Demonstrations in Aleppo Countryside Against “Corrupt” Local Councils
Enab Baladi – Aleppo Countryside
Fridays in Syria remain inexorably linked to popular demonstrations, after having become a symbol for days of protest after 2011, in which demonstrators chanted slogans which called for the overthrow of the regime and demanded the release of detainees. Today, the Syrian north witnesses a different wave of protests calling for the elimination of corruption, while opposition to the Syrian regime remains a prominent slogan and a demand that cannot be waived.
In the northern countryside of Aleppo, hundreds of civilians emerged on Friday April 5, to take part in popular demonstrations in Suran and its surrounding villages along with the city of al-Bab. Demonstrators chanted in protest to “administrative corruption” relating to the local council in the district and the city.
According to the Enab Baladi correspondent in the Aleppo countryside, a “substantial” demonstration took place in which hundreds of villagers from the Suran area protested against administrative corruption in the local councils.
The reporter explained that demonstrators called for the holding of “free” local council elections in Suran. These protests coincided with the emergence of other demonstrations by al-Bab locals against “the corrupt” and calling to hold them accountable, while stressing “the continuation of the peaceful uprising.”
People are Tired
Samir Moussa, a doctor and participant in the Suran demonstration, told Enab Baladi that they have taken to the streets to protest administrative corruption in the local council. “These people have not provide any kind of services the areas relating to electricity, water, medical or health.”
“People have grown tired and frustrated. (…)There are no emergency or health services, roads, water or electricity,” Moussa said, adding that “through the current demonstrations, people are demanding the change of local council members, and to bring in academics and good people who would work in service of the area. (…) We need people who are hardworking and tireless, and who respect the people whom they represent.”
Mohammed Bakour, who had formerly been detained for six years by the Syrian regime, said, “When I left detention, I was surprised by the presence of another ‘Bashar’ in the area, against a backdrop of injustice, embezzlement of funds and oppression of the displaced and refugees (…) from all segments of society.”
Speaking to Enab Baladi, Bakour added, “We request from the Turks to hold accountable those who are corrupt, because they do not differ from the Syrian regime, and deserve to be punished. (…) I suffered for six years in prison, and was surprised that people in the countryside of Aleppo suffer from everything,” he said.
“How can Turks turn a blind eye to the corrupt people in charge of the administration of the area?” he wondered.
Tensions in Al-Bab
Turkey also supervises local councils in the northern countryside of Aleppo, whose work is done in coordination with Turkish provinces such as Gaziantep, Kilis and Hatay.
In recent months, these councils have announced that they are proceeding with a series of measures to regulate the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo, through projects pertaining to health and medical services, as well as the needs of local and displaced people in the area.
According to the Enab Baladi correspondent, the Suran Local Council is a central council with the sub-councils in nearby villages, such as Ehtmeilat, Kafra, Ra’el, Duweibek and others.
As for demonstrations in Al-Bab, they broke out weeks after similar protests took place last March, in which people took to the streets to protest corruption in the security services. This took place after a campaign was carried out by the General Intelligence against drug traffickers in the city, which ended in clashes between the two sides.
The clashes between the intelligence services and the gunmen accused of drug trafficking resulted in one death and one injury. Three of the intelligence agents then turned themselves in, to the military police, which in turn arrested them.
The protesters called for the immediate release of those arrested, as well as “putting an end to drug trafficking, theft and corruption” and what they described as “corruption in the security” represented by public institutions, especially the security services, according to their description.
Azaz as a Model
The current developments in the Aleppo countryside date back the month of August 2018, when residents of Azaz held a sit-in for 40 days demanding the dismissal of the local council, which they accused of corruption.
The sit-in ended on September 23, 2018, following promises given to the demonstrators that the mandate of the council would expire by the end of 2018, and that new elections would be held in the beginning of 2019.