Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Syrians elect first civilian council to run Idlib city

Syrian men queue to cast their vote at a polling station in the city of Idlib as they elect the city's first civilian council, two years after it was overrun...

 'Syrians in northwestern Idlib cast their ballots on Tuesday for members of the first civilian council to run their city, two years after it was overrun by rebels and jihadists. Regime forces were expelled from Idlib city in March 2015 by the Army of Conquest, led by the Fateh al-Sham Front, which changed its name from Al-Nusra Front when it broke ties with Al-Qaeda. Since then, a committee appointed by the Army of Conquest had run the city's affairs, electoral commission head Mohammad Salim Khodr told AFP.

 But "after efforts from the city's residents, the Army of Conquest was persuaded to hand over the city's affairs to its residents, who would vote for a local council to manage it", Khodr said.

 "I came here to vote in these free elections, which make us hold our heads up high," voter Mustafa al-Mohammad told AFP.

 According to Khodr, the council's 25 members will later elect a 10-member executive committee led by the equivalent of a mayor. They will be responsible for "overseeing services and development projects... as well as aid and support to refugees and displaced people from other cities," Khodr said.

 "We wanted to take part in this huge joy, in the unbridled desire by Idlib's residents to create a local council that represents them as civilians and manages the institutions," said candidate Hussam al-Din Dbis, who works as a surgeon.

 Since Syria's conflict broke out, the population of Idlib city has swelled to an estimated 200,000 people. There are around 160 civilian-run councils across Idlib province, according to Mohammad al-Aref, a member of Idlib province's executive office. These bodies manage "health and educational affairs, as well as public services" of towns and villages.'

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