The problem of unregistered civil incidents in North-Western Syria: Causes and Effects | Access to Justice IV Project, 2021

Originally published



Nobody, including the experts involved with the region for years, could foresee how the popular uprising in Tunisia having begun toward the end of 2010 would result in. There are many reasons for the inability to anticipate the effects of the uprisings in the Middle East. In late 2010, the weakness of the relationship between the judgments and analyses and the real social life, built with classical orientalist perspectives, became clear once more. The spark, causing the Middle East to be on fire later, was the self-immolation of a young street vendor in Tunisia, which appeared to be a personal matter. This first small event turned into effective mass movements in Tunisia and then in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. However, the thing that should be noted here is how this immense spark impacted society. At the same time, this catalyst was the indicator that the societies in question could start mass movements. The reason ultimately having caused broad-based social protests was the pressure that resulted from the social problems in the Middle East such as poverty, social justice, lack of democracy, class differences, authoritarian regimes, oppression, instability, the gap in the share of public resources, rapid demographic changes, and unplanned urbanization. These social protests turned into the processes in which the mass and different social classes put forward their demands in a wide region from North Africa to Iraq, from the Arabian Gulf to Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. While the authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Yemen were falling, the hard times began for the regimes in all the Middle East having been built upon powerful populist and mostly Pan-Arabist slogans, but in fact, having served the interests of one dynasty or power cartel and disconnected from its public. However, expecting that the power cartels, dating back to almost a hundred years ago, would easily give in to the demands of mass would not be realistic. Indeed, starting from the beginning of 2011, the public uprisings in Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, and other countries became open to serious violence. Despite all the resistance of the authoritarian regimes and cartels, they fell in some countries due to each country’s own historical and social conditions. While the protests were violently suppressed in some nations, some others returned to status quo ante as a “solution.” Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and Tunisia threw off the authoritarian leaders and power cartels but dramatically experienced that the successors, showing an institutional behavior, tried to build similar authoritarian regimes and political structures. In other words, due to the various domestic and foreign reasons, the demands, such as democracy, stability, social justice, freedom, and economic development, of these societies in the Middle East were not met once again. The successors could not accomplish keeping war, violence, instability, and chaos out of this region.

On the contrary, with globalization, religious and denominational violence took over the Middle East societies. The process has not been over yet. However, it is very convenient to propound that although the Middle East, in comparison with the previous century, has expanded (regarding human and physical geography) from Mali to Afghanistan, from Nigeria to Malesia, it has become a phenomenon that is increasingly being narrowed in terms of its meaning and only being identified with institutionalized violence and identities completing this violence.

The spark that began in Tunisia in 2010 has caused a global fire in Syria since 2011. The disaster is still ongoing, and it is impossible to predict when and how it will end. However, while violence, war, and instability have been getting institutionalized in Syria, too, the lives of millions of people have completely changed. Whereas Syria and the Syrians have experienced war and violence firsthand, the societies and states in which the Syrians have become migrants or refugees have also encountered various difficulties. The future of the conditions experienced by the Syrians is still uncertain. In the meantime, both the Syrians, dispersed over each continent of the world and the societies and states encountering migrants and refugees, have been facing changing situations. The process at issue is dynamic and has varied according to state, society, and period. Many political, demographic, economic, and cultural issues regarding the Syrians have become the agenda in all the countries from Turkey to Germany, from Lebanon to Canada. It is true that all around the world, a significant part of Syrians has experienced being immigrants and refugees under challenging circumstances. However, it is also undeniable that another significant part of the Syrians has been displaced inside the country.

Moreover, in many ways, the displaced have struggled to survive in worse physical, political, economic, and legal conditions than the Syrians who could leave the country and become an immigrant or a refugee. Although there are thousands of studies and researches about the Syrians that have become refugees, developed new relationships with the state they are in, and taken part in the cohesion processes, it is witnessed that the researches concerning the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are limited only to the reports focusing on immediate aid. Indeed, people enduring the harsh circumstances of war and violence in Syria every day need immediate aid. However, in the final analysis, it is also significant to understand under which conditions the IDPs in Syria have been living for ten years, which is a period not to be underestimated, what kind of political, social, educational, economic, legal, or cultural relations they have been in, and how they have participated in these relations. Remembering the phenomenon of social life which can maintain, reconstruct, and reproduce itself, it is crucial to comprehend how the locals and IDPs in different regions of Syria live because there are millions of people enduring violence, war, and tough political conditions and living under different political structures since 2011. There has been a fragmented country interfered with by numerous actors like the national government, various opponents, and states such as Turkey and Russia, which has become stagnant since 2018. Different powers have controlled different parts of the country. The first of them is the national government in Damascus that has still sustained and consolidated its power at some point despite the 10-year long war. The Kurds and their allies, mostly in North and East Syria, have controlled a significant area. As for the Idlib governorate, there are armed groups quite different from each other. Besides, there exist regions Turkey and Russia entirely have involved in. After 2018, it is witnessed that the “pockets” such as Afrin and Ras al-Ayn have also been entered into this fragmentation by the implied collaboration of Turkey, Russia, and the USA. Therefore, the matter in question is the lives of millions of people under multi-divided and various political, economic, and social conditions. For this reason, looking at the daily lives of internally displaced persons or the people staying in the same place in Syria is as equally important as understanding the situations encountered by the Syrian immigrants and refugees in other countries.

Considering the limited reports of the United Nations (UN) and various NGOs based upon the data gathered at the beginning of 2021, most of which was collected until 2020, a diverse population shows up. Since none of them is based upon exact and official data, the numbers and inferences in circulation are away from reliability. As indicated before, giving a certain number of people being obliged to emigrate, displaced within the district or country, or staying in the same place due to the war is impossible for both the whole of Syria and Idlib Governorate. Another reason for this is undoubtful that Idlib Governorate has constantly been occupied by different forces, armies, and armed groups. Therefore, even in the middle of 2021, both the current and future situation of Idlib is still ambiguous.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) recent reports, only in Syria, 13,4 million people were affected by the war and violence from 2011 until May 2021. 13,4 million Syrians needed a serious amount of protection and humanitarian aids. More than half of the pre-war population, which were 22 million, have been directly affected by the war results. Half of 13,4 million people (6,6 million) are refugees, and 6,7 million people are internally displaced.

Until the middle of 2021, the IDPs have been forced to go to various districts and cities in Syria. Even though political, ideological, military, economic, and cultural reasons have formed the settlement patterns of the IDPs, it can also be stated that the primary motivations in this kind of extraordinary situation are obligation and survival.

In each city and district of Syria, it is possible to meet internally displaced persons today. However, few of the displaced population have been able to catch the attention despite their hard lives. Although Idlib Governorate has become topical worldwide from time to time because it has witnessed various forces and extremely intricate balances, the humanitarian crisis in question is always going unnoticed. Regardless of all the political, ideological, and military power struggles, it must be remembered people live there. This survey aims to reveal some main issues about people's daily lives in a small area of the Idlib Governorate. Therefore, this project, turning to three small-scaled cities in Idlib, intends to collect data about the people staying in Syria, is presented under different titles such as demography, economy, legal issues, education, job, work, and patterns of households. The data gathered through the survey aims to concretely show the current issue and come to conclusions together with making recommendations. This project, in other words, intends to comprehend especially the present situation in the three small-scaled cities3 of Idlib firsthand by depending on the survey and related group interviews.