The Civilian Administration of the Insurgency in Aleppo, Syria

Free Syrian Army soldier in Aleppo
Free Syrian Army soldier in Aleppo. Photo: Voice of America News: Scott Bobb/Wikimedia Commons.

[A version of this article was first published by Noria Research] [en français]

Despite limited human capacity and financial means, civilian institutions have nevertheless emerged this year in the zones conquered by the insurrection movement in northern Syria. Reconstructing an administrative system from the bottom-up has enabled the public service system to restart, and it constitutes the basis for an alternative to the Damascus regime. The management of eastern Aleppo by the armed opposition thus constitutes both a strategic and a political challenge.

The areas controlled by the insurgency in the country’s second most significant city are home to over a million inhabitants (though the exact figure is uncertain), and their management represents a test for the sustainability of the opposition in the long run. Despite daily bombings and limited external aid ($400 000 since its creation in March, to which can be added one-off aid donations which generally add up to a few tens of thousands of dollars), Aleppo’s new municipality has managed to re-establish vital public services. City agents pick up the trash; electricity and water are available several hours a day. Shops, schools, and hospitals have reopened. The police force is progressively re-forming throughout the city, though it still numbers only a few hundreds men. In the short term, the city’s access to food seems more or less secure, and a limited return of refugees from Turkey could even be observed this summer.