Cards Bearing New “National Number” Issued to Residents of Aleppo Countryside
Wael Gomaa, a displaced young man from the Homs countryside currently living in the northern Aleppo countryside, holds two personal identification cards. The first was obtained from the civil registry in his hometown at 14 years of age, while the second was issued from the civil registry of the local councils operating in the northern region of Syria – supervised by Turkey.
Each card bears a “national number” that is unique to each individual, which young Wael sees as not promoting the partition of Syria. However, this latest development gives a clear picture of the situation in Syria eight years after the revolution, as territories are divided between parties to the conflict which are controlled by state sponsors, and each region has distinct characteristics in all aspects of life, social or economic or others.
The young man said to Enab Baladi that the recent card he obtained after arriving in the countryside of Aleppo is “important as it unifies the liberated areas, and relieving the burden of residents, especially those displaced from other areas,” whether Daraa or Eastern Ghouta, or the northern Homs countryside. He considered that each city in Syria has its own civil registry, which “does not relate to partition.”
In early 2018, local councils operating in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo, under Turkish supervision, began issuing personal cards to residents of the area, both local and displaced from areas controlled by the Syrian regime. This came as part of a series of regulatory measures in the region in terms of services, education and health, which aimed to unify civil affairs as one of its main agenda items.
The issuing of personal cards was considered the first step of its kind in areas beyond Syrian regime control, and a novel experiment by the Syrian opposition, whose institutions failed over the past few years to issue passports or certificates of death, marriage, birth or others.
Legal documents and civil registration are one of the most intractable issues for the Interim Government. States did not recognize them in any realistic sense, as such recognition has many consequences, including the recognition of all legal documents issued by them.
In Arabic and Turkish
The flag of the Syrian revolution is on to the right side of the card, issued by local councils in the Aleppo countryside, and on the left is the holder’s photo. Below are the boxes for the national number, surname, name, and the date and place of birth.
On its other side, the card contains boxes for the place of registration, the father’s name, the mother’s name, gender and date of birth, in both Arabic and Turkish.
The issuing of identification cards was not limited to some local councils in the northern and eastern parts of Aleppo, as they all conduct civil registration activities in a move to regulate civil affairs in the area on the one hand, and to help the local and displaced population to better conduct their official affairs, from birth certificates to other applications. Additionally, there is a security function to knowing the residents of the area, and fending off fraud and counterfeiting, and the grave issues that result from such chaos.
Most Syrians, especially those coming from areas subject to attacks and military operations, seek personal identification cards and family records from the Directorate General for Civil Status in Damascus, through a network linking Syrian governorates.
However, access to official documents has become complicated in recent years, especially for displaced people and refugees outside Syria, as their issuance now requires a long series of routine procedures and security approvals.
Recognized by Turkey
The head of the legal office in the Akhtarin Local Council, Mohammad Haj Qassem, said that the process of issuing personal identification cards in the countryside of Aleppo is ongoing, and is not confined to one area without but is rather being conducted from Jarabulus to Afrin – without exception.
Haj Qassem added to Enab Baladi that the rate of issuance for these cards has reached a good level, and about half of the people in the area, of northern and eastern Aleppo, have now received their cards.
As for the cards, they are documented and recognized by the Turkish side. According to Haj Qassem, there is coordination with the Turkish government in this matter, as the cards are recognized at border crossings, as well as universities which accept the admission of Syrian students based on their certificates issued in the liberated areas.
The official in the Local Council explained that recognition of identification cards was discussed with the Turkish side in more than one area, such as registration of mobile phone plans, and all citizens’ affairs.
Director of the Civil Registry at the Azaz Local Council, Ammar Shammo, said that the total number of cards issued by the Civil Registry in the city reached 75,000 including males, females and children, amounting to 40% of the current population.
Speaking to Enab Baladi, Shammo added that the Civil Registry issues new identification cards to all age groups, including newborn children. These cards are permanent and connected to all government departments and institutions operating in the Euphrates Shield areas as well as the Olive Branch area of Afrin.
It is worth noting that the card issued by local councils in rural Aleppo target children from the ages of one day to fourteen years, but without the presence of fingerprint and personal photo. They are then renewed by adding the fingerprint and photo after having completed 14 years of age.
While the Directorate General of the Civil Registry, under the Syrian regime, requires that identification card only be issued after completing 14 years, both for males and females.
According to Shammo, the cards bear a national number and a code number to prevent counterfeiting. The cards issued by the local councils in the Aleppo countryside are connected to the Turkish civil registry, and their holders can enter Turkey. He indicated that the importance of these cards lies in the fact that it cannot be forged or counterfeited, and are valid for use in all the administrative departments in the region.
An Identification Card, But Not an ID
In interviews with civil registry officials in local councils of rural Aleppo, they refused to consider the cards they issue as an alternative to the Syrian ID, saying it was an “identification card” aimed at facilitating the affairs of civilians in the liberated north of Syria.
“These cards are not IDs in the conventional sense, but an identification card that does not contribute to promoting the partition of Syria,” Ammar Shammo explained.
This was confirmed by Mohammad Haj Qassem, who referenced the fact that they are only identification cards for citizens, aimed at reducing counterfeit documents in the area. This was especially the case because many have lost their official documents as a result of the war and displacement, and “this is the main aim,” Haj Qassem said.
According to Haj Qassem, the procedures for obtaining the card are determined by the family record, or the original government-issued ID. In case of the absence of any such document, the citizen is required to obtain a certificate of identification from the Mukhtar or the local council.
The papers required to issue an identification card are an old personal ID, a family record, a passport or an identification document from the Mukhtar issued with the presence of witnesses.
In the same context, Ammar Shamo discussed the issues that the Civil Registry in Azaz had addressed in the past, which mostly concerned the documentation of “civil events” in the area, including births, marriages and deaths, etc., since 2013.
He noted that despite the issuance of new identification cards to citizens in the countryside of Aleppo, some still resort to registering births in the Syrian regime registries, through intermediaries and agents who complete the applications.
Dealing Exclusively in the New card
The local councils in the Aleppo countryside have not only issued personal cards to citizens over the past months, but have since early 2019 restricted their dealings to these new cards. They also issued directives regarding dealing in these card for all government departments, National Police stations, as well as hospitals and medical centers.
According to Mohammed Haj Qassem, the Akhtarin Local Council issued directives on exclusive use of new cards in official departments across the northern Aleppo countryside. Other local councils in the northern Aleppo countryside have also taken similar measures.
He adds that the purpose of this step is to curtain counterfeiting, and mitigating fears that the rights of civilians could be lost.
In April 2019, the Jarabulus Local Council issued a directive to all official departments and institutions with the same jurisdiction of its civil registry, as well as the civil and military police, hospitals and medical units in Jarabulus and its environs.
He demanded that the Council not accept any applications or reviews without presenting identification card newly issued by the civil registry in the city.