Al-Marsad calls on UN Human Rights Council members to raise human rights violations committed by Israel in the occupied Syrian Golan during Israel’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in January 2018.
Since Israel’s last Universal Periodic Review in 2012, it has continued to implement policies that violate the basic human rights of the Syrian population in the occupied Syrian Golan. Al-Marsad’s submission for Israel’s UPR covers six categories of Israeli violations during this period: (1) Illegal settlements and exploitation of natural resources; (2) Discriminatory housing and planning policies, and home demolition; (3) Landmines; (4) Revocation of residency; (5) Family separation; and (6) Education.
Al-Marsad’s full submission is available here. In brief, it highlights that:
Illegal settlements and exploitation of natural resources
- 95% of the occupied Golan is controlled by Israeli settlers and the Israeli military, with only 5% controlled by the remaining Syrian population.
- In 2017, for the first time, the number of Israeli settlers (26,000) overtook the number of Syrians (25,000) living in the occupied Golan. Note – this is a revised figure since the submission was made.
- In 2016, the Israeli government approved the construction of 1600 new settlement units in the illegal Israeli settlement of Katzrin. This follows announcements by Israeli government ministers in 2015 to encourage 100,000 new settlers to move to the occupied Golan.
- In 2015, an Israeli company, Afek Oil & Gas, commenced oil exploration in the occupied Golan. In addition to natural resource exploitation, tourism is a staple of the settlement economy. Tourism to illegal settlements is promoted by the Israeli government and tourism industry, which market the occupied Golan as ‘Northern Israel’.
Discriminatory housing and planning policies, and home demolition
- Discriminatory land and housing policies have led to severe overcrowding in the remaining Syrian villages in the occupied Golan. Syrians are forced to build homes without building permits to meet their housing needs. They risk fines of up to tens of thousands of dollars, potentially doubling the cost of construction, and the full or partial demolition of their homes.
- In 2016, a home in Majdal Shams was illegally demolished by the Israeli authorities. Another 80-90 Syrian home owners have been issued with demolition orders.
- Under the ‘Hermon National Park’ plan, the Israeli authorities are currently seeking to designate 82 km2 of land around two of the remaining Syrian villages as a national park. This would further impede the expansion of these already overcrowded villages.
- The equivalent of over 6000 football pitches are suspected to be mined in the occupied Golan. The Israeli military has laid minefields in and adjacent to Syrian villages on the pretext of security – often within just a few metres of people’s houses and where their children play. New anti-personnel mines were laid by Israel as recently as 2011.
- It is estimated that at least 66 Syrians have been victims of landmines in the occupied Syrian Golan. Among them, 16 died, half of whom were children.
- Minefield clearance by the Israeli authorities prioritises locations around Israeli settlements and agricultural land over Syrian residential and agricultural zones, despite the higher concentration of landmines in these areas.
Revocation of residency
- The majority of Syrians hold a form of permanent residency status similar to Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem. However, whilst Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are permitted to have Jordanian nationality, Israel categorises the nationality of Syrians in the occupied Golan as ‘undefined’.
- The permanent residency status can be revoked if an individual’s ‘centre of life’ changes or if citizenship of another country is obtained. Around 100 Syrians from the occupied Golan have had their permanent residency status revoked. Holders of the permanent residency status cannot vote in the Israeli Knesset and therefore have no political representation.
- It is estimated that those forcibly transferred or displaced from the occupied Golan following the occupation and their descendants amount to approximately 500,000 people. Given the conflict in Syria, many have become internally displaced persons (IDPs) for a second time in their lifetime, or refugees.
- Under an imposed Israeli curriculum, Syrian school children in the occupied Golan receive little instruction of Syrian and Arab history, geography, literature and culture. Schools do not observe Syrian national holidays. Syrians have little say in how their schools are run and what their children are taught. Many schools have building deficiencies and do not meet basic safety standards.
Al-Marsad is an independent, not-for-profit, legal human rights organisation – it is the only human rights organisation operating in the occupied Syrian Golan. For additional information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com