Thursday, 5 November 2015
Civil Society is a Force that Threatens the Enemies of Democracy—Bashar al-Assad and Islamic Factions
'The regime forces laid siege to the city, indiscriminately attacking Aleppo with warplanes, barrel bombs, and heavy artillery, all while sowing the countryside with land mines. Additionally, Assad directly targeted the provincial council’s headquarters, severely damaging its ability to work in an efficient and effective manner. Thousands of civilians, faced with certain death should they remain in their homes, fled Aleppo in the first waves of what became the mass exodus from Syria’s industrial capital.
Salim, the pseudonym of a member of Aleppo’s provincial council, speaks mournfully about what could have been, “We (civil society and local governance groups) were able to restore electricity to most neighborhoods and reopen schools. Shoppers once again flocked to streets packed with vendors and salesmen, and the markets were busy. If the international community had only instituted the no-fly zone, Aleppo would be free today, and nearly a million people would not have fled to Europe.”
In rural Idlib, the infighting that plagued the national bodies in exile carried down to the provincial council, further harming its effectiveness. Similarly, the politicking and fighting between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) affiliated armed groups and moderate Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Suqur al-Sham carried down to the local councils. Though Jaish al-Fateh’s administrative profile continues to expand, and an honest appraisal of its capabilities and impartiality cannot yet be rendered, activists expect the Idlib Province Administration to eventually resemble civil administration at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. Run by Ahrar al-Sham, locals consider Bab al-Hawa to be fairly and effectively managed, especially in light of it being run an armed group.
The array of popular movements and local councils in which tens of thousands of Syrians are already participating serve as the very essence of any democratic system. The fact that the Assad regime, ISIS, and other Islamist factions have displayed such vitriol for Syrian civil society underscores just why it remains so important.'