Thursday, 2 June 2016

Civilians Press for More Control in Syria’s Rebel Areas

A man covered with dust sits on a street following a reported airstrike by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held neighborhood of Sukkari in the northern city of Aleppo, May 30, 2016.

  'In rebel-controlled areas of the city of Aleppo, two sides of Syria’s revolution have cohered more effectively in recent weeks, with less friction between the civilians and the armed groups. The local city council in Aleppo is one of several hundred councils functioning in rebel-held towns and villages across Syria, some elected in rudimentary-run polls, others not. It has made significant progress in gaining control from the armed groups of much of the governance of insurgent-held districts, including distribution of humanitarian aid and organizing basic public services, says Eyad Kalloul, a development worker with the Muwatana, a pro-opposition but independent Syrian NGO. Kalloul, a father of two, cites as a recent example the control of a neighborhood water well.

 “We asked why the well should be controlled by a militia instead of the council,” he says. “And after negotiations involving local notables as well, the militia agreed.” He adds: “The aim is to get all civil services under civilian control.”
 Progress defining areas of civilian responsibility — from the provision of water and electricity to health care and education — has been easier in the city of Aleppo thanks to the recent departure of fighters with Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaida affiliate that is the most reluctant of the armed groups in northern Syria to relinquish any power to civilians, a reflection of the jihadists’ theocratic beliefs.
 According to Gen. Salim Idris, former chief of the staff of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra has withdrawn many fighters from Aleppo, fearing it could suffer major losses if the government, backed by the Russians, do mount a major assault on rebel districts.
 In neighboring Idlib province, civilians have been much more restricted in what they can do. Foreign donors have been reluctant to provide funds for civilian projects there, from reconstruction to relief services, fearing al-Nusra entanglement.
 ​“Al-Nusra doesn’t want to talk to us because we are secular,” says Kalloul, speaking in English, which he learned as a detainee in Syria’s notorious Sednaya prison by listening to VOA on a smuggled radio.
 A one-time Communist, he says English wasn’t the only thing he learned during his five years in jail. Debating in prison with other detainees, reading and being exposed to news from around the world, his political views changed.

 He now describes himself as a liberal, but says prison debates equipped him with the skills that now help him to facilitate talks between civilians and armed militias that hold opposing political views.
 Setting up a justice system in the rebel-held areas has proved difficult.

 ”Justice is much more complicated than who oversees the provision of basic services and even education,” Kalloul explains. In different districts, there are different and often competing courts. “Civilians have asked for a unified court system across rebel-held areas and one controlled by civilians and not the armed groups,” he says.'

No comments:

Post a Comment