Deir Ezzor after ISIS. Preliminary recommendations

The paper includes a summary of discussions organized by Justice for Life in 2018 between groups of specialists and activists in the files of education, governance, civil peace, transitional justice and women empowerment.

Executive summary:

During 2018, Justice for Life held five focused dialogue sessions on transitional justice, women’s empowerment, civil peace, education under conflict and governance. The dialogues focused on Deir Ezzor province and each dialogue ended up with a set of preliminary recommendations about each axis of discussion. The aim of the organization was to design a map containing preliminary recommendations aimed at stability restoration in Deir Ezzor. The map will be prepared by stakeholders from every sector, beside mobilizing public opinion to transfer and support the demands of the local population in Deir Ezzor.

Primarily, the sessions are a vital resource to provide sort of preliminary information that helps to describe the real needs of the local population in the province after defeating ISIS. On the other hand, the dialogue sessions that were implemented helped in activating the role of local community actors to take initiative besides activation of local instruments to promote civil peace and community reconciliation processes at local level.

After eight years of war in Deir Ezzor, we believe that civil society organizations play a major role in contributing to the efforts of stability restoration and to regional rehabilitation to overcome the loss of infrastructure and social fabric due to war and extremist groups. The JFL faced many challenges, for example, land control by different militants in the province was one of the challenges faced by participants in the meetings. Besides, population’s loss of confidence in various events, as a result of the long war in addition to heavy losses. Therefore, we conduct confidence-building and we expand our community target.

One of the most important lessons learned in this course was how important civil society’s role and how it influences the future of Deir Ezzor in terms of avoiding mistakes and monitoring work mechanisms regarding the formation of local councils.

The presence of ISIS in Deir Ezzor for more than 3 years left ideological inheritage that influenced local community and insinuated new transactions on individual behavior, starting with vocabulary that are still used nowadays in daily life, street, commercial activities, and mechanisms of accounting and punishment which were legitimized by ISIS. Despite the fact that ISIS no longer exists physically in the region, but it left behind one heavy legacy to be confronted. The current circumstances are appropriate for the radical organizations to attract more youth and rebuild itself using the security chaos, lack of employment and spread of drugs. Another factor is the departure and murder of community’s intellects and the dramatic collapse of education and judiciary systems.

Justice for Life has issued a comprehensive paper of all the discussions and recommendations of the dialogue sessions entitled “Deir Ezzor after ISIS- preliminary recommendations”. At the end of the paper, JFL recommended that programs should be applicable to the current stage, conditions and culture of the region without relying on previous experiences in other regions. This requires a needs identification, accurate field research and support civil society as a base for encountering extremist ideas and raising awareness.

Hence, we recognize our role as an effective civil society in human and institutional building in post-ISIS phase. The results of the previous sessions can be used to map a civil action in various aspects of civil work in Deir Ezzor.

Methodology and Planning:

Since most of the members of JFL are members of the local community and are aware of the societal changes that have taken place since the beginning of the war, we have initially developed a preliminary map of people who can be contacted by local actors, influencers and all stakeholders, women and men at each session. Several preparatory sessions were held with the persons nominated for dialogues in Turkey and in the areas of displacement within Syria to explain the idea of ​​the project and to advocate for participation in the main dialogue sessions.

Project implementation stages:

Preparation for the formation of the five task groups will be initiated by identifying the list of invitees. JFL has adopted the following criteria for participants in the sessions, after consultation with a number of civil society actors:

– Not engaged in any military action.

– Has sufficient experience in the field in which they will be invited to.

– Has broad social acceptance in their community.

After identifying the guest list, a preliminary agenda for the sessions has been set up to ensure that it covers all information aspects. After that, the preparatory sessions were held to create common ground. The agenda of the meetings was sent to attendees at least one week prior to the meeting to be discussed, agreed upon and approved.

The sessions were held in the Syrian and Turkish cities where the people of Deir Ezzor were displaced. There was a Skype call with the invitees in the various work groups outside and inside Syria in northern and eastern Syria.

Key challenges:

1- The shifting in control of the governorate was one of the main challenges facing the participants in the sessions.

2- Significant transportation costs for facilitators mobility.

3- Conducting interviews between different regions subject to different military forces.

4- Conducting meetings outside the governorate of Deir Ezzor, where the organization’s team involved actors and activists from within Deir Ezzor during the preliminary consultations that preceded the workshops.

5- Loss of confidence by the people of various events as a result of the long duration of the war and the large losses suffered by us have led to the process of building confidence and expand the target base.


Lessons learned:

1-The importance of the role of civil society in the future of Deir Ezzor and its role in avoiding mistakes and monitoring the work and mechanisms of the formation of local councils.

2-The importance of the role of youth in the province of Deir Ezzor in the dissemination of the principles of democracy and citizenship and work to implement them.

3-The importance of disseminating the culture of human rights within the community of Deir Ezzor and the publication of a letter calling for tolerance among the community of Deir Ezzor.

4-Activating the role of women, particularly in the political sphere, participation in the elections and raising the awareness of the local community about the importance of the role of women in building the future of Deir Ezzor.


The existence of ISIS for more than 3 years in Deir Ezzor led to the creation of a ideological inheritage of its own in the community has succeeded in introducing new transactions on the behavior of the individual level, starting with the vocabulary that is still in circulation today in public, and in commercial exchanges in the markets and the mechanisms of accounting and punishment Which they legitimized. Although ISIS physically is no longer present in the region, but left behind a heavy legacy to be confronted, the current circumstances are more appropriate to restore extremist organizations active in attracting more young people with the chaos of security and lack of employment opportunities and the spread of drugs, and escape and killing the competencies of society and the collapse of the education systems And the judiciary.

The confrontation of extremism is not limited to military means, but rather a long-term ideological and cultural confrontation.

It is important to implement programs that are appropriate to the stage and conditions of the region and culture and not to rely on ready-made experiments applied in other regions. This requires a needs identification and accurate field research. The support of civil society is a basis for confronting extremist ideas and raising awareness.

Respecting freedom of thought, belief, expression, individual freedoms and the presence of security in the governorate of Deir Ezzor are fundamental factors to the realization of the recommendations contained in this paper.

Hence, we recognize our role as an effective civil society in human and institutional building in the post-ISIS phase.

The results of the previous sessions can be used to map a civil action in various aspects of civil work in Deir Ezzor.

To read the full paper, please reach out to us: [email protected]

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