Activist and independent journalist Hadi al-Abdullah has launched a new documentary series highlighting little-known civil society projects in rebel-held areas of Syria. While atrocities like Russia’s bombing of a Red Crescent humanitarian convoy or the latest grisly Islamic State execution video dominates news coverage of the Syrian civil war, the comparatively mundane but absolutely vital revolutionary work of developing democratic institutions, practices, and political culture at the grassroots level goes largely unnoticed and therefore unsupported.

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‘Be ashamed of your beard, we swear by the revolution that you will regret’ — sign from a June 9, 2016 anti-Al Qaeda protest in Marrat al-Numan, Idlib

The Factory of Hope series is an effort to show concretely that the people’s revolution has not been hijacked and destroyed by jihadists like Al-Qaeda’s Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra). Factory of Hope is also an appeal for international and internationalist support with English, Spanish, French, and German translations. As new episodes are released, they will be compiled here in this post.

By Mark Boothroyd. First published by The Project. Pictures and captions by this blog.

Behind the headlines and vicious brutality of Syria’s civil war lie amazing examples of self organisation, the story of which is largely unknown to most in the West. It is this self organisation, and not Saudi or Turkish aid, which has allowed the revolt to sustain itself through six long brutal years of repression and war.

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The earliest form of self organisation in the revolt were the tanseeqiyat, coordination committees formed by groups of friends and activists based in each neighbourhood or town, who would rally their community for protests and demonstrations. As the revolution progressed, the tanseeqiyat were superseded by the more overtly political Local Coordination Committees (LCCs). These were committees of activists, elected or nominated from different areas, which coordinated across the country. They were anti-sectarian, opposed to foreign intervention, committed to non-violent revolt against the dictatorship, and wanted the  formation of a democratic civil state. They organised protests, publicised films and reports of the revolution, coordinated days of action, and as repression mounted, provided humanitarian aid to districts and neighbourhoods in revolt. They sought to direct the mass of protests towards the non-violent overthrow of the regime.

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First published by al-Jumhuriyah (The Republic). Written by Sadik Abdul Rahman. Translated by Alice Guthrie. Hyperlinks and videos added by this blog.

It was a melancholy dawn that broke on 13 March 2016 as far as the entire Free Syrian Army and the Syrian revolution were concerned, but it was particularly bleak for the broad swathes of opposition to al-Qaeda and its approach in the city of Maarrat al-Nu’man and the rural areas around Idlib. Syrians awoke that morning to find that al-Nusra Front [subsequently renamed Jabhat Fatih al-Sham (Levant Conquest Front)] had seized control of all the 13th Division bases in and around Maarrat al-Nu’man and requisitioned its military equipment, and that six 13th Division fighters had been martyred by members of the Jund al-Aqsa faction.

Men, women, and children come out against Al-Qaeda’s and Jund al-Aqsa’s attacks on the Free Syrian Army’s 13th Division.

But that dark day also marked the dawn of a nonviolent popular protest movement that has now been ongoing for more than a hundred days: an exceptional movement, continuing in extremely harsh and complex circumstances. Those in charge of it announced then — and still declare now — that they will continue protesting, no matter the price they have to pay, until their demands are achieved. Read More

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The terrifying rise of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) has produced perplexity and political paralysis among self-proclaimed Marxists. Perhaps the best example of both is Anne Alexander’s “ISIS and Counter-Revolution: Towards a Marxist Analysis” which failed to investigate a single question of interest to Marxists:

  1. What is the class basis of IS? What class or classes constitute its social roots?
  2. What type of political order does IS fight to establish (monarchist, theocratic, democratic, socialist, communist, fascist)?
  3. Is IS progressive or reactionary, revolutionary or counter-revolutionary?
  4. What is to be done about IS?

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في تصرف غير مسبوق للمعارضة، أمضى أكثر من 50 موظفا دبلوماسيا بوزارة الخارجية الأمريكية على مذكرة داخلية تدعو لضربات جوية تستهدف نظام بشار الأسد للدفع بالمفاوضات المتعثرة قصد إنهاء الحرب الأهلية السورية. تعتبر المذكرة رسالة تذكير شديدة الوضوح لمدى عزلة الرئيس باراك أوباما طيلة سنوات داخل إدارته حول قضية سوريا. في إطار اختلافهم مع سياسات أوباما الغير متماسكة والعقيمة حول سوريا ، ينضم هؤلاء الدبلوماسيون المعارضون تقريبا لجميع فرقه الخاصة بالسياسة الخارجية، الدبلوماسية والأمن الوطني :

