Farhan Almohammad – Deir ez-Zor
“It has been ten years since the accident. I still feel sad for dropping out my study and major which I had always dreamed of and worked hard for. My dreams were taken away from me with a bullet because someone was celebrating their joy”.
This is what Ahmed (pseudonym) expressed who is a resident of western countryside of Deir ez-Zor and aged 30. He was injured with a stray bullet in his shoulder during a wedding celebration in the area causing damage in his shoulder ligaments and thus a partial disability in his right arm”.
Arms have indiscriminately and widely spread in the region after the war, and this phenomenon is considered a big threat at society as it has become easy to obtain a weapon without a license under the weak fist of security. The spread of these arms has left a negative impact including spread of violence, and increase in deaths and disability cases. It has also caused people feeling unsafe and anxious even during celebrations and weddings due to indiscriminate usage of weapons and fear of stray bullets.
The Declaration of Human Rights’ Article 3 states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”.
Also, the Arms Trade Treaty reaffirms “the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory” and acknowledges “peace and security and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing”. Syria has not signed the Treaty, but Syrian rules control use of arms by regulating licenses, and imposing strict reasons for carrying weapons which is not adhered to because of the loose security in the country.
We met Ahmed (pseudonym), a young man working as a primary school teacher, who says “ten years ago, I was sitting at my house with my friends and, suddenly, I felt pain in my right shoulder and, lo and behold, it was a bullet settling in my shoulder. I was immediately taken to the field hospital in Al-Kasrah village where the bullet was taken out.”
“I visited several doctors to check my health condition and after medical examination and photos, it turned out that my shoulder ligaments were severely torn and damaged, and I needed a medical operation. Shortly after that, I went under a medical surgery in Al Mayadin city, and after a period, I went for a check-up as I felt severe pain. The doctor informed me that the surgery was not performed as needed. I went for several medical operations throughout several years, but none was successful and my arm stayed the same. I lost hope, stopped looking for cure, and I am now on painkillers when needed.”
“I cannot now lift nor move my arm much as I want. The reason was a stray bullet from one of the weddings in the area, but we could not identify the person who shot as many people were doing so randomly. My injury has really impacted me dramatically as I dropped out from university when I was in my second year in the Faculty of Architecture, and this major requires functioning my arm a lot. I have tried to continue, but it was difficult as I could not control my arm as required. After several years of my injury, I headed to work in education, and until now, I have been working as a primary school teacher. Ten years after the accident, I still feel the same amount of grief I felt when I had to drop out my major which I always dreamed of achieving and I worked hard for. It is all because of a bullet shot for someone’s happiness, but, for me, it took my dreams away from me.”
According to a report issued by Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, number of armed fights, in the Autonomous Administration areas, resulting from retaliation, family and tribal clashes, and spread of indiscriminate arms among civilians has increased to 92. The clashes have resulted in 55 deaths including 3 children and 3 women, and 114 injuries since the beginning of 2023.
During an interview with Khadija (pseudonym), who is in her twenties and living in eastern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, she says “in May 2019, I was sitting on the roof of my house with my 9-month-old baby girl sitting next to me in her crib. The town was not stabilized during that time, and there were clashes between two families because of retaliation. Every couple of days, we would hear shootings between the two families. My daughter was asleep in her crib, and suddenly, I heard shooting and went downstairs to carry her, but I felt something weird and I could not tell what it was. There was a sound coming out from my daughter and when I checked her, I found blood on her clothes. I approached her and realized that it was a bullet hit her chest. We immediately took her to emergency, but it was too late. She died because of the bullet, and we submitted a complaint to the authorities, but all was in vain as we could not know the source of the bullet. There were tens of people carrying weapons and shooting randomly”.
Khadija sighed with tears filling her eyes. She paused a bit and then continued saying “I cannot forget that day when I lost the most precious thing I had. She was my first child; I do not have other children and I could not have any later. I was dreaming of seeing her growing up and her having dreams to achieve. What is the value of your land when you cannot secure yourself nor your children even at your home? I always feel stressed when I hear shooting and I am dramatically terrified as I always remember that day”.
The General Council of the Autonomous Administration of northeastern Syria issued a resolution on April 5th 2023 including a group of modifications on Arms and Ammunition Law issued in 2022. The modification included prohibition of licensing multi-shot guns, and permission of licensing single-shot guns only. Also, it included prohibition of any weapon that is not internationally licensed. This resolution came out under the efforts of the Autonomous Administration to control the spread of indiscriminate arms in the region.
Despite all negative impact of spread of indiscriminate arms, unfortunately, the local efforts made to control these arms are still minimal and almost absent. This matter requires cooperation and coordination on several levels to be controlled as we believe it is increasing. Most of the time, the most impacted are our people.