Arrests in South Syria – February 2023

The regime arbitrarily arrested 202 residents of south-west Syria in 2022, the majority of whom were civilians or members of the former opposition. Arbitrary arrests in south Syria remain a major protection concern, with the regime’s intelligence apparatus now increasingly reliant on arbitrary arrests to extract financial gains from local residents and their families. Unlike previous years, many of those arrested in 2022 were able to secure release in exchange for exorbitant bribes that often reached thousands of dollars, further squeezing an already beleaguered local population. Arrest numbers experienced a slight decline from the previous year, although this is likely due to mitigation measures observed by local communities: with many restricting their movements and avoiding checkpoints. For individuals explicitly wanted by the regime, the fear of arrest paralyzes lives: many seldom venture outside of their homes to avoid interactions with regime-linked security actors. Notably, despite the violence and chaos inflicted by ISIS across south Syria over the past year, the regime only arrested 12 ISIS member—instead it uses arbitrary arrests to punish civilians and former opposition members, crushing any hint of dissent in the process.

This file contains charts representing statistics on arrests that took place in south-west Syria during the course of the last four years, between June 2018 and December 2022.

Key Findings

  • Arbitrary Arrest Numbers: The regime arbitrarily arrested a total 1,926 people in south-west Syria since the 2018 settlement agreement, including 202 arrested in 2022. Of those 202, 83% of those arrested were either civilians, civil society or former opposition members.
  • Arrested, Released, Missing, Tortured: Of those arbitrarily arrested between 2018-2022, a majority (1,069) remain arbitrarily detained. In 2022, most detainees who were released were let out in exchange for exorbitant sums of money, reaching thousands of dollars, suggesting that the regime’s intelligence apparatus is increasingly using arbitrary arrests as an extortionary tactic in the face of deteriorating economic conditions in the country.
  • Civilian Arrests: Slightly less than half of the 81 civilians arrested in 2022 remain in detention. Most civilians were arrested during the course of regime raids on towns in south-west Syria during periods of heightened tensions.
  • Former Opposition Detentions: Since its takeover in 2018, the regime has continued to aggressively target former opposition members through arrests and assassinations. The majority of former opposition arrested in 2022 had already settled their status with the regime.
  • Party Conducting Arrests: The regime’s Military Intelligence is responsible for 48% of arbitrary arrests, and remains the main perpetrator of arrests in the south. Air Force Intelligence was responsible for 25% of total arrests between 2018 and 2022.
  • ISIS: Despite increasing ISIS violence against the regime and former opposition in 2022, only 12 ISIS members were arrested by the regime this past year. In addition, the regime has released 43% of ISIS-linked detainees in its detention facilities since 2018.
  • Women Detainees: Since July 2018, 36 women have been arbitrarily arrested, all of them civilians, and the majority are still being held in In 2022, two women were arbitrarily arrested and then later released: the first was arrested while sitting her school exams; the second was arrested following her return to Syria from Lebanon.
  • Arrests Locations: The highest numbers of arrests in 2022 concentrated in Daraa al-Balad and towns in western Daraa, including Nawa and Jasim, which were targeted for regime military operations. Checkpoints in regime strongholds such as Izraa remain key arrest sites.
Breakdown of Arrests Civilians-Former-Opposition Commanders Civil Society Extremist Groups ISIS Traffickers of Illicit Goods
Timeline of Arrests
Status Arrested Released Missing or Killed
Arrests By Gender
Numer of Arrests According to Geographical Area
Current Status of Female Arrests