  • هيلاري كلينتون، وزيرة الخارجية الأولى بحكومة أوباما، دعت لتسليح الثوار المعتدلين في2011-2012.
  • جون كيري، وزير الخارجية الثاني و الحالي بحكومة أوباما، دعا لضربات جوية تستهدف النظام لإجباره على التفاوض بجدية.
  • روبيرت كيتس، وزير الدفاع الأول بحكومة أوباما، انتقد أوباما لعدم التدخل بقوة لمساعدة الثوار في2011-2012 عندما كان الأسد “في وضعية دفاع”، لفشله في فرض “خطه الأحمر” الذي أعلن عنه بعد المجزرة التي ارتكبها نظام الأسد على المدنيين باستعمال الغاز السام سنة 2013، و يدعم الآن إنشاء مناطق آمنة داخل سوريا تكون غير معرضة لهجمات النظام.
  • ليون بانيتا، وزير الدفاع الثاني بحكومة أوباما، انتقد أوباما لفشله في تسليح الثوار سنة 2012 و فشله في فرض خطه الأحمر سنة 2013.
  • شاك هاكل، وزير الدفاع الثالث بحكومة أوباما، انتقد أوباما لفشله في فرض خطه الأحمر سنة 2013 و بصفته وزيره للدفاع، أفاد سنة 2014 : “لا نملك سياسة اتجاه سوريا”، و ذلك ما أدى إلى إقصائه.
  • دافيد بيتروس، مدير وكالة الاستخبارات المركزية (سي آي ايه) بحكومة أوباما، وضع خطة لتسليح الثوار سنة 2012 بالاشتراك مع وزيرة الخارجية كلينتون و التي لم يتم الموافقة عليها أبدا.
  • روبيرت فورد، السفير الأمريكي إلى سوريا بحكومة أوباما، استقال من منصبه بوزارة الخارجية بعد إدراكه إن أوباما لا يعتزم اتخاذ أي إجراء جدي للتخفيف ولو قليلا من حدة الأزمة السورية (فبالأحرى الإطاحة بالأسد).
  • فريد هوف، مستشار بوزارة الخارجية لدى الوزيرة كلينتون حول التحول السياسي السوري، استقال سنة 2012 عندما أدرك ان اوباما لا ينوي اتباع ما قاله في تصريحه “الأسد يجب أن يرحل”.
  • سامنتا باور، السفيرة الأمريكية لدى الأمم المتحدة بحكومة أوباما، تدعم تسليح الثوار، فرض منطقة حظر جوي على النظام، وخلق مناطق آمنة.
  • جينرال ألين، المبعوث الرئاسي لأوباما الخاص بالتحالف الدولي لمحاربة تنظيم داعش. أيد إنشاء مناطق آمنة قبل أن يستقيل بدوره.

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By Agnés Favier.1 Originally published in the e-book Inside Wars: Local Dynamics of Conflicts in Syria and Libya.

Introduction

After more than 40 years of centralized control in Syria, the nature and length of the conflict has led to a fragmentation of the territory and to a de-coincentration of civilian and military powers, mainly in opposition-controlled areas but also to some extent in those under the regime’s control.3 In fact, party due to the nature of the regime’s repression, the local dimension was central to the framework of the uprising in 2011 and then its militarization.3 Despite the escalation of the conflict into a total war, the local level has remained a laboratory par excellence where new actors have emerged and experimented with new forms of governance.

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Among the local actors who have attempted to provide support for the population and to govern and administer territories, the local administrative structures that have been established by the revolutionary forces since 2012, also known as local councils, were originally conceived and developed to act as the main alternative to the state institutions at the local level, but also eventually as the cornerstone for any state-building efforts in Syria’s post-war reconstruction period. Despite the continuous and enormous challenges facing these local councils on the ground, they remain active in providing daily public services. Alongside other locally well-anchored actors, they could constitute the steppingstone through the transition period.

This paper aims to study these local councils in their position within a network of dynamics and interactions, both vertically with respect to ‘external’ actors (such as foreign donors and Syrian political institutions in exile) and horizontally in relation to other competing or parallel local groups. Based on empirical observations and in-depth interviews with opposition members (local councils, civil activists, political figures and representatives of armed groups) conducted in Gaziantep between October 2013 and September 2015, it presents some general findings, structured in response to three main questions:

  1. How have local administrative structures been established and then consolidated or disappeared in relation to two main patterns: access to external resources and military developments?
  2. What is the relationship between opposition local and central authorities?
  3. How and to what extent do local councils gain legitimacy in specific local areas? Read More

By Daryous Darwish. Originally published in the e-book Inside Wars: Local Dynamics of Conflicts in Syria and Libya.

Introduction

If some parts of the Kurdish community were involved in the Syrian revolution at its beginning in 2011, the disengagement of the Syrian army from the Kurdish areas in the mid of 2012 and the gradual takeover of these areas by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) put an end to the protestations against the Syrian regime. Then the Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM, which is a coalition of civil organizations and political parties, but in fact strictly controlled by the PYD) began to impose Kurdish rule over the Kurdish regions. On 12 July 2012, TEV-DEM and its affiliates reached an agreement with the Kurdish National Council (KNC) to establish the Kurdish Supreme Committee. This took responsibility for several aspects of administration, including establishing the Asayish (local police forces) and the YPG (local military), in addition to supporting locals with humanitarian aid. The Kurdish Supreme Committee did not last for long as the KNC withdrew from it in August 2013. Therefore, TEV-DEM took full control of the committee, to later abandon it and establish the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA), which is continued to the present day and lately started preparing itself to establish a federal system exclusively in the areas under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), while avoiding declaring itself as an independent state or as a federal state.

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