“Power” Race between the “Salvation” and “Interim” Governments

“Power” Race between the “Salvation” and “Interim” Governments

Enab Baladi Enab Baladi
syria-idlib1.jpg

Jawad Abu Hatab, head of the Interim Government, and Muhammad al-Sheikh, head of the Salvation Government (Edited by Enab Baladi)

The One to Control Military Power Is the One to Rule

The last three months were “decisive” in the history of the Syrian Interim Government since its formation in 2013, regarding the procedures and steps it has taken. Indeed, it formed a military structure under the name of “the General Staff” that it runs for the first time and that is led by the head of the government and the Minister of Defence Jawad Abu Hatab.

Military Body for the “Interim” Government after Four Years

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The “Interim” Government failed to control any of the factions and to obtain a military and security base in the areas which it controls. Its actions and plans were limited to services and civil matters, whether through local councils or ministries which operate in Turkey.

However, it began to rectify this absence recently, through including a unified military command to all factions in ​​the “Euphrates Shield” area in its new structure. The structure incorporates three legions under the names: “National Army,” “Sultan Murad Division” and “Al-Sham Front” legion.

Following the formation of the legions, the factions are stripped of their names to form a single army, on the basis of three divisions in each legion, three brigades within each division, in addition to including three battalions of fighters in each brigade, according to a statement by the new “General Staff”.

In the following phase, the weapons, vehicles, equipment and premises are fully handed over to the Ministry of Defence which is created by the “Interim Government.” The military forces of the northern Aleppo countryside are subsequently supplemented by a principal administration and command of the “Interim Government.”

Until the moment, three academies have been included in the “Military Government Structure.” The first was the “Abdul Qader Al-Saleh” Academy, which was handed over by the “al-Sham Front” faction on 11 October 2017, in addition to the academy, which the interim government laid its foundation on October 4, to be established by the “al-Mu’tasim Brigade” that is affiliated with the “Free Army.” Meanwhile, in early November, the “Hamzah Brigade” handed over an academy in the city of al-Bab, after about a month and a half of its establishment in the city of al-Bab in eastern Aleppo countryside. It includes about 2,200 fighters who receive military expertise in halls dedicated to this purpose and training courtyards which were equipped after the control of the city of al-Bab in early 2017.

The “General Staff” also included hundreds of fighters from the “Ahrar al-Sham” movement in Aleppo area, which coincided with coordination with the major northern Syrian factions.

The Deputy Chief of Staff, Col. Haitham Al-Afisi, spoke about “positive steps” which are taken north of Aleppo, and pointed out that the second phase of work begins one month after the formation of the legions. He estimated the number of fighters in the “Euphrates Shield” area to be about 25,000 fighters.

The name of the “Syrian Salvation Government” went viral in Idlib governorate last week after it announced itself as the governorate’s guradin, on the ground that it intends to save it from the consequences of the regional quarrels and the threat of military strikes by several countries.

The region was politically and administratively confused, and this has threatened to pull the rug from under the Syrian Interim Government, increase its fragmentation and to freeze the work of months that the “Interim” Government invested in trying to consolidate its institutions and presence in the region.

The Syrian Salvation Government did not acquire the legitimacy to run Idlib, but rather it limited itself to one initiative and two conferences that were attended by those who are close to the people responsible for the initiative. Yet, it succeeded in imposing itself as it appointed ministers and controlled the region’s administration and services. This opened the door to questions about the future of the region, and whether the opposition-held areas could tolerate the presence of two governments and if there are any attempts on the part of these two governments to get closer.

Enab Baladi’s Investigations Team

In a poll conducted by Enab Baladi within Syria, citizens acknowledged the existence of three governments in Syria: the Syrian Regime Government, the Syrian Interim Government and the Salvation Government.

In the areas beyond the control of the Syrian regime, most respondents agreed that the Regime government is “illegitimate,” while opinions differed on the legitimacy of the Syrian Interim Government and the Salvation Government, which represent the Syrian opposition, amid calls for uniting them.

In the northern countryside of Aleppo, citizens called for the need to represent the opposition in one government serving the interests of the Syrian people and stressed the “eligibility” of the Syrian Interim Government.

“The fragmentation of the governments leads to losing support and Syrians’ loss of benefits,” said a resident of the northern Aleppo countryside. He added that “support must be for the Syrian Interim Government since it came first [to power], and all parties should cooperate to support it.”

