Assassinations and assassination attempts in Syrian's southern province of Deraa are a regular occurrence. But in many cases it is unclear why certain people are targeted. On 4 April 2020, I interviewed a friend who has done media work with me in covering events in Deraa. He was himself subjected to a failed assassination attempt recently. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What were the circumstances of the assassination attempt?
A: The place was at the guidance unit of Sahm [al-Jowlan]. There was a meeting at 9 p.m. that brought together Abu Hayan, Tariq and Abu Kinan [auxiliary group commanders in western Deraa countryside]. I was invited to the meeting. The aim of the meeting was regarding security control and the assassinations, and the assassination attempt that Tariq was exposed to. They said there were supposed to be night patrols affiliated with the markaziya coming out and controlling security. The meeting finished at 11 p.m. Abu Kinan and Abu Hayan left, and I delayed a little. Afterwards I left. I got on the motorcycle, turned it on and proceeded 100 metres. There was someone masked near the guidance unit. He came and emptied the magazine of bullets upon me. But all of them hit the motorcycle. And I fired back and fled.
Q: Were you wounded in the incident? Or just the motorcycle was damaged?
A: No wound, just the motorcycle and a few scratches. Perhaps it was the Dawa'esh [Islamic State guys] of the regime. Nothing is clear with us.
Q: Dawa'esh of the regime? Who are they exactly?
A: They are regime but they strike with the sword of the Dawa'esh. This is so they can say Dawa'esh are the ones who killed, we have no relation with it, but they are regime. This is the whole story.
Q: Can you talk more about the 'markaziya'? What is that?
A: The markaziya comprises the leadership of the factions of the area, so that they can manage the situation in the area. This markaziya includes commanders from the regime and commanders from the factions who manage the area. In every big area they make a markaziya: like Sahm, Heet and Jalin markaziya, Tafas, al-Ajami, al-Muzayrib, Tel Shihab markaziya. They call it markaziya.
Q: So in your markaziya who are the commanders?
A: The commanders are Abu Hayan, Abu Kinan, Tariq, Saddam and Fawzi. But the situation is still not well controlled.
Q: Most of them are affiliated with the 4th [Division]?
A: Yes, the 4th for us. The situation is not well controlled, we are still in a jungle. All have weapons with them. You don't know who is with you and who is against you. Security won't be controlled unless all weapons are handed over from the hands of the civilians.
Q: Can we say that you cannot trust people generally?
A: Yes. Because many people work for foreign agendas, like some of the commanders work with the Hezb [Hezbollah].
Q: We have seen that many of the people have their theories regarding who is behind the assassinations. But in truth we don't really know anything?
A: We do not know. There are people who work for the interests of Russia, people who work for Iran, and there are people who work for the Hezb and there are people who work for the regime.
Q: What is the new agreed upon plan in the markaziya for improving the security situation?
A: They agreed for patrols to proceed from the locality of Sahm and the locality of Heet on the main roads: at 2 a..m. Overseeing the roads well, focusing on the checkpoints: who enters and who leaves.
Q: But do you expect that this will lead to the improvement of the security situation?
A: The people are becoming afraid. They know we are focusing. They are a little afraid. Although it is a modern state, we have no money so our work has been [like] cameras.
A: I mean we are focusing on protection measures. But as the proverb goes: stretch your legs as far as the blanket goes. May God provide deliverance for it- that is the best thing. These are our capabilities to preserve security.