. Only 5 % of the governorate’s schools were operational, facing shortages in personnel and lacking doors, windows and water tanks. The healthcare system suffered a shortage in personnel and medications in the GoS-controlled areas, however the situation seemed to be better in SDF-held areas. The contamination of explosive remnants posed a daily risk for civilians, including children, in Deir Ez-Zor governorate. A state of lawlessness, and an increase of killings and kidnappings, was also reported in several areas of the governorate.

Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that the degree of indiscriminate violence in Deir Ez-Zor reaches such a high level, that substantial grounds are shown for believing that a civilian, returned to the governorate, would, solely on account of his or her presence on its territory, face a real risk of being subject to the serious threat referred to in Article 15(c) QD.