“We support the Syrian Interim Government, provided it has a clear work agenda that it shares with us,” claimed another citizen.

In the countryside of Idlib, the pessimism of some citizens was obvious during the poll. All those who met with Enab Baladi refused to acknowledge any government, and considered that none of these served or would serve the Syrian people who suffered seven years of war and siege.

“Nobody represents me. We do not know anything about those governments because we have not seen any tangible [change],” said one respondent.

In the city of Idlib, residents were generally optimistic about the recently formed “Salvation Government,” as it was formed inside Syria and is more familiar with the suffering of the citizens, according to the poll.

“The Interim Government has not benefited the Syrian people since its creation,” declared one of the citizens. He added: “We trust the current government (the Salvation Government), which was formed of elites in Idlib governorate.”

The One to Control Military Power Is the One to Rule

The last three months were “decisive” in the history of the Syrian Interim Government since its formation in 2013, regarding the procedures and steps it has taken. Indeed, it formed a military structure under the name of “the General Staff” that it runs for the first time and that is led by the head of the government and the Minister of Defence Jawad Abu Hatab.

Military Body for the “Interim” Government after Four Years

The “Interim” Government failed to control any of the factions and to obtain a military and security base in the areas which it controls. Its actions and plans were limited to services and civil matters, whether through local councils or ministries which operate in Turkey.

However, it began to rectify this absence recently, through including a unified military command to all factions in the “Euphrates Shield” area in its new structure. The structure incorporates three legions under the names: “National Army,” “Sultan Murad Division” and “Al-Sham Front” legion.

Following the formation of the legions, the factions are stripped of their names to form a single army, on the basis of three divisions in each legion, three brigades within each division, in addition to including three battalions of fighters in each brigade, according to a statement by the new “General Staff”.

In the following phase, the weapons, vehicles, equipment and premises are fully handed over to the Ministry of Defence which is created by the “Interim Government.” The military forces of the northern Aleppo countryside are subsequently supplemented by a principal administration and command of the “Interim Government.”

Until the moment, three academies have been included in the “Military Government Structure.” The first was the “Abdul Qader Al-Saleh” Academy, which was handed over by the “al-Sham Front” faction on 11 October 2017, in addition to the academy, which the interim government laid its foundation on October 4, to be established by the “al-Mu’tasim Brigade” that is affiliated with the “Free Army.” Meanwhile, in early November, the “Hamzah Brigade” handed over an academy in the city of al-Bab, after about a month and a half of its establishment in the city of al-Bab in eastern Aleppo countryside. It includes about 2,200 fighters who receive military expertise in halls dedicated to this purpose and training courtyards which were equipped after the control of the city of al-Bab in early 2017.

The “General Staff” also included hundreds of fighters from the “Ahrar al-Sham” movement in Aleppo area, which coincided with coordination with the major northern Syrian factions.

The Deputy Chief of Staff, Col. Haitham Al-Afisi, spoke about “positive steps” which are taken north of Aleppo, and pointed out that the second phase of work begins one month after the formation of the legions. He estimated the number of fighters in the “Euphrates Shield” area to be about 25,000 fighters.

Laying the foundation of the Mu'tasim Military Academy in the presence of the head of the Interim Government Jawad Abu Hatab, northern countryside of Aleppo - October 6, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Laying the foundation of the Mu’tasim Military Academy in the presence of the head of the Interim Government Jawad Abu Hatab, northern countryside of Aleppo – October 6, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

“Partial” and Politically Non-functional Acknowledgment

Politically, although some of the countries within “Friends of Syria Group” have acknowledged the Interim Government. However, they have not granted it a legal recognition, which limited its role to an “observer” rather than an “actor and manager.” According to the Deputy Prime Minister for Financial and Economic Affairs, Abdullah Hammadi, the Syrian opposition coalition is the one to tackle political matters, and the Interim Government does not interfere in that.

The legal documents and the civil registration are one of the most important and thorny files in the government’s work process for the countries did not actually acknowledge it, because this acknowledgement might have many consequences, including the need to acknowledge of all the documents issued by the government, let them be passports, death, marriage, or birth certificates, et cetera.

