Civil Society and Local Governance

  • Syrian Rebels Issue Opposing Fatwas as the Regime Destroys Aleppo

    Following the recent Turkish Euphrates Shield operation on Syrian territory against the Islamic State (ISIS), Syrian opposition groups issued several Fatwas (religious rulings) in support of joining operations under Turkish command. The underlying argument behind the fatwas is where opposition fighters should be deployed: fighting to defend Aleppo city, or supporting the Turkish operation further northeast.

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  • The Growth of the Syrian Media and Responsible Voices

    For the forty years under the Assad regime, Syrians had limited access to information and no freedom of expression. The initial media rush was part of a larger movement in which Syrians were able to express themselves in protests through signs, songs, art, and other creative expressions. However, a few qualities set media work apart. First, it was focused on documentation and getting the news out to the world. Second, there was a financial incentive for Syrian activists to document events—international newspapers needed people inside of Syria for the latest developments and photos, and international development organizations wanted to promote independent media. For some, it gave them social recognition, although many avoided the spot light because of the Syrian government’s crackdown on protests and any information leaving Syria.

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  • Education in Idlib: The Kids Aren't Alright

    There is no effective difference between the Syrian state and some of forces engaged in conflict in Syria, despite the different names which they’ve given themselves: the regime in power, revolutionaries, armed opposition, Islamist factions, and so on. Each is trying to hold the country hostage, and none are blameless when it comes to the effects of war. In particular, they do not agree that education—among the most important sectors in the country—should be neutral. Each faction has its own aims, and they vie with each other to control education, heedless of how vulnerable the sector is, and how negative effects can have an exponential impact on the country’s present and future.

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  • The Art of Burial During War

    In Syria, another tragedy begins after death. People who went out on the streets to change the status quo are surprised at how burial methods have changed and Syrians’ rituals around death are disappearing.

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  • Aleppo’s Deteriorating Medical Sector

    July witnessed the most extensive attacks on Syrian health facilities, most of which were located in opposition-held areas of Aleppo and Idlib provinces. The Syrian Network for Human Rights announced in a recent report that 24 hospitals and 26 ambulances had been destroyed and four medical personnel killed in one month, constituting a significant threat to the area’s population, especially in light of daily Russian airstrikes conducted in their villages and towns.

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  • Kurdistan: Exile or Displacement

    In recent years, thousands of Syrian Kurds have managed to reach Europe, fleeing like other Syrians from the war at home that started with popular protests in mid-March 2011. Some Kurdish activists refer ironically to “European Kurdistan,” the Kurdish community made up of those exiled to those countries. A closer look at Kurdish emigration sheds light on how personal, political and regional relationships can affect patterns of exile and asylum.

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  • The Islamist Factions’ Judicial System in Idlib

    The judiciary system in Idlib is akin to jungle law, in which the powerful use it to impose their rule on the others. Examining the judicial system shows how the role of the military factions use the judiciary to encroach on civilian affairs. Some traditional Islamic concepts like Sharia and ijtihad (freedom for judges to make new rulings not based on precedence) are exploited to eliminate armed groups’ enemies and reinforce the control of militants and their associates.     

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  • The Nusra Front's Victory

    Syrian opposition websites and publications no longer make any mention of the Nusra Front or al-Qaeda; Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is now the most referenced group. Syrian opposition military and political circles have welcomed it, and the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the High Negotiations Council both issued statements supporting its break. The Muslim Brotherhood also welcomed its actions, as did Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest factions in the opposition. Many of Ahrar al-Sham’s leaders say Fateh al-Sham is a purely Syrian faction, one without a foreign agenda. Fateh al-Sham’s split from al-Qaeda and subsequent role in the battle to break the siege on Aleppo seem to have won over many of its skeptics.

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  • Aleppo’s Last Doctors' Plea to Obama

    15 of the remaining doctors in eastern Aleppo have written a desperate plea to President Obama, begging him to act to stop the bombs and to protect the 300,000 people who remain in what was Syria’s largest city. The appeal comes after opposition troops lifted a month-long siege during which pro-government troops cut the city off from food, water and medical aid for more than a month. 

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  • Breaking the Siege of Aleppo Improves Jaish al-Fateh’s Standing with Syrians

    On Saturday, opposition forces broke the regime’s siege on Aleppo. Though the situation is critical, Syrians in opposition territories are rejoicing at the news. The opposition’s advance came as the opposition coalition known as Jaish al-Fateh, which is dominated by Islamist groups, showed unprecedented unity among groups that are normally fragmented and operating individually. The victory improves the Syrian public’s perception of the Islamist groups, even Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formally the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, while hurting their perception of United States because it did not intervene.

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