Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Enab Baladi

Syrian Democracy

Robin Yassin-Kassab. Qunfuz

(I can’t blame you or the western states if you think Syrians are condemned to an unpleasant binary choice, between Assad and the jihadists: Media don’t care about social developing details on the ground)

Interviewing activists, fighters and refugees for our book “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”, we discovered the democratic option is very real, if terribly beleaguered.

To the extent that life continues in the ‘liberated’ but brutally bombed areas – areas independent of both Assad and ISIS – it continues because self-organised local councils are supplying services and aid.

For example, Daraya, a suburb west of Damascus now suffering its fourth year under starvation siege, is run by a council. Its 120 members select executives by vote every six months. The council head is chosen by public election. The council runs primary schools, a field hospital, a public kitchen, and manages urban agricultural production. Its military office supervises the Free Syrian Army militias defending the town.

Amid constant bombardment, Daraya’s citizen journalists produce a newspaper, Enab Baladi, which promotes non-violent resistance. In a country once known as a ‘kingdom of silence’, today there are more than 60 independent newspapers and tens of free radio stations.

And as soon as the bombing eases, people return to the streets with their banners. Recent demonstrations against Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaida’s Syrian franchise) across Idlib province indicate that the Syrian desire for democracy burns as fiercely as ever.

After five years of horror, protestors repeat the original revolutionary slogans of freedom and unity. Assad, having no answer to this, bombs the province’s marketplaces in reply.

Where possible (in about 45% of cases), the local councils are democratically elected – the first free elections in half a century. For the poor, these are the first meaningful elections in Syrian history.

A Syrian economist and anarchist called Omar Aziz provided the germ. In the revolution’s eighth month he published a paper advocating the formation of councils in which citizens could arrange their affairs free of the tyrannical state. Aziz helped set up the first bodies, in Zabadani, Daraya, Douma and Barzeh, all suburbs of Damascus.

He died in regime detention in 2013, a month before his 64th birthday. But by then, as the Assadist state and its services collapsed, councils had sprouted all over the country.

Some council members were previously involved in the ‘tanseeqiyat’ committees, the revolution’s original grassroots formations. They were activists, responsible first for coordinating protests and media work, then for delivering aid and medicine. Other members represented prominent families or tribes or, more often, were professionals selected for specific practical skills.

In regime-controlled areas, councils operate in secret. In Selemmiyeh, activist Aziz al-Asaad told us, security constraints meant that the council practised “the democracy of the revolutionary elite” – only activists voted.

But in liberated territory people can organise publically. Anand Gopal reported in August 2012 that the citizens of Taftanaz had elected professional councils – of farmers, merchants, teachers, students, judges, engineers, the unemployed – which “in turn chose delegates to sit on a citywide council …  the only form of government the citizenry recognized.”

These are tenacious but fragile experiments. Some are hampered by factionalism. Some are bullied out of existence by jihadists.

Menbij, a northern city, once boasted its own 600-member legislature and 20-member executive, a police force, and Syria’s first independent trade union. Then ISIS seized the grain silos and the democrats were driven out. Today Menbij is called ‘Little London’ for its preponderance of English-accented jihadists.

In some areas the councils appear to signal Syria’s atomisation rather than a new beginning, the utter impossibility of reconstitution.

Christophe Reuter calls it a “revolution of localists” when he describes ‘village republics’ such as Korin, in Idlib province, with its own court and a 10-person council, “WiFi on the main square and hushed fear of everything beyond the nearby hills.”

But Omar Aziz envisaged councils connecting the people regionally and nationally, and democratic provincial councils now operate in the liberated swathes of Aleppo, Idlib and Deraa. In the Ghouta region near Damascus, militia commanders were not permitted to stand as candidates. Fighters were, but only civilians won seats.

In Syria’s three Kurdish-majority areas, collectively known as Rojava, a similar system prevails, though the councils there are known as communes. In one respect they are more progressive than their counterparts elsewhere  – 40% of seats are reserved for women.

In another, they are more constrained – they work within the larger framework of the PYD, or Democratic Union Party, which monopolises control of finances, arms and media.

The elected council members are the only representative Syrians we have. They, and strengthened local democracy, should be key components in any serious settlement.

In a post-Assad future, local democracy could allow ideologically polarised communities to coexist under the Syrian umbrella. Towns could legislate locally according to their demographic and cultural composition and mood. The alternative to enhanced local control is new borders, new ethnic cleansing, new wars.