Furthermore, the United Nations charters did not recognize the Interim Government, unlike the government of the regime which is considered as the sole representative of the “Syrian Country,” retaining its seat in the Security Council and the United Nations.

In an earlier interview in April 2016 with an American State Department official, who demanded to be anonymous, told Enab Baladi that “the Interim Government” has lost its last chance to prove its success in the Syrian arena and has taken wrong bureaucratic policies that caused the decline in its popularity.”

He explained that his country did not support the idea of establishing the government from the beginning. He added: “We told ‘Friends of Syria Group’ that the establishment of such an entity would be confusing and would lead to distraction rather than achieving its purpose, but the coalition and some friend countries insisted on that.”

The Interim Government has received support promises since its establishment, but it has been limited to Qatar and some other supporting parties. However, it has not been commensurate with the requirements and expenditure.

Unacknowledged “Salvation Government”

 Ten days have passed since the formation of the “Syrian Salvation Government” in Idlib. Despite the recent announcement and talks about political and international recognition, there are indications that confirm the absence of any political acknowledgement, whether by the major regional powers, the narrow scope of the neighbouring countries, or the parties inside Idlib.

“Big” challenges face the government’s work, and analysts believe “they are made by the leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani, who is affiliated with Hayʼat Tahrir al-Sham, to protect his organization and to covertly extend his influence in the region.”

Whereas, some parties think that Turkey contributed to its establishment, especially as the announcement coincided with the Turkish intervention in Idlib governorate and the western Aleppo countryside within the “de-escalation” agreement, which was accompanied with Turkey’s intention to have complete hegemony over Idlib, in steps similar to those followed in northern Aleppo countryside.

The “government” has only one chance to gain “partial” recognition, by looking for steps to get closer to the Turks and studying the necessary conditions for that, especially those related to the 6th and 7th agreements of Astana, which stipulate the deployment of Turkish forces at 11 observation points in Idlib governorate and the northern as well as eastern countryside of Hama.

A member of the Constituent Assembly and founder of the Free Syrian Army, Riad al-Asaad, attended the conference announcing the formation of the “government” and said that it would “properly run the region at the level in terms of services and military power, as the files are intertwined.”

He added to Enab Baladi that this “is done through competencies with specific specialties.” He considered that “the government is a project for Syria as a whole and not just for Idlib and it will save the region because it is independent and is not affiliated with a certain party.”

According to al-Asaad, the formation of the “government” comes in the context of conferences and reconciliations with the regime, and “it will save the revolution.” He stressed: “We will keep in touch with all the figures to push the project towards success, achieving people’s hopes and preserving their rights, and providing job opportunities for the displaced people and for the youth.”

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham is Leading Militarily but Unofficially

The government has designated 11 ministries: Interior, Justice, Endowments, Higher Education, Education, Health, Agriculture, Economy, Social Affairs and Displaced People, Housing and Construction and Local Administration.

There is no official announcement of the military entity that is affiliated to the “government,” which is supposed to be immediately established, yet facts refer to a military command under the “Salvation” umbrella but under the leadership of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. The current military confrontations between Noor al-Din al-Zenki Movement and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham might draw the region’s military map and those who are in charge of it.

In an interview with the head of the “government,” Muhammad al-Sheikh, he said that the plan of the Ministry of Interior in the upcoming days will be based on appointing two assistants for the Minister, the first would be for civil affairs, and the other would be for the police.

He added that he will appoint regions and districts’ managers in most cities and towns in Idlib. He pointed out that the government’s police stations are spread throughout the governorates of Idlib and Hama, and the officers are working hard to secure the citizen’s right and safety, in order to regain their trust in the police authority which they lost a long time ago.

Observers believe that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham will not give up the military leadership of Idlib, especially after a series of battles against the factions of the Free Army and the recent Islamic factions. This confirms its preparedness to receive the “military leadership” in a new form under the cover of “civil government.”

Similar sources reported that the dissolution of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham itself was again put forward in two contexts. Regarding the first context, the German news agency quoted “high profile” opposition sources saying that “the moderate wing of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham agreed to dissolve the faction and to adopt the flag of the revolution in the upcoming period.”

As for the second context, it talks about negotiations that have been held and that have discussed finding a way to give a role for the “Salvation Government” to be the civil facade of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, and its military part would be turned into the government’s Ministry of Defence.

