Syrians pick up pieces amid deepening crisis

Syrians pick up pieces amid deepening crisis

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Syrians pick up pieces amid deepening crisis

A Syrian boy clears rainwater from the porch of the family house in the al-Fardos neighbourhood of Aleppo on December 7, 2012. Syrian opposition groups had agreed in Doha last month to sink their differences and form a single body in the hope of getting direct aid, including crucial anti-aircraft weapons, to combat President Assad. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN

As major world powers try to find a solution to end the conflict in war-ravaged Syria, different Syrian opposition groups are trying to organize civilian local administration councils to provide for civilians lacking basic municipal, health and humanitarian services in the so-called “liberated areas” of Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Dec. 7 for all parties with influence in Syria to make a “concerted push” together to halt the conflict.

Clinton said there had been no “great breakthrough” during talks in Dublin on Dec. 6 with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but said there would be further meetings.

“All of us with any influence on the process, with any influence on the regime or the opposition, need to be engaged with Brahimi for a concerted, sincere push to see what is possible,” Clinton said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also urged the importance of a solution to the conflict. “Russia and the United States agreed for our experts to meet in the coming days with Brahimi and his people for a brainstorm session and an exchange of opinions on how to move forward toward a resolution,” Lavrov said.

Meanwhile, Turkish government sources confirmed that Turkey and Russia had agreed to work on a plan for “political change” in Syria, following the Kremlin’s announcement that diplomats from both countries would “soon start working on new ideas” for ending the conflict in Syria, the Hürriyet Daily News reported Dec. 7.

While the international community looks for a long-term solution in Syria, the Syrian people are trying to organize among themselves in order to provide basic services for civilians.

Currently, there are three different local civil administration councils that have been working in the country to improve the situation for civilians. The Syrian Local Administration Councils (SLAC), which is a subgroup of the main opposition body, the Syrian National Coalition, organized a meeting in Istanbul on Dec. 6, attended by 95 people from the different local councils in Syria.

The spokesperson of the council, Halit Ekad from Dara province, said there were currently 14 local administration councils in 14 different Syrian cities.

A prominent member of the Syrian National Coalition, Khaled Khoja, who was present at the meeting, said the local councils had started operating in July 2012 and were still continuing with their work.
“The councils work in the liberated areas and try to provide municipal services, humanitarian aid, health services and security services to the civilian people who are basically abandoned and on their own,” Khoja told the Daily News on Dec. 6.

Another body of local administrations, called the Civil Administration Councils (CAC), was set to organize a large meeting in Ankara this weekend with its members. CAC is headed by Omar Shawaf, a Syrian dissident who was forced to leave his country 30 years ago.

“We expect 150 people to attend the meeting and 90 percent of them will be coming from Syria. We have also invited official representatives and NGOs from Western countries. We expect wide participation,” Shawaf said on Dec. 5.

CAC has an office in the Levent district of Istanbul, where it provides training to Syrian activists in different fields such as physiology of the injured, coordination, logistics and civil defense.

“We pay 4,500 Turkish Liras per month for this office from our own pockets. We have not received financial help from any country yet. Everything you see here is done and paid for by the volunteers,” Shawaf said.

“Most of the countries direct their financial support to either political or armed opposition groups. We knocked on all the doors, we wanted support from many countries, but unfortunately the international community does not care about civilian help very much,” he added.

A third body of local administrations called the Civil Administrations Council of Syria (CACS) has also been contributing to municipal and humanitarian work along with the other two councils. CACS is headed by Syrian dissident Saer al-Haji.

CACS has an office in the central Taksim district of Istanbul, the rent for which is paid by the organization, according to al-Haji. He said CACS was the first group to organize civil administration councils in Syria, but they had not received any financial aid whatsoever from any countries, including Turkey, up to now.