Overcoming the Siege: Shehba Region Beyond the Refugee Camps

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Shehba region is another example of the absence of a solution for the Syrian Civil War, and the consequences that this entails. The limbo in which the region finds itself is the result of the development of the war, but also of the aspirations for a democratic Syria. The region was the scenario of successive battles between the Syrian Arab Army, the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), ISIS, and the SDF. In February 2016 the Shehba canton, linked to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), started to recover from the previous clashes, but the 2018 invasion of the neighboring AANES linked Afrin canton by the Turkish Army and its proxy militias of the Syrian National Army (SNA) forced an estimated 300,000 people to leave the region. Of these, more than 100,000 internally displaced people (IDP) remain in Shehba canton, waiting to one day return to Afrin. Currently 10,221 IDPs still live in five refugee camps in Shehba region.

Currently, the population suffers under a double threat: from the north, the Turkish-backed SNA militias shell the villages and towns, amongst Turkish drone airstrikes; in the south, the Syrian Government impose a severe siege that hinders or even makes the arrival of basic needs such as fuel, medicines, and industrial materials impossible. Beside these harsh conditions, the Shehba region also has become an example of democratic resilience.

In this report RIC aims to expose the current situation of the refugee camps located in Shehba region. Likewise, RIC found a gap in the information available about the Shehba region, today constituted as the Canton of Afrin and Shehba. Regardless of the constant attacks and the embargo under which the population is living, the assistance they receive from outside is insufficient and intermittent. This report should reach the public opinion, and especially encourage the relevant authorities and institutions to find sustainable solutions to the armed conflict in Syria.