A concentration of political violence was reported last week in Syria and Yemen with proportional rises in events in both southern Syria and Hudayda governorate in Yemen, respectively. Meanwhile, a rise in particular event types has been recorded in other countries in the region, including a rise in reports of kidnappings by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq last week. Significant demonstrations were also reported in Iran, where labour groups condemned hardship caused by the fall in the Iranian rial. A high number of demonstrations were also reported in Turkey related to the presidential election and in Bahrain to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

In Iraq, there was a sharp rise in kidnappings by IS militants reported last week. This may be indicative of continued insecurity for the average Iraqi citizen — despite the overall steep fall in the number of political violence events and total reported fatalities over the past year.

In Turkey, there was a spike in the number of riots reported last week. Almost all of these were related to the Turkish presidential election on June 24, 2018, with the most occurring before the election. A number of these were attacks by rioters targeting the activists and offices of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), one of the main pro-Kurdish opposition parties (Reuters, May 4, 2018).

Significant riots were also reported in Iran, where labour groups (primarily merchants) shut down Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and demonstrated in several other cities over the steep fall in the Iranian rial. Demonstrations were also held over infrastructural problems related to water, including poor water quality, in the southern Iranian cities of Khorramabad and Abadan in Khuzestan province. At least one riot broke out in Khorramshahr, including attacks against banks and public buildings, during which police met rioters with live fire.

In Bahrain, a number of demonstrations held in soldiarity with political prisoners were reported around the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. These occurred within the context of anger among Shiites in Bahrain over the arrests and alleged torture of Shiites activists in the country, with several demonstrations over the house arrest of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim last week (IRNA, July 2, 2018).

Meanwhile, violence in Syria was concentrated heavily in the country’s south. Syrian government forces and their allies made major advances in Dar’a province against rebel and Islamist factions. By continuing their campaign of heavy shelling and aerial bombardment, government forces took control of at least 10 towns and villages in Dar’a governorate and gained nominal control of the strategic Lajat region in eastern Dar’a. As the offensive has continued, surrender agreements were reached in a number of towns held by opposition forces, including Abtaa, Da’el, Sheikh Saed, and others, as well as in areas of Dar’a city. Negotiations by Russian mediators with rebel and civilian delegations were ongoing in at least six other towns as of last Saturday. Violence in Dar’a caused large-scale displacement, with specific reports of between 7,000 to 12,000 civilians fleeing towards the Jordanian border and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The full scale of the displacement, however, has been reported to be even larger (BBC, July 7, 2018).

In northern Syria, Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) carried out security operations in Ar-Raqqa city and its countryside, where QSD forces arrested members of its sub-faction, the Front of Raqqa Revolutionaries (JTR), after clashes broke out between the QSD and JTR. QSD forces carried out additional raids and arrests in Deir-ez-Zor against civilians of unknown affiliation and those accused of belonging to IS sleeper cells or maintaining relations with the Syrian government. In Idleb province, Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) also arrested members of IS sleeper cells, leading to clashes between HTS and IS members in at least 3 towns.

In Yemen, many intense battles, some of which are ongoing, have been reported in Al-Hudayda governorate and along the country’s western coast more broadly. Within this context, Houthi forces have attempted to cut the supply lines of UAE-backed joint forces in the area, and succeeded temporarily by taking Al-Fazzah and Al-Jah towns. This led to the bottling up of as many as 1,250 National Resistance troops, Giants Brigade soldiers, and Tihama resistance militiamen within the Hudayda airport compound. Heavy casualties were reported as the towns were taken back by UAE-backed forces.

Meanwhile, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes reportedly killed at least 8 Hezbollah fighters and 33 Houthi militiamen in Marran town of Haydan district of northern Sadah governorate. Additionally, demonstrations were reported in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, and in Hudayda governorate after a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed several civilians fleeing the battles in Hudayda.

(Note that our coverage of Saudi Arabia and Yemen is supported by local partners and is therefore subject to sourcing lags based on their capacity to process reports and the situation on the ground. As such, some events may be incorporated into ACLED’s dataset with a one-week delay)

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Regional Overview – Middle East
02 July 2018
Matt Batten-Carew
Matt Batten-Carew
Global Program Coordinator
Matthew Batten-Carew is the Global Program Coordinator at ACLED. He led the Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey projects, and was formerly a Middle East Research Manager, as well as an Associate Manager with ACLED's Asia project. Mr. Batten-Carew holds an M.A. in Geopolitics & Grand Strategy and a second M.A. in Eurasian Studies, with research focusing on regional governance and conflict management. He has worked for the Canadian government's Departments of Global Affairs and National Defence, and for consulting firms in policy development and political risk analysis. He is fluent in English and French, and is based in Ottawa, Canada.
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