At very least, the councils deserve political recognition by the United States and others. Council members should be a key presence on the opposition’s negotiating team at any international talks.

And the councils deserve protection from Assad and Russia’s scorched earth – the first cause of the refugee crisis. Assad’s bombs hit the schools, hospitals, bakeries, and residential blocks that the councils are trying desperately to service.

If the bombardment were stopped the councils would no longer be limited to the business of survival. They could focus instead on rebuilding Syrian nationhood and further developing popular institutions.

In the previous decade, ‘democracy promotion’ was sometimes used as rhetorical justification for the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Of course that didn’t work out very well – ‘demos’ means ‘people’.

Only the people themselves can build their democratic structures. And today Syrians are practising democracy, building their own institutions, in the most difficult of circumstances. Their efforts don’t fit in with the easy Assad-or-ISIS narrative, however, and so we rarely deign to notice.

Note: Before the Baath party started their successive revolutions in the 60’s, Syria had a parliamentary system where women and the military could vote. Evidences are coming out that Saudi Kingdom, with USA and British green lights, has dispatched plenty of money for Syrian military officers to attempt successive military coups to destabilize the democratic process in Syria.

Democratic councils in Syria: In the hands of No belligerent forces?

Have you heard of this cities of Daraya,  Zabadani,  Douma and Barzeha, all suburbs of Damascus? How about Selemmiyeh, Taftanaz, Menbij, Korin, Deraa, Rojava… ?

(I doubt that currently any region or town is Not under the direct or implicit control of a warring faction. Almost all these cities have been under the control of ISIS or Nusra-type factions)

The choices being fought out by Syrians isn’t between the dictator and the jihadists (the two feed each other), but between various forms of violent authoritarianism on the one hand, and grassroots democracy on the other. The democrats deserve our support.

Interviewing activists, fighters and refugees for our book “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”, we discovered the democratic option is very real, if terribly beleaguered. To the extent that life continues in the ‘liberated’ but brutally bombed areas – areas independent of both Assad and ISIS – it continues because self-organised local councils are supplying services and aid.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

A side to Syria you rarely see, the widespread local councils amid repression and bombing, as explained by Robin Yassin-Kassab

qunfuz.com

For example, Daraya, a suburb west of Damascus now suffering its fourth year under starvation siege, is run by a council. Its 120 members select executives by vote every six months. The council head is chosen by public election. The council runs primary schools, a field hospital, a public kitchen, and manages urban agricultural production. Its military office supervises the Free Syrian Army militias defending the town.

Amid constant bombardment, Daraya’s citizen journalists produce a newspaper, Enab Baladi, which promotes non-violent resistance. In a country once known as a ‘kingdom of silence’, today there are more than 60 independent newspapers and tens of free radio stations.

And as soon as the bombing eases, people return to the streets with their banners. Recent demonstrations against Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaida’s Syrian franchise) across Idlib province indicate that the Syrian desire for democracy burns as fiercely as ever.

After five years of horror, protestors repeat the original revolutionary slogans of freedom and unity. Assad, having no answer to this, bombs the province’s marketplaces in reply.

Where possible (in about 45% of cases), the local councils are democratically elected – the first free elections in half a century. For the poor, these are the first meaningful elections in Syrian history.

A Syrian economist and anarchist called Omar Aziz provided the germ. In the revolution’s eighth month he published a paper advocating the formation of councils in which citizens could arrange their affairs free of the tyrannical state. Aziz helped set up the first bodies, in Zabadani, Daraya, Douma and Barzeh, all suburbs of Damascus.

He died in regime detention in 2013, a month before his 64th birthday. But by then, as the Assadist state and its services collapsed, councils had sprouted all over the country.

Some council members were previously involved in the ‘tanseeqiyat’ committees, the revolution’s original grassroots formations. They were activists, responsible first for coordinating protests and media work, then for delivering aid and medicine. Other members represented prominent families or tribes or, more often, were professionals selected for specific practical skills.

In regime-controlled areas, councils operate in secret. In Selemmiyeh, activist Aziz al-Asaad told us, security constraints meant that the council practised “the democracy of the revolutionary elite” – only activists voted.

But in liberated territory people can organise publically.

Anand Gopal reported in August 2012 that the citizens of Taftanaz had elected professional councils – of farmers, merchants, teachers, students, judges, engineers, the unemployed – which “in turn chose delegates to sit on a citywide council …  the only form of government the citizenry recognized.”

