In the valleys between Damascus and Lebanon, where entire communities have abandoned their life of war, changes occur. For the first time since the conflict began, people began to return.
But people are developing are not the same as those who fled within the last six years.
Newcomers have a different loyalty and faith in the predominantly Muslim Sunni family who lived in them. They are, in the words of those who sent them, the vanguard of the movement to populate the field with the Shiites not only from other countries in Syria as well as Lebanon and Iraq.
Swaps of the population occupy a Central place in plans to make demographic changes in Syria, the restructuring of the country into zones of influence that supporters of Bashar Assad, led by Iran, can directly control and use to promote wider interests. Iran has stepped up its efforts in the heat of the conflict begins to dissipate and pursues a very different vision in Russia, the main ally of Assad.
Russia, in Alliance with Turkey, uses the nominal cease-fire, to achieve political consensus between the Assad regime and the opposition in exile. Iran, meanwhile, have begun to move forward on a project that is fundamentally changing social landscape of Syria, as well as strengthening the stronghold of Hezbollah in northeastern Lebanon, and strengthens its influence of Tehran on Israel’s Northern border.
“Iran and the regime does not want the Sunnis from Damascus to HOMS and the Lebanese border,” said one senior Lebanese leader. “This represents a historic shift in populations”.
The key for Iran are the rebels of the towns of Zabadani and Madaya, where the inhabitants of Damascus received the summer holidays before the war. From mid-2015, their fate was the subject of lengthy negotiations between senior Iranian officials and members of the Ahrar al-sham, the dominant anti-Assad opposition groups in the area and one of the most powerful in Syria.
The Istanbul talks were focused on the swap of the residents of two Shiite villages West of Aleppo, Foix and of Kefraya, has to struggle the last three years. Opposition groups, among them the jihadists have laid siege to both villages throughout the siege of Aleppo, trying to link their fate with the former rebels in the Eastern part of the city.
Swap, according to its architects, was to be the litmus test for more extensive shifts of population along the southern outskirts of Damascus and the Alawite hinterland North-West Syria, where Assad draws most of his support.
The mosque of sayeda Zeinab has been greatly strengthened Hezbollah. Photo: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images
Shiite Shrine in Darayya Damascus was the meaning of existence, the presence of Hezbollah and other Iranian groups of Shiites. The mosque of sayeda Zeinab on the Western approach to the capital was strongly fortified Hezbollah and populated by families of a group of militants who have moved in since the end of 2012. Tehran also acquired a large number of houses near the mosque, Zainab, and a plot of land, which he uses to create the security buffer – a microcosm of your bigger project.
Darkoush, Abu Mazen, the former commander of the free Syrian army who fled from Zabadani in Wadi Barada, said the greatest Islamic Damascus Shrine, the Umayyad mosque, also in the security zone controlled by Iranian proxies. “There are a lot of Shiites, who were taken to the area around the mosque. This is a Sunni area, but they must be provided with the Shiites, then surround them.”
Senior officials in neighboring Lebanon was the observation that, in their opinion, systematically set fire to the Land registry offices in the territory of Syria repelled on behalf of the regime. The lack of documentation makes it difficult for residents to prove homeownership. Offices confirmed were burned in Zabadani, Darayya, the fourth city of Syria, HOMS and Quseir on the border with Lebanon, who was captured by Hezbollah in early 2013.
Said Darkoush entire neighborhoods have been cleared of their original residents in HOMS and that many residents were denied permission to return to their homes, citing a lack of evidence that they actually lived there.
“The first step in the plan is achieved,” he said. “It was attended by expelling the residents of these areas, and burn away all that binds them from their lands and homes. The second step is to replace the indigenous inhabitants with immigrants from Iraq and Lebanon”.
In Zabadani, Berhan Amir, Director of the city hospital, said: “the offset from the beginning of 2012, but has grown significantly in 2015. Now most of our people have already been accepted in Idlib. There is a clear and obvious plan to move Sunnis from Damascus to HOMS. They burned their homes and fields. They say that the person ‘is the place for you.
“This leads to the fragmentation of families. The concept of family life and relationships to the ground, dissolving all of this deportation and exile. This crumbling of the Syrian society”.
At stake in post-war Syria since the war began to ebb, more than who lives where, when the battle finally stops. Sense of identity is also up for grabs, as it is more a question of who gets to define the national character.
“It’s not just changing the demographic balance,” said Labib al-Nahas. “This change in the balance of influence in all these areas and Syria. Entire communities are vulnerable. War with Iran becomes the identity war. They want a country in their likeness, serving their interests. The region cannot put up with it”.
Additional reporting Suzan Haidamous