HTS’ control affects service and civil institutions’ work, Northern Syria
Turkey - SMART
The recent rapid expansion of the HTS’ control in Northern Syria, was directly reflected on civil and servicing aspects due to the HTS’ attempts to transfer all of the institutions to the Salvation Government and to organizations’ refrain from supporting projects and insitions in HTS-controlled areas.
The HTS is an Islamist opposition faction previously known as the al-Nusra Front, consisting of fighting groups including the Haqq Brigade, Jabhat Ansar al-Din, and Jaysh al-Sunnah
Suspending support threatens to deprive 4,7 million people of medical care
As battles erupted resulting in the HTS’ controlling of the Idlib governorate and wide areas in western Aleppo and northern Hama countries, organizations supporting medical centers in the HTS- controlled areas suspended work, affecting the free medical directorates in the areas mentioned above that are inhabited by 4,7 million people.
On January 1, 2019, the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GIZ) suspended supporting medical projects and the Free Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and Latakia Medical Directorates until further notice. The GIZ suspended support on the first day of the clashes between the HTS and Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions.
The GIZ was established in early 2011 as three institutions of German International Development integrated. The GIZ seeks sustainable development in the areas that it supports. The GIZ undertook to support ambulance systems, hospitals, medical centers, and significant health projects.
As support stopped, the Free Idlib and Hama Health Directorates announced that their work turned into voluntary. Mustafa al-’Ido, the manager of the Free Idlib Health Directorate, said that the decision to suspend support included 33 medical facilities, threatening to deprive 80, 000 civilians from medical care per month. Al-’Ido added that 6,500 medical staff are at risk of losing their jobs.
The Free Hama Health Directorate said that 200, 000 civilians a third of whom are children are threatened of lacked medical services due to suspending support. A source from the Free Aleppo Health Directorate reported that suspending support of 43 facilities belonging to the directorate will affect a quarter million people as well as 450 employees.
Sides launched a supporting campaign to put pressure on the organizations and donor countries to resume supporting the medical sector in Northern Syria. The manager assistant of the Free Idlib Health Directorate said that they would launch a large supporting campaign on the internal and international levels. The Free Aleppo Health Directorate said that they would appeal to the organizations in an attempt to resume support.
The Syria Response Coordinators Team that documents and counts forcibly displaced people and their needs published a statement saying that suspending support will force 179 medical centers serving 4,7 million people in Northern Syria, to close. The statement called upon all sides to show solidarity with medical facilities, warning against catastrophic consequences of suspending support.
Despite that the recent battles were a key reason of suspending support of major medical facilities in the area, the HTS controlled areas always lacked services and projects, especially medical one because donor countries suspended support of areas controlled by a faction that is listed among terrorist organizations.
HTS turns police in HTS’ areas from free into Islamic
Tens days following the clashes of the clashes between the HTS and FSA’ factions, the Free Police in Idlib suspended work until further notice. The police added that it would hand over its headquarters and equipment to local councils in the area. The police said that it would hand the hired headquarters to their owners.
A source reported unrevealed terms of the agreement between the HTS and FSA’ National Liberation Front including the HTS’ deploying of the Islamist Police instead of the Free Police. The HTS controlled the Free Police station in the village of al-Ghadfa, southern Idlib.
Brigadier General Adeeb Shalaf, the commander of the Free Police, stated that the HTS fighters entered the police stations in the western Aleppo countryside and let the police members choose either to work with the HTS or stop their work. After that, dozens of police members suspended their work.
A source from the Free Police reported to SMART that most police officers refused to work with the HTS, adding that the latter forces the officers to attend Sharia courses with unknown contents. The source added that the HTS aims to exclude efficient and skilled officers in order to hire an HTS Sharia officer to manage the police in the area.
As a result, the Free Police centers in the towns of Maarrat Herma and Tarmala, southern Idlib, handed over all their equipment to the towns’ local councils after the Idlib Free Police decided to suspend its work. However, some other centers announced to continue their work in coordination with the local councils, including the police centers in Maarrat al-Nu'man city, Kafr Takharim town and Kafrumah village. The Hazarin police outpost announced that it would continue to work and abide by the decisions of the Salvation Government.
As the Free Police suspended its work and some police centers have become affiliated with local councils, it has become easy for the HTS to gain control of these outposts if it can appoint local councils’ members or force them to affiliate with the Salvation Government.
Civil and social institutions are trapped between cessation of support and affiliation with Salvation Government
Some civil society organizations associated with the German and French governments temporarily suspended their work in some of the HTS-controlled areas in Northern and Central Syria. An informed source reported that these organizations are donors to projects related to governance, stability support and rehabilitation of local councils and women's support projects.
The source said that the most distinguished organizations are Nova, the German Agency for International Cooperation and its partner Local Development Organization (LDO) in Syria responsible for supporting local councils and employees' salaries.
Meanwhile, the Baytna Syria Organization informed the Women's Committee in the city of al-Atarib to stop supporting all projects and training for women, until observing the region after the HTS gained control of it. The People in Need Organization also stopped to pay salaries for teachers at the Basmat Amal Kindergarten, which receives about 300 children a year since its establishment six years ago.
Earlier, other organizations have been affected by the HTS’ existence in the region. The Next Day Organization stopped all its activities, including seminars for women's empowerment and training and courses for local councils’ members and others, after the HTS arrested one of its members. The Next Day has not held any activity in the region since the beginning of 2019.
As most of these organizations stopped their work, the HTS began to attract them by all means. Therefore, the HTS sent Judicial notifications to former administrators of the Revolutionary Council and the local council in the city of al-Atarib, demanding them to attend within hours under accountability. The HTS also called on activists and employees to leave the city of Darat Izzah in western Aleppo, threatening to kill and arrest them if they do not leave.
The Salvation Government affiliated with the HTS formed a new local council in the city of al-Atarib to run the city affairs temporarily until a new council is formed according to the ministry’s laws. Earlier, the old council resigned because there are parties that seek to form a new council or break the current council by keeping some of its members and dismissing the rest.
The free Aleppo governorate council said that it continues to serve the governorate, stressing that it is a civil institution elected by the revolutionary body, and does not belong to any party. The local council in the city of Maarrat al-Nu'man, southern Idlib, also declared that it is a purely civil institution and does not belong to any military authority, adding that it is committed to compliance with the agreements’ memorandums, and not allowing any military authority to intervene in its work.
Unlike previous councils, the local council of the Umm al-Khalakhil village in southern Idlib, announced its affiliation to the Salvation Government after the HTS gained control of the entire governorate of Idlib.
Earlier, the HTS put pressure on the local councils in the area to be part of the Salvation Government. The HTS began to make all the institutions in its areas belong to the Salvation Government after gaining control of the entire area after battles with the Free Syrian Army.
The HTS has gained military and administrative control of large areas in Northern Syria, so the future of the area has become unclear under its control, especially in the humanitarian field, as the support for medical projects has been stopped, the role of the police has declined, and the number of civil organizations has decreased.