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Syria Today – US Sanctions Syrian Businesses; Number of Naturalized Germans Hit Record High; Rehabilitation of Teenagers in al-Hol

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – US Sanctions Syrian Businesses; Number of Naturalized Germans Hit Record High; Rehabilitation of Teenagers in al-Hol

On Tuesday, the United States implemented punitive actions against two Syrian financial service companies. In contrast, Germany reported a 28% rise in individuals obtaining its citizenship last year. Additionally, a program aimed at rehabilitating teenagers from families linked to the Islamic State was introduced in northeast Syria.

US uses Caesar Act to target Syrian money service businesses in fresh sanctions

The United States on Tuesday imposed punitive measures on two Syrian money service businesses it said help the government maintain access to the international financial system in violation of sanctions, in Washington’s first action targeting Syria since its readmittance to the Arab League, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement accused the two money service businesses, Al-Fadel Exchange and Al-Adham Exchange Company, of helping President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its allies, Hezbollah and Iran’s Quds Force, an arm of its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

The sanctions, imposed under the Caesar Act that also levied a tough round of sanctions on Syria in 2020, come after Arab states earlier this month turned the page on years of confrontation with Assad and readmitted Syria to the Arab League, a milestone in his regional rehabilitation even as the West continues to shun him after years of civil war, Reuters added.

The United States has said it will not normalize ties with Assad and has said Syria did not merit readmission into the Arab League.

Number of new German citizens hits a 20-year high as many Syrians naturalized

The Associated Press reported that Germany saw a 28% increase in the number of people gaining its citizenship last year, with people from Syria accounting for more than a quarter of those who were naturalized, official data showed Tuesday.

Preliminary figures show that about 168,500 people were granted German citizenship in 2022, the Federal Statistical Office said. That was the highest number since 2002.

According to the news agency, 48,300 — or 29% — were Syrian citizens. That was more than double the previous year’s figure and seven times as high as in 2020, as increasing numbers of people who migrated to Germany between 2014 and 2016 fulfilled the requirements for citizenship.

Those include a working knowledge of German and proof that they can support themselves financially.

In principle, there is a requirement for people to have lived in Germany for at least eight years, though that doesn’t apply to spouses and children. It can be reduced to six years for people who show “special integration accomplishments” such as very good knowledge of the language, professional achievements or civic engagement. There were 23,100 such “early” naturalizations last year, nearly twice as many as in 2021 and 60% of them Syrians.

Teenagers from Islamic State families undergo rehabilitation in Syria, but future still uncertain

The Associated Press reports that a rehabilitation program is implemented in northeast Syria for teenagers from families associated with the Islamic State (IS) group. The program aims to counter the extremist ideology that circulates within the al-Hol Camp, where thousands of children have been growing up without access to education. Kurdish officials are concerned that if these children remain in the camp, a new generation of extremists could emerge. The rehabilitation program, which involves separating the children from their mothers and families, offers education, vocational training, and activities promoting tolerance.

The article highlights the Orkesh Center, one of the rehabilitation facilities where young boys from al-Hol are enrolled. The boys receive education, engage in recreational activities, and have contact with their parents and siblings. However, the effectiveness of the program is difficult to assess due to its novelty. There are concerns from rights groups regarding the practice of separating children from their families, although it is seen as necessary to prevent exposure to extremist ideology.

Al-Hol Camp itself is home to approximately 51,000 people, primarily women and children associated with IS militants. The camp population has decreased from its peak due to some Syrians and Iraqis being allowed to return home, but many countries are reluctant to repatriate their nationals who joined IS. The camp remains a challenging environment, with ongoing radicalization and a lack of educational opportunities for children. The rehabilitation program seeks to address these issues and provide a potential solution for the children’s reintegration into society.

Kurdish officials and humanitarian agencies emphasize that the ultimate solution lies in the repatriation of these individuals by their home countries. They advocate for rehabilitation and reintegration efforts to be undertaken in the home countries, with appropriate monitoring and prosecution of adults involved in IS activities. The article concludes by highlighting the urgent need for action to address the situation in al-Hol Camp and the importance of finding lasting solutions for the affected children.

Arab states cannot whitewash Syria’s human rights record

Al-Jazeera published a long report in which it argues that Arab states’ recent rapprochement with the Syrian government, particularly the welcoming back of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League, is hypocritical and disregards the Syrian government’s responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the past 12 years of conflict. The author asserts that Arab states cannot whitewash Syria’s human rights record and that they should ensure the recent thaw in relations does not embolden the Syrian government to further violate human rights.

The author criticizes certain Arab states, such as Jordan and Lebanon, for exploiting Syria’s return to the Arab fold to push for the return of refugees. They argue that the Syrian government has shown no willingness to make significant political concessions or improve its rights record. Instead, the government uses the refugee issue to press Arab states for financial aid and support for reconstruction while continuing to commit abuses against returnees.

The article highlights the systematic violations perpetrated by the Syrian government, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, and deaths in detention. The author emphasizes the scale of these atrocities and calls for Arab countries to publicly acknowledge Syria’s human rights record, end the forced return of refugees, and advocate for accountability, an end to torture and enforced disappearances and the safe voluntary return of refugees.

Furthermore, the article underscores the need for Arab states to support the establishment of an independent body by the UN General Assembly to investigate the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared. The author argues that anything short of these actions would send a message that mass atrocity crimes carry no consequences on the world stage.

Overall, the article urges Arab states to address Syria’s human rights violations and play a responsible role in protecting the rights of the Syrian people.

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