In last April, protests were sparked in many villages and towns located in the Syria Democratic Forces held areas in the north of the Euphrates River, Deir Ezzor province. The areas of Shuhail, Gharaneej, Abu Hamam, Al Tayyana in the eastern countryside along with Al Kasra, Mhaimeeda, Sfeera, Hammar Al Ali, and Al Zghair in the western countryside witnesses protests where the number of protestors increased gradually as they were limited to dozens.
Burning tires and carrying banners were the means of the protestors. The populations of Mhaimeeda drove the public security out of the village on April 28th 2019. The protestors had demands from the civil councils and SDF and confirmed that the protests will continue and be increased in case there is no response.
In addition to the protest, the populations of some villages sent messages through the community leaders to SDF, where these messages included specific demands.
The Public Security forces arrested dozens of protestors along with beating them before release them, like what happened in Al Tayyana village.
Following the control of Syria Democratic Forces on some areas in Deir Ezzor, civil councils and service institutions were established in order to evaluate the services and issue decisions that pave the way to enhance the area conditions. Despite the fact that there are representatives for the populations, yet the power of making decision was limited to the members of People’s Protection Units, specifically those who are not Syrians and called “Al Kawader” – their numbers are limited but have wide powers- who have unlimited authority. This forms a complete exclusion for the area populations in managing their own affairs.
Reasons behind Protests:
Since the end of 2017, where SDF controlled the areas located in the north of the river, many major issues are still pending and formed a motive for protests:
-Dominance of PPU on the decision making power.
-Arbitrary arrests against civilians under the excuse of pursuing ISIS members, where many of them were able to leave the area easily, or not yet pursued.
–Torture in SDF prisons
-Dire shortage in provided services, such as water and electricity.
-Restriction on civilians’ movement while moving towards other SDF held areas such as Al Hasaka province.
–Education: where some parents in Deir Ezzor consider that the future of their children is destroyed after they were hoping that schools will be activated again after ISIS defeat. The opened schools and operating educational staff are not adequate for the increasing number of the students.
-Health Situation: the maximum capacity of the limited number of hospitals, private clinics, and the public hospital of Al Kasra does not meet the need of the medical services, where populations are obliged to travel to Damascus, north of Syria, or to Turkey to have medical treatment.
-Prevailed corruption within the self-rule institutions with complete absence for the accountability against the corrupted members.
-Smuggling fuel led to increase in the prices in all areas located in the north of the river.
Those demands are not spur-of-the-moment as there were put on the table of the SDF throughout community leaders and figures in multiple meetings, where the last one was held on April 30th 2019 in the civil council headquarter in Al Kasra town, and another meeting in Ain Issa in Al Raqqa countryside, on May 2nd 2019. The demands can be outlined as follows;
-Evicting the non-Syrian members fromt he area.
-Involving populations effectively in managing their affairs.
-Releasing detainees who are not indicted for having relations with ISIS, or any other charge.
-Decreasing the fuel prices and stop smuggling fuel.
-Enhancing the services of water and electricity, especially in the eastern countryside areas.
-Pursuing all corrupted members and holding them accountable.
Civil Society as a Party that can take an Action”
Local activists established many organizations and civil initiatives in many sectors such as relief, education, services, and mine action awareness and received limited funds from international donors. These organizations formed a space of interaction between the populations, along with their problems, and what is provided by the international organizations and civil councils. Yet, these organizations faced obstacles made by the civil councils such as rejected permit for some organizations, delayed ones for others, and limiting work in specific areas, where in one case at least, the civil councils did not respond to the initiatives working in human rights.
Justice for Life organization recommends the following:
The rapid and effective response for the protestors’ demands will have an impact on the enhancement of the populations’ conditions in terms of services, and will increase the cooperation between the populations and the civil councils. This requires the international coalition to pressure more on the SDF to support a meaningful engagement and terminate the political and security dominance made by the Syria democratic council and SDF on the work and decisions of the civil institutions and commissions.
The hate speech that has been increasing since the triggered protests may threaten with more escalation, which might be used, and consequently listening and responding to the demands are the shortest ways to preserve the safety of the civilians and stability of the area.
Forming a regulatory party, that consists of experienced people who enjoy credibility and observes the insitiutions along with all violations, will redue the corruption cases.
Cooperating with relatives and families of victims and detainees, either those are in the jails of SDF or the missing people who were detained by ISIS.
Promoting the role of civil society as a fundamental civil party, and here the international community shall increase the support to the civil society organizations that are working in Deir Ezzor.
Establishing local committees out of different villages and towns to communicate directly with the civil councils in order to convey all problems faced by the populations.