In 2021, the regime arbitrarily arrested 220 residents from the south, the majority of them former opposition and civilians. While arbitrary arrests by intelligence apparatuses remain a major protection concern in south Syria, arrests in the south saw a slight decline from previous years due to a range of factors. Popular anger against the regime’s policy of conducting arbitrary arrests and community pressure for the immediate release of those most recently detained, contributed to a slight decline in regime arrests. Residents of south Syria, especially those wanted by the regime for military conscription, have also learnt to restrict their movement to avoid regime checkpoints where arrests commonly occur. However, residents still have an acute fear of being arbitrarily arrested by regime forces in south Syria, but have managed to adjust their lives to manage this threat to their safety. It is also notable that despite the significant presence and destabilizing activities of ISIS cells across the south, the regime arrested less than ten ISIS members this past year. Instead, the regime primarily utilizes arbitrary arrests as a punitive tactic to threaten communities and suppress dissent.
- Arbitrary Arrest Numbers: The regime has arbitrarily arrested a total of 1690 people since the 2018 settlement agreement, including 220 arrests during 2021. Of the total arrests in 2021, 87 are civilians and 115 are former armed opposition.
- Status of Detainees: Of the total number arrested since July 2018, more than 60% remain arbitrarily detained. Of the total arrests in 2021, almost 40% were released over the past year due to a combination of community pressure and the negotiation of new settlement terms. In some cases, the regime demanded millions in Syrian pounds, the equivalent to thousands of dollars, to secure the release of a detainee.
- Civilian Arrests: Over 2021, 81 civilians were arbitrarily arrested, and almost half of them are still in detention. Civilians have been targeted for a number of reasons, including being wanted for military conscription, working in money exchange offices or to pressure other family members wanted by the regime to turn themselves in.
- Former Opposition Detentions: The regime has aggressively targeted former opposition members through both arrests and assassinations to impose a military solution on the south, even though many have settled their status and are working with regime forces.
- Party Conducting Arrests: The regime’s Military Intelligence is responsible for almost half of all arbitrary arrests in the south and Air Force Intelligence is responsible for approximately a quarter of all arrests.
- ISIS: Even as ISIS-perpetrated violence targeting both the regime and former opposition has significantly increased in the south, the regime arrested less than ten ISIS members in 2021. Moreover, the regime frequently uses the presence of ISIS to justify its military aggression in the south, while the regime has released 41% of all ISIS members arrested since 2018.
- Women Detainees: Since July 2018, 34 women have been arbitrarily arrested, all of them civilians, and the majority are still being held in The children of some of these women who were with them at the time of their arrest are also being detained.
- Arrests Locations: In 2021, the highest numbers of arrests were concentrated in Daraa al-Balad, and towns in western Daraa, including Dael and Jasim, where the regime implemented new settlement agreements.