Death notices for Syrian prisoners are suddenly piling up. It’s a sign Assad’s won the war.
BEIRUT — The Syrian government has begun issuing death notices for political detainees at an unprecedented rate, according to groups that monitor the prisons, in an effort to resolve the fate of thousands of missing Syrians as the regime prevails in its civil war.
Since the spring, government registry offices have released hundreds of these notifications. Many of the notices report that prisoners have been dead since the early years of the conflict.
While officials have not publicly explained the increase, it could offer a rare window into the mind-set of Syrian leaders, who are notoriously hard to read, at a pivotal point in the war.
Human rights experts and other observers believe the disclosures reflect the growing confidence of President Bashar Assad’s government as his forces overrun final pockets of rebel-held territory. Authorities no longer fear they will provoke fiercer resistance by revealing the multitude of deaths in regime custody, experts say.
They also suggest that Assad now feels secure enough that he is starting to close the book on the seven-year war, with the death notices signaling to Syrians that it is time to move on while underscoring in grim fashion that he is firmly in control.
The message is that ‘‘the war never happened, the regime is back in charge, and everything will be processed through the system,’’ said Faysal Itani, a resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. ‘‘I think the word that encapsulates this best is normalization — the Syrian version of it, at any rate.’’
The Syrian military, backed by Russia and Iran, has made dramatic gains in recent months, clearing some of the most stubborn pockets of opposition resistance and raising the national flag earlier this month above the southern town known as the uprising’s birthplace. Aside from a couple of isolated rebel positions, only a single province remains in the hands of the resistance.
Since Syria’s uprising began in 2011, more than 104,000 people have been detained or forcibly disappeared, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights. As many as 90 percent are believed to have been held in government custody, across a network of prisons where torture, starvation and other forms of lethal neglect are systematically used to kill. The remaining 10 percent are thought to be held by rebel and other armed groups.
Most documents reviewed by The Washington Post said the detainees had died between 2013 and 2015.