Idlib Governorate Follows the Steps of “Euphrates Shield” and “Olive Branch” Areas

Hamza Division surrendering its military school to the Ministry of Defense under the Interim Syrian government, northern rural Aleppo – November 1, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Hamza Division surrendering its military school to the Ministry of Defense under the Interim Syrian government, northern rural Aleppo – November 1, 2017 (Enab Baladi)


Idlib’s military factions started the implementation of the first term of the Turkish-Russian deal, which the two states have lately signed as to establish a buffer zone at the length of the fronts at the governorate’s surrounding, with a width of 25 kilometers. The zone will be demilitarized to prevent any confrontations with Assad’s forces on the one hand, and to secure the Russian posts, spreading near it, on the other.

In the past a few days, points of controversy were addressed in the “Idlib Deal,” which have been passed following meetings between Idlib’s factions and the Turkish side, through which the latter stressed that Russian patrol are not carried out in the buffer zone, to be limited to the opposition areas basically, unlike what has been stated after the declaration of the deal.

According to what military sources from the “Free Army” have told Enab Baladi, the area, agreed upon, is decided to be completely ready on October 15, pointing out that the two factions of “Idlib’s Free Army” and the “al-Sham Legion” started to withdraw the field guns from the eastern flank of Idlib governorate because heavy weaponry, including tanks and armored vehicles, were formerly placed at the rear lines.

The sources explained that these steps are not limited to specific factions, as they will be applied to all, including the “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham,” which approved the agreement completely, but in an implicit undeclared manner, taking into consideration the internal rift among its leaders.

What proves “Tahrir al-Sham’s” approval of the “Sochi” deal is the latest step it undertook in rural Lattakia, for it prevented the “Guardians of Religion” Organization from launching a military attack against the Assad’s forces’ positions, as not to violet the deal’s terms.

Military Organization; Troops’ Personal Information and Weaponry’s Inventory Requested

Following the declaration of Idlib’s deal, Turkey and Russia explained that it will be implemented in stages, the first of which would be the establishment of the demilitarized zone, after which the work will be on reopening the two strategic highways, Damascus-Aleppo and Lattakia-Aleppo, on the condition that this be executed prior to 2019. Once this is realized, talks will address the administration that will be running the governorate, whether following the “Euphrates Shield” area, managed by the local councils with a Turkish guidance, or a return to the Syrian regime, but under a decentralized administrative order.

In sync with the preparation of the buffer zone, Turkey has undertaken a few procedures concerning the governorate at a military level, which took two dimensions; it requested that the factions provide it with the personal information of their troops and the type and the amount of weaponry they possess.

A source from the “Free Army,” informed of the “Sochi” deal’s terms, said that the Turkish intelligence services have requested a report from the factions, containing the photo, name and other details related to each of their personnel, in addition to conducting an inventory of the light, medium and heavy weapons of all types.

He added that the Turkish order is not limited to certain factions, but all have to provide the demands, including the “Tahrir al-Sham.”

Turkey has started sponsoring the “Free Army” factions in Idlib since last February, and it had played a major role in their merger into the “National Front for Liberation.”

The “National Front” and the “Tahrir al-Sham” are the top factions in Idlib’s military landscape, in addition to the “Jaysh al-Izza” (Army of Glory), the northern countryside of Hama, which refused to integrate with any of the formations in the past months.

The source explained that the step undertaken by the Turkish intelligence service resembles what it has previously done in the area of the “Euphrates Shield,” northern rural Aleppo, and the “Olive Branch,” Afrin area, pointing out that requesting the personal information of the troops is to know the fake numbers on the one hand and to organize them under the “National Army” in the future on the other.


Civic Organization

The procedures undertaken by Turkey were not limited to the military dimension, as it also started to work on the civic dimension, especially since that the governorate is a home for about four million civilians, after the many waves of displaced people it has received, the last of which came from the two governorates of Daraa and Qunitera.

The procedures are represented by conducting a civic census in Idlib. From the people of the city of Ariha, Enab Baladi managed to get information that the city’s foundations have asked the civilians to provide them with a family registry record of each of the families present in the city.

The people said that that issuing the registry record is demanded from all families, both which have a family record book and those who do not have it.

