Civil Society and Local Governance

  • How Syrians View Nusra’s Split from al-Qaeda

    On July 28, the Nusra Front, one of the most powerful jihadist groups in Syria, announced its split from al-Qaeda and the formation of a new group named Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (Front for the Conquest of the Levant). In a short video, the group stated that it aims to establish God’s religion and Sharia law and will work towards unity with all groups in Syria. Abu Mohammad al-Julani, the group’s leader, also stated that this new formation is a national movement with no ties to any foreign party, so as “to remove the excuse used by the international community—spearheaded by America and Russia—to bombard and displace Muslims in the Levant.” However, it is still not clear what impact the split will have on the relationship between Nusra and the Syrian opposition bodies and armed groups.

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  • Finding Ground Truth in Syria: Bringing Light to a Confused Information Environment

    The situation in Syria is far more complex than what people have been describing. Unfortunately, the people who are responsible for understanding Syria strongly disagree with each other about who the prime actors are, who influences the country, the influence of actors relative to each other, and the overall state of the country. The current information situation is very confused.

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  • The Truth of the Islamic State’s Governance

    By building its own state, the Islamic State (ISIS) seeks to make a mark for itself by transforming from a group of gangs roaming the desert to a modern state larger than Great Britain that extends across Iraq and Syria. It has possession of major sources of funding from both its manufacturing and underground resources, including oil, agriculture, and dams; however, the group has struggled with administrative issues since it first gained control over its territory, relying on a policy of intimidation in which it resorts to executions, decapitations, crucifixions, and amputations of hands and legs.

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  • How ISIS Describes its Government Structure

    Recently, the Islamic State (ISIS) released a video describing how it sees its government structure. Whether or not it has achieved this structure, the fact that ISIS is envisioning its government’s structure shows how far it has progressed compared to other terrorist groups. Whereas the Nusra Front, for instance, is still struggling with its relationship to al-Qaeda and lacks the resources to enforce its version of Sharia in the areas where it has a presence, ISIS is describing offices particular to its mode of operation.

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  • Will Turkey Accelerate Granting Citizenship to Syrians after the Failed Coup?

    Early this month, a speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan announcing an initiative to grant citizenship to Syrian refugees caused widespread controversy in Syrian and Turkish circles alike. Recent events in Turkey may have accelerated the program, with the government now taking tangible steps towards the initiative, particularly as relates to prominent Syrian artists and those with special talents and scientific skills.

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  • Besieged Syrians Defy Hunger and Death with Makeshift Innovations

    Thousands of Syrians in besieged areas across the country from all sides of the conflict fight daily to secure a livelihood and fulfill their basic needs using makeshift means, some which stand out for their spirit of innovation. Whereas some fortunate areas have been able to overcome the blockade through autonomous production initiatives and establishing systems that store and distribute provisions equally among the people, other areas have failed to break the blockade for a number of reasons, the most important being an absence of sufficient supplies amid rising population numbers.

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  • Sowing Hope and Weeding Out Siege Profiteers

    BEIRUT – In Madaya, a mountain village nestled between Damascus and the Syrian-Lebanese border, windowsills used to blossom with roses, jasmine, and the scented geraniums that people might once have used to flavor a delicate syrup for sweets. But now, instead of flowers, the windows are overflowing with cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini.

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  • How Do Civilians Teach Their Children in ISIS-held Deir Ezzor?

    ISIS established its education system in Deir Ezzor to supplement its forces with young male fighters who are imbued with its extremist ideology. However, civilians in Deir Ezzor have found ways to counter the education system imposed upon their children by ISIS. Teachers, parents, and students have adopted ruses that embody the spirit of non-violent civilian resistance in Deir Ezzor and their desire to fight for their rights, freedom, and justice, even while living under the tyranny of ISIS.

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  • Why the New Syrian Army failed to Defeat ISIS in al-Bukamal

    The New Syrian Army (NSyA), a US-supported armed group focused on fighting the Islamic State, gave a free victory to ISIS in al-Bukamal, a city on the Syrian-Iraqi border. ISIS needed this victory to raise its fighters’ morale, which has been low after the armed group has faced continuous losses in Syria and Iraq. Their most recent defeat is the loss of Falluja in June 2016.

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  • Conversations: Selling Military Antiques in Wartime

    GHOUTA, SYRIA – Eastern Ghouta in the Damascus suburbs was once a main Syrian agricultural and industrial hub home to some 2 million people. But since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the region, just eight miles (13 km) outside the capital, has become the scene of some of the worst destruction and violence, forcing most of its residents to flee.

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