SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

Civil Society and Local Governance
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As the Syrian crisis enters what could be its final phase and the battle between the regime and the opposition appears to have frozen, discussion is growing around options for a political solution for the country, different parts of which are controlled by disparate forces. A federal regime, as proposed by Russia and welcomed by the Kurds, appears to be the model most likely to be adopted, despite objections from both the regime and the opposition.

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Throughout the conflict in Syria, regime forces and their allies have deliberately and systematically targeted medical workers, ambulances, and hospitals in opposition-held areas. There have been more than 454 attacks on medical facilities in the conflict, with the Assad regime and Russia responsible for ninety-one percent of them. Over 814 Syrian health workers have been killed since 2011. There is a strategic logic at play: by inflicting widespread injuries on local populations and then routinely destroying the healthcare that would treat them, areas eventually become unlivable. This strategy aims to break the will to resist in opposition-held communities and displace populations outside of regime control.

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Lawlessness is a major problem in Assad regime-held Syrian cities, especially those on the coast. This is despite the large number of security agencies that control those areas, along with armed militias that commit daily abuses against civilians and government institutions—violations the government ignores as it relies on the militias’ continued support. Such lawlessness raises questions over the regime’s ability to control the areas it holds and whether it can still be thought of as part of the solution in Syria. 

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The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by the US-led coalition, has succeeded in encircling Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Syria. By capturing the surrounding villages and access routes to isolate the city, this strategy has contributed to weakening ISIS yet is unlikely to lead to a swift victory. Nonetheless, the heavy cost of capturing the city seems to be a secondary concern for analysts and policy makers working on Syria. Securing and governing the Arab majority city of Raqqa post-ISIS appears to be the main concern for analysts. The SDF does not seem to share the same anxiety; its plan for Raqqa is in motion despite all warnings about the negative ramifications that may be caused by it.

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The fight against ISIS in Iraq is in full swing. Despite the costly human errors that caused the death of hundreds of Mosul residents, the offensive forces continue to make progress, having managed during the past months to isolate, besiege, and take control of over 60 percent of the city.

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SyriaSource interviewed Raed Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense or "White Helmets" about his thoughts regarding the continued campaign against them, implementing safe zones, and how the last six months has affected their organization with regard to the new US administration as well as the changing dynamics on the ground in Syria.

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Mohammed Alsaud is the cofounder and chairman of The Young Republic, an NGO based in Sweden with the aim to support the Syrian youth diaspora with their participation and social inclusion in Europe. SyriaSource interviewed Alsaud on the development of the organization and its successes and challenges.  

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This summary based on the Justice for Life Organization report which describes a number of potential reforms for the governorate of Deir Ezzor in Syria once a political solution allows it to reintegrate into the state. The future of the Syrian state remains unclear, but in its current form is no longer the centralized power it was prior to 2011.

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We know that conflict exacerbates existing gender inequalities within a society and disproportionately affects women and girls, many of whom experience abuses such as rape, domestic violence, early marriage, lack of educational opportunities, and harassment.

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The Syrian conflict has transformed Syrians’ identity by politicizing religion, forcing Syrians to either associate with or disassociate from their religion. To better understand this identity transformation in the Syrian diaspora, I interviewed twenty-seven Syrians that have fled the country. The sample size, although small, included Sunni Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Ismaelis, atheists, and agnostics. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom commissioned the report.

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