The census corresponds to a state of security chaos, due to which dozens of civilians and militants died, while “Islamic State” affiliated cells are accused of the incidents. In addition to this, the governorate is suffering from deteriorating services, civil and administrative organization, in addition to the random military and security status, imposed by the various factions present in it and the absence of a central rule, to refer to when disputes or problems erupt.

The civic steps undertaken by Turkey cannot be seen as separate from the latest developments in relation to the “Interim” and the “Salvation” governments, which in the past a few days were demanded to dissolve themselves by activists, who hid their identity fearing detention.

The demands came against the background of the “massive failure of the one-sided “Interim” and “Salvation” governments concerning the provision of any services to the civilians or the betterment of the living conditions,” in addition to the “processes of alienation, oppression, restriction imposed on the popular entities, organizations and local councils, as well as the “Salvation’s” monopoly over the civic action for more than a year.”

The activists declared that the governorate today needs to seek the formation of an integral local body, of all the civic entities in the liberated areas, without alienation or discrimination, through which “revolutionary elites and competent personalities be in management, taking their positions as to advance the civic situation throughout the area.”

Last September, Nasir Turkmani, analyst specialized in the Turkish affairs, said: “The reasons that two governments, one called “Interim” and the other called “Salvation,” exist in the liberated areas are almost annihilated.”

“Soon, we might witness steps towards the birth of a government that represent all the stripes of the opposition spectrum in Syria, which is more institutionalized and supportive,” he added.

The “National Front for Liberation” and the “Tahrir al-Sham” have discussed several points concerning Idlib’s future during the last meeting that joined them last September; they also addressed, according to a source informed of the meeting, the form of the upcoming government that will run the governorate, in addition to the structure both in terms of organization and the status of the “Religion Guardians” Organization and the hard-liner factions after the implementation of the buffer zone deal.


Differing Slogans

Shifting to other circumstances witnessed by Idlib, the demonstrations are yet continuing, basically following the Friday prayers, in addition to evening demonstrations in the cities of Binnish, Kafr Nabl, and Maarrat al-Nu’man.

The demonstrations in Northern Syria started early in September, called for by civilian activists, according to which the principal squares in the cities, towns and villages attracted demonstrators of all classes; thus, the “Friday, after the prayers” tradition returned to define the timing of the gatherings.

On Friday, October 5, the demonstrations were different from their predecessors, for the demonstrators repeated various slogans, including ones relating to the “Higher Negotiations Committee,” considering that “it does not represent Syrians.” This came after calls defined the “Negotiations Committee Does Not Represent Us” slogan as the major demand throughout the areas of the “liberated” Northern Syria.

Walid al-Mohammad, coordinator under the “Syrian Revolution Coordination [Offices],” told Enab Baladi that the Fridays are titled based on the suggestions of the coordinators of the sectors inside the country, then the suggestions are collected and presented before a legal committee as to be in agreement with the demands.

After this, the suggestions are presented in a “WhatsApp” room, containing of a group of “trusted politicians, intellectuals and activists who proved a massive effectiveness in action organization.”

According to al-Mohammad, in the room a voting process is conducted as to choose one of the proposed slogans for Friday, after which three names are chosen, which win the larger number of votes, and presented in the form of a survey, posted on the “Syrian Revolution Network,” on “Facebook,” which lead to the final result.

Concerning the slogan chosen the “Negotiations Committee Does Not Represent Us,” Naser al-Hariri criticized the title, saying, in an interview on the al-Arabiya “al-Hadath” channel: “Two days ago, an officer told me that the regime generalized a campaign on its allies and establishments to vote on the names of the Friday demonstrations.”

“The regime will be happy upon seeing that there are people who doubt the side struggling to overthrow the regime and for democratic change in Syria,” he added.

“The slogan annoyed several movements, parties, and even personalities affiliated with the Negotiations Committee, which made a bid of and compromised principal issues under the Syrian cause, on top of which is the detainees,” the activist confirmed the rift which happened during the Friday demonstrations, but he pointed out that it was already there, even before the statements of Naser al-Hariri and the “Negotiation Committee’s” personalities, explaining that despite all this the “street and the activists had a high degree of political awareness, and the demonstrations were excellently organized, registering more than 140 demonstrating points throughout the sectors of the liberated area.”

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