Monday, 14 December 2015
Syria’s local councils, not Assad, are the answer to Isis
'While we bomb Islamic State and Boris Johnson advocates supporting Assad for the sake of stability, we ignore the people who right now are running the only version of Syria that is neither a dictatorship nor a murderous caliphate, and that embodies a riposte to them both.
In the “free areas” of Syria loosely held by the moderate opposition, there has been essentially no central government since the revolution four years ago. In this vacuum grassroots local councils have emerged and are providing essential public services such as water, electricity, education and healthcare.
In the struggle to assert legitimacy, both Isis and Assad single out the councils for attack. An NGO official who works with the councils told me about persistent assassinations and proudly said they were “number two on Isis’s hate list” behind the US-led coalition. A councillor in Deraa, in the south of the country, told me about regime forces trying to bomb their meetings, saying, “I was there when it was targeted by air-bombing, not once, not twice, but more than 10 times. Luckily, if it doesn’t hit you exactly in the head, you will be safe.”
To end the chaos, what is needed is infrastructure, public services and effective government. That may lead people like Johnson to look to Assad as the person best placed to offer a stability that does not involve Isis. But what a betrayal it would be of the things we believe in. Not least because these local councillors will presumably be put up against a wall if the regime ever gets its hands on them again.'