Welcome to Siege Watch, a joint initiative of PAX and The Syria Institute. The Siege Watch project aims to provide the international community with up-to-date information on Syria’s besieged communities, where trapped civilians suffer in inhumane circumstances with little help from the outside world.
In the past year there have been few positive improvements for the residents besieged by the Syrian military and affiliated militias in communities around Damascus and in northern Homs province. With the 2015 additions of Deir Ezzor and several towns in the mountains northwest of Damascus City, there are over 1 million people currently suffering under siege in Syria. Russian airstrikes and the start of yet another winter have exacerbated this humanitarian crisis, making the need for a solution more critical than ever.
Use the interactive map below to zoom in and learn more about each besieged community. For further information on the map format, data, and classifications, check out the Map Guide. Finally, for background on the project and our data gathering methodology, please see the ‘About‘ page. Stay tuned for our quarterly reports, which are scheduled to be launched in February 2016.
Three types of Syrian communities of concern have been designated on the map:
- Besieged – These are the areas that have been under long-term siege (6+ months), and are currently being monitored by the Siege Watch project, and they are further broken down into a Tier classification. These classifications are described in more detail in the next section.
- Watchlist – These areas are at high risk of being under long-term siege and may be added to the Siege Watch monitoring project in the future. The communities in this category are either under Partial Siege – where many of the conditions of a siege are met but there remain a limited number of un-blockaded access points that may be usable at least part of the time – or have been besieged for 6 months or less.
- Formerly Besieged – These are areas that are no longer under long-term siege
Notes on Data
The information for each besieged community is presented on the map in a standardized category format. Most of the data was provided by our reporting sources on the ground, exceptions and clarifications for certain categories are as follows:
- Dates: Provided by direct reporting source in all cases where a source was available. In cases where source was unavailable, the dates were determined through additional research and extrapolation based on nearby areas. Sieges in Syria are implemented in stages, so dates may range based on individual interpretation.
- Siege classification: Siege classification is a measure of siege intensity and designations have been made by the Siege Watch project based on the available data, not directly by the reporting sources. The designations range from Tier 1 (highest intensity) to Tier 3 (lowest intensity) following the classification system proposed by SAMS in its March 2015 ‘Slow Death‘ report as follows:
- Tier 1 – This is the highest level of siege, where very little is able to enter through smuggling or bribery and the UN is able to negotiate few if any aid deliveries and assistance that does enter is insufficient for the population. Residents in these areas are at a high risk of malnutrition/dehydration and denial of medical care. The area is frequently attacked by besieging forces causing medical emergencies.
- Tier 2 – This is the moderate level of siege. Small amounts of supplies can usually be smuggled in through bribery and supplies can be purchased on the black market at extremely high prices. Vehicle deliveries cannot enter but residents may have access to alternative food sources such as local agriculture. The UN is able to negotiate few if any aid deliveries and assistance that does enter is insufficient for the population. The area is frequently attacked by besieging forces causing medical emergencies. Residents in these areas are at some risk of malnutrition/dehydration and high risk of denial of medical care.
- Tier 3 – This is the lowest level of siege, where supplies still must be smuggled in but are done so with regularity and the population has consistent access to alternative food sources such as local agriculture. The UN is able to negotiate few if any aid deliveries and assistance that does enter is insufficient for the population. The area is frequently attacked by besieging forces causing medical emergencies. Residents in these areas are at low risk of malnutrition/dehydration and moderate risk of denial of medical care.
- Besieged by: Provided by direct reporting source in all cases where a source was available. In cases where source was unavailable, the dates were determined through additional research and extrapolation based on nearby areas.
- UN recognizes siege?: Based on the monthly Secretary-General’s reports on the humanitarian situation in Syria which are mandated by the Security Council. Reports available here.
- Current population: All population figures should be interpreted as estimates. Many come from Local Council figures based on the number of registered families, with a conservative estimated average of 4 people per family.
- Active Truce?: Provided by direct reporting source in all cases where a source was available. In cases where source was unavailable, the dates were determined through additional research.
FSA – Free Syrian Army
NDF – National Defense Forces
UN – United Nations
SARC – Syrian Arab Red Crescent
IDP – Internally Displaced Person
IRC – International Red Crescent
WASH – Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
Information on each besieged community is gathered on a monthly basis from reporting contacts on the ground in Syria. In most cases, the reporters are affiliated with a Local Council, which already has processes in place to document the conditions of the siege such as deaths, changes in access, and price fluctuations. In some instances a Local Council partner could not be identified and an alternative local civil authority, such as a medical office or citizen journalists reporting network, has been used instead. In several of the more rural besieged areas, the remaining populations are so low and communications have become so difficult that no reporting partner was available. These cases are duly noted in the interactive map.