Idlib’s Resources in the Hands of the Salvation Government … the Border Crossings Shared

Although the conflict between the two governments in Idlib and the rest of the opposition-controlled areas in the north of Syria appears to be political, it has economic backgrounds. Every government is trying to control the economic resources that guarantee its continuity, since the economy is the other face of politics and it is not possible to separate politics from economy in any region.

 

Right after its formation, the “Salvation Government” sought to find economic resources through which it could reinforce the pillars of its ruling regarding the civil and administrative services in Idlib. Last Tuesday, it took the directorates and files of water and electricity institutions, land registry, civil registry, local administration and agriculture from the “Civil Administration of Services” of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in Idlib.

Head of the “Salvation Government”, Muhammad al-Sheikh, said that “the government has met with all directors and branches of the Civil Administration, and has received all the services it manages including water, electricity, transportation and others.” He added to Enab Baladi that the government has a lot of work to do after the handover, as the previous Civil Administration has made great steps in the establishment process and the organizational work to serve citizens.”

In the previous year, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, to which the Civil Administration is affiliated, has worked on taking control of all the economic resources in the region. This has led to several conflicts and clashes between it and the existing military factions, because those who seize the governorate’s economy would extend their military control in it.

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham took control of the exchange operations in the region. In May, it issued a statement announcing the establishment of the so-called “General Organization for Cash Management and Consumer Protection,” which aims to regulate exchange operations and prevent monopoly as well as manipulation of currency prices. Analysts considered this as an attempt to take control of the management of money market, money transfers and exchange offices under various pretexts, especially that the announcement of the Organization’s formation came after a raid on several exchange offices and the confiscation of funds.

In addition, the Civil Administration imposed itself in the electricity sector, and in July, it worked on merging its electricity institution with the organization affiliated to “Harakat Ahrar al-Sham”, in an attempt by “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” to devour any service objects that stand in the way of its control over the region’s services, particularly with regards to the electricity file. This is because those who take control of the electricity lines would control the region’s economy, as everything depends on them, such as bakeries and water wells pumps. In reality, Idlib’s economy is mainly based on agriculture, and therefore it needs water and electricity, the lifeblood of any society, as economist Ayman al-Desouky previously told Enab Baladi.

Head of the Syrian Salvation Government, Muhammad al-Sheikh, during the announcement of the government’s formation in Idlib - November 2, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Head of the Syrian Salvation Government, Muhammad al-Sheikh, during the announcement of the government’s formation in Idlib – November 2, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Economic Events

In addition to receiving the tasks of the Civil Administration, the government has started with organizing meetings with economic figures. It attended a meeting of the Economists’ Union, which organized a conference entitled “With our Resources we Build our Economy” in Idlib, in order to activate and organize the economic work in the province.

The dean of the Faculty of Administrative Sciences, Dr. Hussam al-Ahmad, told Enab Baladi that “the major role of the Economists’ Union is to mobilize professional and academic economic potentials to provide all its research possibilities in order to study economic problems. It is also a major source which provides all the parties with studies and experiences.”

Al-Ahmad added that the Union will contribute to building the national economy through the general vision and relying on self-resources “away from the dictates or policies of intervention.” He pointed out that there are many resources which need to be revived and to be “optimally exploited,” as “there are a lot of funding sources which we will later resort to in light of the general vision of the new government.”

The War of Border Crossings with the Interim Government

The new government might enter into a conflict with the Syrian Interim Government over controlling the border crossings with Turkey, because of the large financial resources the controlling party can gain at the crossings due to the commercial movement.

The “Interim Government” is suffering from a resources crisis, especially after stopping the support of the Trust Fund of the member states of “Friends of Syria”. The salaries of its employees have been suspended starting from the beginning of August and their work has been considered as voluntary, and without any financial dues, provided that it would pay them a monthly bonus in accordance with the available possibilities and the percentage of each employee’s working time.

The assistant of the Minister of Economy in the Interim Government, Abdel Hakim al-Masri explained that “the government’s support is mainly limited due to the lack of internal resources, sometimes it can afford the salaries, and at other times it cannot.”

As a result, the Interim Government has turned to seeking internal resources in order to find its means in the border crossings. Thus, it has started negotiating with the Turkish government to get the crossings and supervise them. Indeed, in October 10, it took control of “Bab al-Salama” crossing in the northern countryside of Aleppo, and so its revenues that do not exceed $40,000 a day will be transferred to the government’s treasury, according to the director of the crossing Qasim Qasim’s statement to Enab Baladi.