These are tenacious but fragile experiments. Some are hampered by factionalism. Some are bullied out of existence by jihadists.

Menbij, a northern city, once boasted its own 600-member legislature and 20-member executive, a police force, and Syria’s first independent trade union. Then ISIS seized the grain silos and the democrats were driven out. Today Menbij is called ‘Little London’ for its preponderance of English-accented jihadists.

In some areas the councils appear to signal Syria’s atomisation rather than a new beginning, the utter impossibility of reconstitution.

Christophe Reuter calls it a “revolution of locals” when he describes ‘village republics’ such as Korin, in Idlib province, with its own court and a 10-person council, “WiFi on the main square and hushed fear of everything beyond the nearby hills.”

But Omar Aziz envisaged councils connecting the people regionally and nationally, and democratic provincial councils now operate in the liberated swathes of Aleppo, Idlib and Deraa. In the Ghouta region near Damascus, militia commanders were not permitted to stand as candidates. Fighters were, but only civilians won seats.

In Syria’s three Kurdish-majority areas, collectively known as Rojava, a similar system prevails, though the councils there are known as communes. In one respect they are more progressive than their counterparts elsewhere  – 40% of seats are reserved for women. In another, they are more constrained – they work within the larger framework of the PYD, or Democratic Union Party, which monopolises control of finances, arms and media.

The elected council members are the only representative Syrians we have. They, and strengthened local democracy, should be key components in any serious settlement.

In a post-Assad future, local democracy could allow ideologically polarised communities to coexist under the Syrian umbrella. Towns could legislate locally according to their demographic and cultural composition and mood. The alternative to enhanced local control is new borders, new ethnic cleansings, new wars.

At very least, the councils deserve political recognition by the United States and others. Council members should be a key presence on the opposition’s negotiating team at any international talks.

If the bombardment were stopped the councils would no longer be limited to the business of survival. They could focus instead on rebuilding Syrian nationhood and further developing popular institutions.

In the previous decade, ‘democracy promotion’ was sometimes used as rhetorical justification for the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Of course that didn’t work out very well – ‘demos’ means ‘people’. Only the people themselves can build their democratic structures.

And today Syrians are practising democracy, building their own institutions, in the most difficult of circumstances. Their efforts don’t fit in with the easy Assad-or-ISIS narrative, however, and so we rarely deign to notice.

Human Rights Activists covering the ISIS city of Raqqa: Assassinated in Turkey

Ahmed Mohammed Mousa, a member of the “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” team, was killed near his home in the town of Sinjar, Idleb countryside, on the evening of Wednesday, December 16.

Enab Baladi. Dec 18th, 2015

Prominent Human Rights Activist Assassinated in Idleb

Sarmad Gilani, one of the founders of the campaign, said: “A masked man on a motorcycle shot Ahmed with two bullets in the head in front of his house, which killed him instantly.”

“We are trying to protect ourselves by all means available, we have changed our locations after the slaughter of our friend, Ibrahim Abdul Qader, but now we can do nothing but to pray, especially after they reached us within the Turkish city of Urfa, and in the opposition-held Idleb province,” Gilani told Enab Baladi.

On June 22, ISIS militants executed the father of Ahmed Mousa after arresting him for three months and confiscating his home and shop in Raqqa.

Ahmed was not the first member of the campaign team to be assassinated, as the team already lost Ibrahim Abdul Qader, who was found beheaded in his home in the Turkish city of Urfa.

ISIS has also executed al-Mutaz Bellah, Sham Network reporter and member of the campaign team, in May 2014.

A group of activists in the city of Raqqa launched a campaign on April 16, 2014, dedicated to documenting the violations committed by ISIS in the city.

The campaign team consists of 17 members distributed between Raqqa and Turkey.

Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently campaign has won several awards in the past few months, with its members being honored for working in the “world’s most dangerous place.”

The team’s list of awards includes the America Abroad Media Award, and the CPJ World Press Freedom Award.

Ahmed Mohammed Mousa was born in 1992, and is the elder brother of Hamoud Mousa, one of the founders of the campaign, and he defected from Assad’s army in 2012. Ahmed left Raqqa after he learned ISIS had issued an order for his arrest.

Ahmed settled in Idleb province at the beginning of this year in a relative’s house, where he continued his work in documenting ISIS violations in Raqqa province.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,418,846 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 771 other followers

%d bloggers like this: