Image of Homs, recently conquered by the forces of Al Asad.
The Diplomat. Madrid
The community of Spaniards resident in Syria, one of the most numerous in the Middle East region, has been reduced by half because of the civil war, which started there three years ago. At the moment, there are around 450 Spanish people left, being 70% in governmental areas and the rest under the control of rebel groups, according to information provided by diplomatic sources to The Diplomat.
In 2013, around this time of the year, there were 550 Spaniards in Syria, which means a hundred of them have fled the country during the last year. Almost half of those 550 (about 250, which is 45%) lived in the region of Damascus. The following provinces by number of Spaniards were Aleppo (a hundred), Homs (almost 60), Tartus (40), Latakia (25), Hama (20), Ar-Raqqah (20), Deir ez-Zor (20) and Idlib (10); whereas in Dera, As-Swayda and Al-Hasakah, the number of Spaniards was less than 10. Numbers are not exact, since in occasions there are families running away from an area and they do not communicate that to the embassy.
In April 2014, there were 180 Spanish people left in Damascus, around 80 in Aleppo and around 50 in Homs, which fell in the hands of Bachar el Asad last week. In the rest of the provinces, changes have barely happened during last year, with ups and downs of one or two people.
Every two months, they take a census through telephone calls from Beirut, Lebanon’s capital, since the Spanish embassy in Damascus in closed. Communications are usually a problem and when the war activity increases in an area, the first thing falling are communications. During the last round of calls, they successfully contacted 80% of the Spanish community, but they have not had any information about some families for a few months now.
70% of the Spanish people are in areas controlled by Al Asad’s forces
The majority of the Spanish people resident in Syria have double nationality. They are 80% and, usually, they are Syrians who came to Spain in the sixties and the seventies to study or for working reasons and got the nationality after a long stay or after getting married. Precisely, the other 20% are, for the most part, Spanish women who got married with Syrians and left to live to the Arab country 20 or 30 years ago. At the moment, they are a very vulnerable group in the middle of the civil war and it is very difficult for them to renew their passport of to leave the country.
Around 70% of the Spaniards resident in Syria are in areas controlled by the Government of Al Asad, although, in many cases, it is difficult to know whether they are in governmental or rebel areas. By cities, in Damascus, almost all of them are in districts under the control of forces loyal to the president. In Aleppo, they do not know who is in governmental or rebel neighbourhoods and Homs is now under the control of the Syrian Army. The provinces of Tartus, Latakia and As-Swayda are governmental. So is almost the totality of Hama, whereas Deir ez-Zor, Ar-Raqqah, Dera and Idlib are under rebel control. The most northern province of Al-Hasakah is a Kurdish area.
The European embassies have some accredited diplomats in Damascus for consular business, but all of them live in Beirut, from where they work the Syrian file. Each month or every two months, they go to Damascus to hand in the documents and see the state of the buildings belonging to their country. In the case of Spain, both the chancery and the ambassador’s residence are in good state up to now.