After the government took over Bab al-Salama crossing, discussions about controlling all the border crossings have been launched, especially the strategic Bab al-Hawa crossing in the northern region, which is under the civil administration of “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham”.

However, after the Salvation Government has been formed and has taken control of all services in Idlib, “Bab al-Hawa” was the only issue that was left unresolved, which may trigger a conflict with the interim government. The Turkish government, then, will have the last say in relation to this issue.

 

The Race for Services Delivery between “Salvation” and “Interim”

Idlib has more than 2.9 million civilians, many of whom have been displaced from other areas, according to the interim government statistics.

A new entity that tries to achieve control over service management and operation has emerged, and its emergence coincided with the “Syrian General Conference” held in the end of last August. This conference gave birth to a political body that has established the waited-for entity days before and that was introduced as “the Syrian Salvation Government.” This entity threatened to take the services and civil files from the system of the interim government.

The “Salvation Government” extended its reach to the joints of the services and civil sectors in the Idlib governorate in an attempt to manage them after it took the facilities which have been handed over by the “Civil Services Administration” affiliated to “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham” in early November, after it announced the formation of 11 ministries in order to start working, one of which is the Local Administration Ministry.

Fadhel Abdul Kader Taleb, born in Hafasraja in Idlib, 1967, was appointed as Minister of Local Administration by the government. He holds a civil engineering degree, and works with the Department of the displaced affairs as a supervisor and researcher for service projects.

Therefore, the Interim Government attracted attention as the body which is responsible for managing most of the local councils in the governorate that consider that “any new entity resulting from a military change in any city will have no authority or relationship to the civil status administration or the councils.” However, at the same time the Interim Government is trying to find a solution for this issue, as ministers in it said.

 “Salvation Government” Manages Services of Idlib

“Salvation Government” met with the civil administration in Idlib, previously affiliated to “Tahrir al-Sham”, with all its directors and branches, and has thus become responsible for the delivery of services such as water, electricity, transportation and other services that the former used to run before, according to its head, Mohammed al-Sheikh. He stated to Enab Baladi that some massive work is awaiting them after the handover due to the fact that the previous civil administration “has gone a long way in establishing and organizing work in order to serve the citizens.”

According to al-Sheikh, “each ministry will work on studying the institutions that are affiliated to it and their structures and then work to develop them.” He stressed that “the only reference for local councils and provincial councils is the government’s work in all areas such agriculture, statistics, consensus and services.”

The head of “Salvation Government” described his institution as “the only reference and no one has the right to work without recourse to it, otherwise we will commit the same mistake as the factions.” He considered that it “will succeed in alleviating the suffering of the people.”

Jawad Abu Hatab, head of the Interim Government at a primary school, during his visit to the town of Suran in Aleppo countryside - February 5, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Jawad Abu Hatab, head of the Interim Government at a primary school, during his visit to the town of Suran in Aleppo countryside – February 5, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

The Interim Government since Formation

  • Ghassan Hitto failed to form a government between March and September 2013.
  • The Interim Government of the Syrian opposition was established in September 2013 and headed by Ahmed Tu’mah, who served for two terms until May 2016.
  • Jawad Abu Hatab assumed the leadership of the government in July 2016, after the Tu’mah government era was over, and most of its ministers were inside Syria.

How the “Salvation Government” was Formed

  • The “Civil Administration Initiative” was held by academics in Idlib on 24 August 2017.
  • The President of Idlib University, Mohammed al-Sheikh, was appointed to form a “government” to administer the liberated areas after the Syrian General Conference was held on 17 September 2017.
  • The constituent assembly, which was the result of the conference, was named the “Syrian Salvation Government” on 2 November 2017.


“Interim” Looking for a Way out

The Ministry of Local Administration in the Interim Government considered the formation of the “Syrian Salvation” as a consolidation of the division of Syria. In an interview with Enab Baladi, Minister of Local Administration, Mohammed al-Muthib described the newly formed government as “the damaging government that has emerged in an area where the supporting bodies are seeking to divide Syria into smaller states.”

