Sara Kayyali writes: “They will kill us all,” Ahmad, a Syrian aid worker, told me last month, referring to the many armed parties to the Syrian conflict.
We were talking about Idlib, a province in northwest Syria that is home to around 2 million people, about half of whom are displaced, and is mostly under the control of Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), widely acknowledged to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. Ahmad is from Idlib and had seen the province go through everything from airstrikes, to chemical attacks, to suicide bombers – a microcosm of the violence that is the Syrian conflict. Still, he believed the worst was yet to come.
There have been announcements that Russia, Iran, and Turkey will be making progress on a de-escalation zone in Idlib as part of the Syria negotiations taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan this week. But Ahmad’s concerns about the area where he is operating highlight the fear that over the past six years of the Syrian conflict, the urgent need to protect civilians has been sidelined in most of the international negotiations. The series of de-escalation agreements aimed at securing peace have unfortunately been no exception.
The talks in Astana have been the most ambitious to date. Russia has brought on board two of the key outside military actors in Syria – Turkey and Iran – to participate. [Continue reading…]