After the announcement of the complete takeover of eastern Ghouta, the regime has accelerated the removal of checkpoints within the Syrian capital, with official media attributing this to the end of “terrorism” and the return of security and stability.
Speculations vary as to the reasons behind this new policy. Some link it to the end of fighting around the capital, others attribute it to pressure by the Russians to force the regime to retain some popular support in the city, while others see it as a way of improving the image of the regime after the killings and repression of the past years.
The commander of the Free Police in Aleppo, Brigadier Adib Al-Shalaf, rules out international pressures and thinks that it could be a way to polish the image of the regime among Syrians on the one hand and the international community in general.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, Al-Shalaf said that the regime needs to improve public perception after the years of suffering that it has inflicted on civilians, in particular women and children. The barriers are there to frighten and oppress rather than for security purposes, he added.
According to the police chief, there is a lot of media coverage, but the barriers which were removed are not important from a security and military standpoint. The barriers at the entrances of the capital and on the main roads are still there.
Damascus has the largest number of military checkpoints in the country with more than 300, which were set up from 2011, when the Syrian regime feared Damascus could fall out of its control.
According to Al-Shalaf, the regime could remove all checkpoints because military operations have stopped, opposition factions are no longer equipped for any military action and pose no threat or danger around Damascus at the moment, as they are subjected to the wishes of the countries supporting them. But he believes that Syria is being occupied by the Russians and the Iranians, and that security and stability cannot return as they were before, contrary to what the regime is saying.
The director of the Voice of the Capital news network, Raed Al-Salhani, believes that there are a variety of reasons for the removal of the barriers.
At the popular and propaganda level they play no role any longer after the Syrian capital was declared “free of terrorism.” The second reason relates to the significant improvement of the security situation, especially after Assad forces recaptured eastern Ghouta and the areas controlled by opposition factions and by the Islamic State south of Damascus.
Al-Salhani points out that 70% of the Damascus checkpoints play no meaningful role from a security point of view. Some streets have two or three checkpoints and this can only be explained by the material benefit they generate and the terrorizing of the population.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.