Displaced associations in Azaz seek to improve living conditions, preserve rights
Aleppo countryside – Abdul Karim al-Thalji
The military operations launched by the Syrian regime forces in various cities and towns for more than a decade have caused waves of internal displacement and campaigns of forced displacement of the population to opposition-held areas in northwestern Syria.
With the absence of any solutions to return the Syrian citizens to their homes, which they left under the weight of the bombardment, the demands of the displaced have increased, and their needs have increased, prompting a number of displaced activists in the city of Azaz, on the border with Turkey, to organize themselves and launch the “General Commission for the Displaced in Azaz,” in late 2021.
The Commission is an independent gathering that includes representatives of all forcibly displaced persons to the north of Syria, and residents of the city of Azaz, with the aim of uniting their efforts within a unified framework to meet their needs and create a voice that defends their rights in all forums and platforms, whether inside or outside Syria.
The initiative does not receive any financial support from the official or unofficial authorities in the city of Azaz and relies on donations from its members to try to cover the expenses, according to those in charge of it.
Lawyer Yahya Hamsho, who is the director of the General Administration for the Displaced and a displaced person from the city of Maarat al-Numan in rural Idlib to Azaz, told Enab Baladi that the goal of the Displaced Authority is “to gather the capacities of the Syrian civil society, organize and develop them as much as possible to be more effective in rebuilding what was destroyed in the Syrian society, and directing these energies to be in the service of the Syrian revolution.”
The internal regulations of the assembly were also issued. There is the general body that includes all the displaced from Azaz, the secretariat office, the case management office, and several offices to organize the work of the displaced, which include representatives of all the displaced communities in Azaz.
The Commission operates in Azaz and its countryside, as it has been licensed by the official authorities present there, and it seeks to develop its work and spread to all regions of northern Syria.
Hamsho said that the Displaced Persons Commission believes in achieving community development, awareness, oversight, support, and advocacy for lofty societal values, strengthening the participatory social fabric on the basis of equal opportunities, and respect for human rights, justice, and equality.
The Commission also works to support and coordinate the community movement by all means, and support institutions to play their role, in addition to supporting the role of women and empowering them in the social, economic, and political fields so that they can take their role in public and private life.
The Displaced Commission seeks to help the unemployed to enable them to secure a decent living and to encourage individuals and groups to establish development projects, according to Hamsho.
Difficulties and challenges
The poor capabilities of the displaced, who lost their properties in their cities and villages from which they were displaced, prevents them from securing their needs and compounds the challenges of life in light of the deteriorating economic conditions in the region.
Hamsho told Enab Baladi that there are necessary tools to achieve the goals of the association within which the work is being carried out, including taking a greater role in society, represented by “creating professional scientific training programs, through launching workshops and studying specific and general cases in the displaced community. In addition to holding periodic seminars and conferences dealing with the affairs of the displaced and trying to communicate their voices and demands to the highest levels.”
The lawyer added that planning, preparing programs, providing consultations and research, following up the implementation of projects, and documenting them with field reports are one of the necessities of working in the assembly, in addition to managing and implementing awareness campaigns.
For his part, Thaer Abu Sharkh, the representative of the displaced Palestinians in northern Syria and a member of the General Administration for the Displaced in Azaz, believes that the administration in the city of Azaz has been able to build a network of good relations with the actors in the region, including institutions and civil groups concerned with public affairs.
Regarding the difficulties of the work of the Displaced Administration, Thaer Abu Sharkh said that there is a great responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the displaced, especially those who live in tents, with the need to secure their living requirements, and because the work of the assembly is independent and self-supporting, this limits the expansion of activities, due to the weak financial capabilities, which impede holding seminars, events, and various civil activities.
Abu Sharkh added that the governmental system in northern Syria and the multiplicity of existing authorities hinder the working mechanism, as there are institutions belonging to the two governments (the “Interim” and “Salvation Government”) and others affiliated to the local councils and each party operates according to an independent mechanism in relief work that does not allow any party to interfere by virtue of its influence and control, so we cannot provide assistance directly to the displaced people.
According to Abu Sharkh, those in charge of the gathering seek to reorganize and restructure the public administration, document all the displaced in clear lists, and launch a special conference for the displaced to elect a new work and management body to take a clear role, activate the role of youth, and pay attention to empowering women to take a broader role.
Palestinian Displaced Association
A number of activists worked to establish the Association of the Displaced Palestinians in Northern Syria, in 2019, before obtaining a license on December 20, 2020, to be an independent civil framework active in the camps and gatherings of the Palestinian-Syrian displaced to the regions of northern Syria.
According to the association’s director, Thaer Abu Sharkh, it includes all volunteer activists and local actors who wish to help and serve the displaced Palestinians-Syrians in various aspects related to their societal, civil, and humanitarian conditions.
The Association seeks to defend the individual and collective rights of the displaced, protect their Palestinian national identity, and mobilize and unify their voices and demands within Syrian society, of which they form an authentic and active part of its national and societal fabric.
Abu Sharkh added that the Association succeeded in finding a platform to help the displaced Palestinians in northern Syria to overcome the obstacles that affect their rights and interests, the most important of which is the settlement of their legal and civil status in a way that preserves their Palestinian identity, through cooperation with all local bodies and organizations concerned with the affairs of the displaced.
The association’s administrators appointed a special mayor (mukhtar) for Palestinian families in Azaz to follow up on births and extract documents and identification papers in cooperation with the Civil Registry and the local council in Azaz.
The General Directorate for Palestinian Affairs was also established in the Syrian Interim Government (SIG)’s areas in late 2022 to follow up on the civil and legal affairs of the displaced in the north.
According to Thaer Abu Sharkh, the association worked on projects related to property rights, housing, and oral memory by documenting the forced displacement of Palestinian families from the regions of Syria and introducing lectures on the conditions of Palestinian refugees in the north.
The number of displaced Palestinian families from the Yarmouk camp, Khan al-Shih, Handarat, and southern Damascus to northern Syria is about 1,600, according to the director of the Association of Displaced Palestinians. They are distributed in the areas of Azaz, al-Bab, Afrin, and Idlib. They live in residential gatherings for the displaced Palestinians, and part of them live in cities.
The Association cooperates with all the actors in the north to help the displaced, to highlight their cause and role in a way that preserves the Palestinian identity within the Syrian fabric and society of which they have become a part, as those in charge of it seek.
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