According to al-Muthib, the Interim government which is “the sole and legitimate representative of the Syrian people” rejects the new formation “because it is a distraction to collective action.” He stressed that “its inauguration conference was limited to a certain group of people with the support of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham after it has completely confiscated the whole region.”

Salvation government is limited to Idlib governorate and has no representation in other parts of Syria. According to the local administration minister, “every local council that refused to deal with it was put aside and an alternative to it was found.” He stated that “we are coordinating with the local councils and working to fulfill all of our duties.”

“We seek an understanding with the alleged government,” said al-Muthib who talked about the meetings of ministers residing in the region, with its head, Mohammed al-Sheikh. However, all these meetings failed because of “lack of understanding of the pressure exercised on them,” according to the minister. He pointed out that “communication is continuing in order to find a way out of this issue, and designate a single entity represented by one single government, whose members are legal representatives of the Syrian people.”

The “Salvation Government” has tried to connect with the Syrian South, Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa, “but they refused to deal with it,” said the minister of local administration. He stressed that “some of the local councils, which are still under their control, are still communicating with us until today. We are cautiously coordinating fearing the attacks of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s fighters.”

The Salvation government’s control over the services limited the work of local councils, but the minister of services in the interim Abdullah Razooq told Enab Baladi that the process is going on as it was before the formation of the new entity, in all the councils we have accredited.

According to Razooq, “any council that wants to come out and declare its affiliation to the salvation government then this is its own choice.” He also declared that “today everyone is contributing to the delivery of services to citizens as quickly and easily as possible, and there are internationally classified parties working in Idlib. In case any interaction with the new government has been proved support policy will change.”

According to the vision that the minister of services holds, “the salvation government gathered up academics that formed an entity outside of national legitimacy, through a conference whose attendants no one of the citizens knew”. He explained the situation saying that” they called the people to the conference and appointed themselves in the government and this violates the protocols of conferences in the world, which guarantee any organizer to be away from positions. ”

According to Razooq, the legitimate authorities in Syria are the local councils. He stated that the legitimacy of the government is manifested in the presence of representatives of official and legitimate bodies. “This did not happen in the General Conference, which greatly contributed to the division of the civil fronts, the same way the regime and the Russians divided the military fronts.”

Despite the mistakes of the opposition coalition and the Interim Government, these institutions have always established the idea of full national unity in Syria without any local rule, according to the minister of services. He stressed that “the interim government respects some people in [the newly formed body], but it does not agree with their tendencies. It would always try to protect civilians, especially in Idlib, as they represent all social groups in Syria.”

Man in the News… the “Idlib Rescue” Mission in the Hands of Mohammed al-Sheikh

The name of Mohammed al-Sheikh, who took over the presidency of the Syrian Salvation Government, has reverberated since he was appointed to form a government, described as “a project to save Syria, not just Idlib.”

The government, headed by al-Sheikh, who was born in the village of Baqlid in rural Idlib in 1960, is accused of belonging to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, working to pull the rug from under the feet of the interim government headed by Dr. Jawad Abu Hatab and refuse to distract the work in the liberated areas through the formation of new institutions.

Al-Sheikh was the head of Idlib University once. Although the government was newly formed, he considers it as the “only reference” in the region according to what he declared to Enab Baladi, especially after receiving service facilities from the Civil Administration for Services, which is affiliated to Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, which is classified as a “terrorist organization”, takes control of Idlib joints. There was a threat from regional states to strike the province before a “quiet” Turkish ground intervention in some fronts, according to the outcome of the “de-escalation” agreement of Astana.

Turkish officials have said that they have taken responsibility for “maintaining security” in the region, so the “government” is thought to be formed through Ankara’s coordination or facilitation.

Al-Sheikh, who was licensed in Mathematics and graduated from the University of Tishreen in 1984, lived in Lattakia. He was then sent to France in 1986 to prepare for and get his PhD, which he obtained in algebra in 1992.

He was seconded to Saudi Arabia between 1998 and 2004 and then returned to work as a teacher in the mathematics department at Tishreen University.

After the revolution al-Sheikh worked as an activist until the opposition took control of the town of Salma in 2012 and settled in his home in the Blue Valley near the town on Kurds Mountains. He then founded the Directorate of Education there in 2013 in coordination with “al-Ahrar” Teachers’ Union. He remained Director of Education until Idlib fell in March 2015.

 

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