Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Local Governance in Sarmada

There are towns across Idlib Province that are free of any regime presence. The Idlib Revolutionary Council is reorganizing activists in these towns into Civil and Local Administration Councils (CLACs) to provide local governance until provincial wide elections can be held at some future date. This post outlines the structure and functions of the Sarmada CLAC to provide insight on the status of governance in Idlib’s liberated towns.

Sarmada’s CLAC, led by Muhamed Razi Qazah, is split into 10 committees, including:

  • The Statistics Committee, which documents martyrs and tracks relief supplies as they leave storage facilities. 
  • The Commission of Legitimate Rights, an independent legal body that plays a lead role in resolving conflicts. 
  • The Military Liaison Committee, led by Major Mundhur Khadib, is the link between the military council and the CLAC. 
  • The Security Committee is a local police force charged with organizing patrols. It can also be used by the Committee of Legitimate Rights to intervene in disputes. 
  • The Foreign Relations Committee works with supporters abroad 
  • The Political Media Committee coordinates with other CLACs and publicizes regime atrocities.
  • The Advisory Board oversees the committees and reports any problems to the council president. The relationship between the Advisory Board and the “independent” Committee of Legitimate Rights is unclear.

Structure of the Sarmada Civil and Local Administration Council

To date, the Sarmada CLAC has publicized its role in bringing a number of services to the people of Sarmada. In December, when power shortages shut down Sarmada’s water supply, the CLAC acquired a generator to operate the town's water pump. The extended absence of government services also led to the accumulation of trash, which the CLAC began removing in early December.

As with many towns not reduced to rubble by aerial bombardment, Saramada’s 25,000 residents struggle to provide for the 10,000 refugees living among them. The Canadian humanitarian organization Human Concern has assisted in this effort by providing aid to the CLAC to distribute to Sarmada’s refugees. An Islamic community group in California has also helped by donating winter clothing.

The refugees are occupying Sarmada's schools, making it difficult for Sarmada to reactivate its education system. The CLAC has solicited the opinion of the public on how to deal with this situation. Options include removing the refugees from some of the schools into a makeshift camp or to neighboring towns, and conducting classes in local mosques. As of early December, the issue was unresolved. The presence of refugees has also raised the cost of providing bread for local residents, forcing the council to appeal to outside supporters for financial assistance.

For now, the primary problems facing the CLACs revolve around providing for the basic needs of citizens and refugees in the context of Syria’s economic collapse. If a best-case scenario emerges and the civil war ends with the fall of the Assad regime, the councils will struggle to assert themselves over the militias in order to force their disarmament. If, on the other hand, a civil war emerges between Jihadists and more mainstream rebel factions, the success of the local councils (which rely on support from abroad) could play a key role in preventing Jihadist groups from buying the support of desperate Syrians.


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