The "No To Weapons" campaign in Deir ez-Zour aims to inform locals about the reckless use of firearms and discourage practices such as celebratory gunfire. The campaign's success allowed the activists to expand their activities to the neighbouring Hasakah Province.
It is well known that the proliferation of firearms among civilians is a serious concern in the Middle East. In addition to the obvious security risks, the prevalence of weapons encourages the tradition of celebratory gunfire despite the efforts of authorities across the region and over the decades to clamp down on this behaviour. In Deir ez-Zour, which experienced years of conflict between the Syrian Opposition and Government forces and, subsequently, between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and ISIS, weapons are available easily, with the local tribal cultures often encouraging gun ownership and celebratory gunfire.
It is with this in mind that the local activists in Deir ez-Zour launched the “No to Weapons” campaign. The campaign aims to spread awareness of safe and proper gun use, as well as encouraging locals to stop practices such as celebratory gunfire. The activists hold seminars, discussion forums, live gatherings and other activities. They also highlight the casualties resulting from improper weapons use. This is especially pertinent in light of the New Year celebrations where celebratory gunfire is especially common. At the start of the last year, 89 people were injured across Syria and the start of this year saw around eight people injured in Hasakah alone.
The campaign has been received positively so far and its representatives have announced that they have accomplished all their main objectives around the towns and cities of Deir ez-Zour. In light of these successes, the campaign has expanded its activities to the Hasakah Province, with events held in the city of Shaddadi and the town of Tal Khamis. In conjunction, the region saw increased policing against the reckless use of firearms.
It will take a lot of work and effort to change decades of ingrained tradition, especially in a society like Syria that has been so thoroughly militarised. The work conducted by these activists in one of the least predictable parts of Syria, however, will go a long way towards reducing the casualties from the reckless misuse of weapons.