Al-Shaykh Maskin

al-Shaykh Maskin
الشيخ مسكين
al-Shaykh Maskin
Coordinates: 32°49′42″N 36°9′31.5″E / 32.82833°N 36.158750°E / 32.82833; 36.158750
Grid position 258/248 PAL
Country  Syria
Governorate Daraa Governorate
District Izra' District
Nahiyah Al-Shaykh Maskin
Population (2004 census)[1]
  Total 24,057
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
  Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)

Al-Shaykh Maskin (Arabic: الشيخ مسكين, also spelled Sheikh Miskin, Sheikh Maskin, Sheikh Miskeen or Eshmiskin) is a town in southern Syria, administratively part of the Daraa Governorate, located north of Daraa. Nearby localities include Ibta' and Da'el to the south, Khirbet al-Ghazaleh the southeast, Izra' to the northeast, Nawa to the northwest and Sheikh Sa'ad to the west. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) census, al-Shaykh Maskin had a population of 24,057 in 2004.[1] The inhabitants are predominantly Sunni Muslims.[2]


Clermont-Ganneau theorised that the town's name came from "The leper Sheik", that is Biblical Job.[3] Al-Shaykh Maskin has been identified as the ancient Roman-era site of "Neapolis." By the 4th-century, Neapolis had grown to become a city.[4] A church was consecrated there in 517 during Byzantine rule.[5] In his short article in the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1911, Siméon Vailhé reported that many authorities at that time thought that Al-Shaykh Maskin might be the site of the ancient city and bishopric of Maximianopolis in Arabia,[6] whose identification with nearby Shaqqa is today accepted.[7][8]

Ottoman era

The Ottoman Empire annexed the region in 1516. During this period al-Shaykh Maskin was settled by local Bedouin tribesmen and benefited from the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca by supplying pilgrim caravans with camels for transportation.[9] In 1596 al-Shaykh Maskin appeared in the Ottoman tax registers as Samsakin and was part of the nahiya of Bani Malik al-Asraf in the Qada of Hauran. It had an entirely Muslim population consisting of 56 households and 17 bachelors. Taxes were paid on wheat, barley, summer crops, goats and/or beehives.[10]

In the 1850s al-Shaykh Maskin contained about 100 houses and all of its inhabitants were Muslims.[11] The town's chief commodity during the 19th-century was grain, which it exported locally. Timber and cloth were the principal imports. Goods traffic was concentrated in the town's railway station which also served all the villages between Sheikh Maskin and the Lejah region. In the It grew considerably between 1891 and 1900.[12] The town hosted the administrative offices of Hauran's local government in the latter half of this century.[13] The population was "exclusively Muslim" according to John Murray.[2]

Its sheikh ("chief") was Ahmed al-Hariri also known as Ahmed al-Turk who served as the Sheikh Mushaikh al-Hauran ("chief of chiefs of the Hauran"). His tribe claimed descent from the family of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and were thus known as sherrifs. In the wake of the 1860 confrontations between the region's Druze and Christians, Sheikh Ahmed al-Turk led a force of 200 tribesmen to Daraa, rescuing the over 500 Christians in that town from an impending attack by the Druze of the Lejah who his forces successfully routed. He subsequently notified all the tribal chieftains of the area to spare the Christians living in the towns under his authority, to which all the tribes conformed.[2]

In 1895 al-Shaykh Maskin became a refuge for the residents of some dozen villages destroyed by Druze fighters in response to an Ottoman decree ordering the conscription of Druze men into the Ottoman army. Ottoman troops mobilized at al-Shaykh Maskin in preparation of the conscription expedition against the Druze which was launched from the town on 15 October.[14] Vital Cuinet wrote in 1896 that al-Shaykh Maskin's population of 800 included 400 Muslims and 400 Greek Orthodox,[15] while Gottlieb Schumacher described it in 1897 as "large and prosperous".[16]

Ongoing Syrian Civil War

On 24 March 2013, during the ongoing Syrian Civil War that began in March 2011, clashes broke out between anti-government rebels and the Syrian Army in the town, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The town was shelled by the latter.[17] On 29 March the Observatory reported that clashes in the town had been ongoing on a daily basis.[18] Heavy fighting was reported on 4 April.[19]

The town remained under rebels′ control as a result of the battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin at the end of 2014.

Second Battle of Al-Shaykh Maskin

On 14 Nowember 2015, Syrian troops advance in the town Sheikh Meskin and seizing some parts of it.[20] On 20 November 2015, the Free Syrian Army launched a large-scale counter-assault inside the city in order to force the Syrian Army to exit the west district. However, the Syrian Army struck the FSA which forced it to retreat towards the east district. Recently, the Syrian Army has concentrated on the city after they conceded it to the Free Syrian Army last year. Over the course of a week, the Syrian Army has recovered several sites around the city, including the Water Pump Factory, Battalion 82 Engineering Base, and Al-Dilli.[21]

On 26 November 2015, it was reported that clashes were taking place between the army and the rebels in the vicinity of the city, where the army was trying to advance towards the city, while the rebels were trying to regain control of the areas controlled by the army on the outskirts of the city weeks ago.[22]

On 30 December 2015, it was reported that the advancing Syrian government troops and militiamen had reached the main square.[23] On 26 January 2016, the Syrian government announced it had "established full control" over the town "as a result of a wide-scale military operation conducted by the army, in cooperation with the supporting units".[24][25]


  1. 1 2 General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Daraa Governorate. (Arabic)
  2. 1 2 3 Royal Geographical Society, 1862, p. 88.
  3. Clermont-Ganneau, 1902, p. 12
  4. Butcher, 2003, p. 120
  5. Walter, 2003, p. 152.
  6. Siméon Vailhé, "Maximopolis" in Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1911)
  7. UNESCO, Les villages antiques du nord de la Syrie, pp. 115-116
  8. Butcher, 2003, p. 157
  9. Lancaster, 1999, p. 37
  10. Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 213.
  11. Porter, 1858, p. 532.
  12. Smith, 1901, p. 361.
  13. Smith, 1901, p. 360.
  14. Firro, 1992, p. 232
  15. Vital Cuinet (1896). Syrie, Liban et Palestine. Géographie Administrative, Statistique, Descriptive et Raisonnée. Paris: Ernest Leroux. p. 468.
  16. Schumacher, 1897, p. 171
  17. Syria dismisses UN report of army violations, rebels step up attacks in south. Xinhua. 2013-03-24.
  18. Karam, Zeina. Syrian rebels in strategic battle for south. The Huffington Post. 2013-03-29.
  19. Jordan's assistance to rebels ratchets up tensions with Syria. Fox News. Originally published by Associated Press. 2013-04-04.
  20. The regime forces advance towards al- Sheikh Meskin, while airstrikes carried out on the countryside of Hama
  21. Rebel Counter-Assault at Sheikh Miskeen Ends in Disaster: Two Dozen Killed. almasdar News by LEITH FADEL. November 20, 2015.
  22. Clashes in Sheikh Meskin and shelling Latakia Mountains. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. November 26, 2015.
  23. Syria conflict: Troops battle rebels for key southern town BBC, 30 dec 2015.
  24. Update 2- Army establishes full control over al-Sheikh Miskeen in Daraa countryside
  25. Syria govt forces capture key southern rebel town: activists


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