SyriaSource|Amplifying Syrian voices

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Iraqi Kurds have lost control over the disputed city of Kirkuk after Iraqi central government forces and Iranian-backed militias retook the territory this October. This happened not only after the Iraqi Kurds’ controversial referendum for independence, but also after the two sides finished joint operations against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in Mosul. The United States, the Kurds’ main backer, did not step in to support their allies, leaving the Kurds questioning Washington’s commitment.

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The race to Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria is accelerating. Syrian regime and allied forces, supported by Russia, are attempting to seize the strategically vital city by advancing from the north along the Euphrates valley. Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are advancing in an effort to take as much of the city as possible in operation code-named Jazeera Storm. The coming days therefore present the possibility of US and Russian-backed forces clashing in Deir Ezzor.

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Syria’s situation—the massive amount of discussion, fragmented governance, and ongoing fighting—are not going to disappear anytime soon, and education models in Syria need to better adapt to it to address the growing learning gap. Although many organizations have programs to address education gaps for Syrian students, their approaches—focusing on access over quality, building traditional schools, supporting underground schools—are not the only way to keep Syrian students learning. These approaches sweep the following under the rug: the reality of politicized curricula by state and non-state actors, dangers the journey to and presence in schools pose, as well as the psychological impact of learning under threat, specifically in areas out of government control vulnerable to shelling and airstrikes. While education overhaul in Syria goes hand in hand with a seemingly-distant political solution, new models can keep communities connected to learning while minimizing exposure to threats in the current environment.

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In late September, Russian jets bombed the city of Haram in Idlib province for the first time since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. Not a single village or town in western Idlib was spared by Russian bombing this time. The air strikes hit  Haram, Idlib city, Jisr al-Shughur, Khan Sheikhun and towns in the Jabal Zawiyah region. Civil Defense members said most of the strikes targeted hospitals, schools, and any infrastructure left in the 5,000 sq. km rebel-controlled northern region. 

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During the Obama administration, one of the many public throw-away lines designed to paper-over an adamant refusal to protect civilians from a homicidal regime was that the President of Syria—Bashar al-Assad—“lacked all legitimacy.” Russia, on the other hand characterized Assad as the paragon of legitimacy: as the chief of a state represented in the United Nations; a state allegedly subjected to the regime-change machinations of that well-known militarist, Barack Obama. What is the truth? What are the practical implications of legitimacy—or the lack thereof—in Syria?

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The south Damascus suburbs are not Syria’s most pressing theatre of war. Syrian pro-government forces are busy routing out Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) jihadists in Deir Ezzor, and Islamist opposition from Eastern Ghouta in Damascus. Meanwhile, Russia and the international community are busy trying to monopolize Syria’s future.

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The medical situation in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta is deteriorating as the Syrian regime’s siege of the city surpasses four years, threatening an impending health crisis for civilians in need of treatment. These civilians reside just a few kilometers from the capital; however, they cannot go to the capital. The siege is happening under the watch of the international community, particularly the United Nations, raising questions about its ability to participate in rebuilding Syria in a way that protects civilians and restores stability in the region.

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At 11: 56 a.m. on a Friday, the Syrian Civil Defense (SCD) issued an alert on its various social media accounts that a fighter jet left the Hama military airbase and was headed north. The statement listed at least eight potential target zones, including the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.

Expected time of arrival in Khan Sheikhoun, according to the alert, was two minutes.

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Local agreements between the Syrian regime and opposition forces may have lessened the violence, but they have not ended the suffering of Syrians. Such deals, in which the regime uses bombing and blockades to force the opposition to surrender, have moved many Syrians from their towns in the Damascus hinterland towards rural Idlib, where they face new challenges: overcrowding caused by the arrival of thousands of displaced, an area with few work opportunities, and a political environment that is different to what residents had been used to in the south, as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is the strongest power in Idlib.

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After more than a year of heated debate among the Turkish public and authorities, thousands of Syrians living across the country have begun receiving citizenship. The first batch to receive decisions in early August included fifty thousand Syrian refugees, mostly holders of university degrees, such as doctors, engineers and teachers, along with their families. But decisions on granting citizenship are not subject to clear criteria such as knowledge of the Turkish language.

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