Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.There are four distinct groups of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Syria. One was displaced by the ongoing violent repression of the popular protests which started in March 2011, while the three other groups have faced protracted internal displacement. These older situations were caused by the destruction of the centre of the city of Hama in 1982, the displacement of Kurds from their homeland in the north-east of the country in the 1970s, and the occupation of the Golan Heights by Israel since 1967.
All internal displacement situations in Syria, except of those from the Golan, have been the result of the government's policies and military actions against its own people. Therefore, it has been difficult to conduct assessments or get information on these displacement situations.
The displacements since March 2011 have affected the whole of the country; most have been temporary, with people fleeing their villages and cities before or during an attack and returning after government forces have left. However, the use of tanks and other heavy weaponry has resulted in some destruction of houses and property and longer displacements for those affected.
In 1982, following the seizure of Hama by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, the army bombarded the city, killing about 20,000 inhabitants and forcibly displacing a large number. There is little information on the whereabouts of people whose homes were demolished or who have remained displaced out of fear of persecution.
An unknown number of Kurdish people displaced in the 1970s from the north-eastern province of al-Jazeera have remained in protracted displacement. Following the government's attempt to create an "Arab belt" along the Turkish border, up to 60,000 Kurds reportedly left to cities of the north such as Aleppo and Hasaka, and many of them were forcibly displaced. There were no reports of those displaced achieving durable solutions.
The largest group of IDPs in Syria were displaced from the Golan by the Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War of 1967. With their descendants they are estimated to number at least 433,000. They have largely integrated in their current places of residence, principally in the provinces of al-Suwayda and Damascus in the south of the country. Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, a decision not recognised by the international community. Peace talks have been stalled for decades, leaving the IDPs with no prospects of restitution or compensation for their lost property.
Read the full Report on Internal Displacement in Syria