This report is the third in a series which together constitute the Humanitarian File prepared by the Syrian Civic Platform (SCP). This data was collected through consultations held with nearly 3,500 diverse Syrians between October 2017 and May 2018.

The Turkey, Iran, and Russia-led Astana talks have diverted the Syrian conflict away from political negotiations through the Geneva peace process, and have redrawn the map of forces throughout Syrian territory. In the first year of the Astana talks, Russia, Turkey and Iran reached an agreement to set up de-escalation zones in Syria. The agreement called for the cessation of hostilities between anti-government groups and forces fighting on behalf of the Government of Syria (GoS) in so-called “de-escalation zones” in mainly opposition-held areas of the country, with Russia, Turkey and Iran acting as guarantors. However, this agreement was soon accompanied by military changes in Syria to which the guarantors contributed, in addition to escalation of other issues such as detainees and the constitution.

This report sheds light on the views of the Syrian population regarding the Astana de-escalation zones agreement, as well as studying its impact on their lives.

The report was based on 304 community consultation sessions conducted between October 2017 and May 2018 in nine Syrian provinces: Idlib, Hassakeh, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, Homs, Damascus countryside, Suweida, Daraa, and Quneitra. Additional sessions were conducted with Syrians seeking asylum in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraqi Kurdistan. A total of 3,376 people participated in the sessions, 46.6% (1,580) of whom were women. The number of participants representing civil society organizations (CSOs) numbered 705.

From the consultations, the report concludes the following:

  • At the beginning of the process, the agreement did yield some positive impacts regarding the reduction of violence. However, the situation has changed as violence has become more systematic, with the targeting of civilian facilities, hospitals, and schools. There are also areas not covered by the agreement, and therefore their inhabitants have not seen any difference before or after the agreement.
  • The parties carrying out hostilities and military force are mainly the GoS supported by their Russian and Iranian allies, in addition to Turkey in some areas and Islamic armed groups.
  • There are security concerns regarding transfers of control of an area between different armed entities. Concerns are commonly related to reprisals that could be committed by the new armed party entering a region or area.
  • Solutions suggested by the participants include: 1) efforts should be intensified to reach a political solution to resolve all current security concerns; 2) international observers should be sent to Syria to monitor the cessation of hostilities; 3) observation towers should be constructed in interface areas; and 4) all foreign militias should exit Syrian territory.
  • With regard to the role of civil society, the participants believed that CSOs should play a role in communication between the different local forces to mitigate escalation and to reach compromises that prevent the outbreak of any future armed conflicts. Participants also suggested that CSOs should monitor and document violations of the agreement, as well as advocate for critical local issues.

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