Syrian regime arrests 20 people in restive Daraa province amid 'demographic change' accusations

Syrian regime arrests 20 people in restive Daraa province amid 'demographic change' accusations
Syrian regime forces have arrested at least 20 people in the town of Sheikh Miskin as opposition activists accused it of using the military draft to engineer 'demographic change'.
2 min read
19 June, 2023
The Syrian province of Daraa has been restive since falling back into regime control in 2018 [Getty file image]

Syrian regime forces have arrested at least 20 people from the town of Sheikh Miskin in the restive southern province of Daraa amid an increase in deadly attacks on regime police.

The opposition Free Houran Rally media activist group said on Sunday that the killings of police officers in Sheikh Miskin were the first incidents of their kind since 2018, when Daraa province, a former opposition stronghold, was captured by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

While Daraa province as a whole has been volatile since its capture by Assad regime forces, with many attacks targeting regime forces as well as former rebels, the town of Sheikh Miskin has been relatively stable.

The Free Houran Rally said that the attacks on police began when the regime began a "status regularisation" process in Sheikh Miskin, aimed at forcibly drafting young men into the regime’s army.

The group has accused the regime of using the process to force young people from Daraa to leave Syria. Dozens of young men from Daraa province were on the boat that sunk off the coast of Greece last week, killing at least 78 people.

Free Houran Rally media spokesman Ayman Abu Mahmoud told The New Arab’s sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the Assad regime wanted to engineer "demographic change" in Daraa province by making life unbearable for young people – leaving them with no choice but to join its army or flee.

The Assad regime has often been accused of attempting demographic change in Syria by reducing the country’s majority Sunni population. President Bashar al-Assad and key leaders of the regime are from the minority Alawi sect.


The New Arab’s affiliate Syria TV quoted local sources from Sheikh Miskin as saying that security forces from the regime’s notorious Air Force Intelligence had stormed the town several times in recent days and arrested 20 people, including young men who had agreed to "regularise their status".

The sources claimed that the regime aimed to "terrorise young men and force them either to emigrate or join regime forces", adding that regime intelligence had a heavy presence in the town.

Last May, the Free Houran group documented at least 33 attacks in Daraa province that resulted in the deaths of 18 people and the injury of 13 others.

Usually, no party claims responsibility for the attacks.