Northeastern Syria: disadvantages of the autonomous administration’s quota system based on social status

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Enab Baladi – Raqqa

Since its creation in 2014, the Autonomous Administration, active in north-eastern Syria, has sought to constitute a political umbrella allowing it to obtain the necessary legitimacy to participate in any negotiation or political settlement and to preserve its military gains.

This constant effort is affected by the formation by the Autonomous Administration of its administrative structure within its institutions; it extends the effective participation of local components in the management of its institutions to the detriment of others.

Several years have passed since the creation of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Council (SDF), and its management of institutions in northeastern Syria. However, the lack of coordination and consensus on the issue of equitable representation of social components in government institutions aggravates disagreements and could trigger further upheavals. In addition, this lack creates a gap between the needs of institutions and their employees.

An employee of the Social Justice Office of the Autonomous Administration had to quit his job because he felt “limited by instructions which contradict the independence and professionalism of the judiciary”.

The Autonomous Administration tries to obtain an equal representation of the social components in its institutions. However, people in areas under its control are not appointed to its institutions on the basis of experience and competence. The appointments of the administration are decided by quotas only between people with social status and power.

Indeed, this will negatively affect the presence of employees with good experience and training in the institutions of the administration.

The employee, whose name is known to Enab Baladi, but withheld for security reasons, said the administration’s policy of hiring people into its institutions based on their social status is very similar to the quota system adopted in Lebanon and Iraq.

The Northeastern Syria General Social Justice Office is the highest judicial authority in the Autonomous Administration. Technically, the office is the benchmark for social justice institutions in the autonomous and civil administrations of the region.

The General Social Justice Office is also responsible for developing general justice policy and organizing its institutions. The board also consists of 13 members; the term of each member is two years, with a co-chair.

This appointment on the basis of social status followed by the Autonomous Administration has caused deep anger among human rights activists and lawyers. Some have told officials of the Autonomous Administration at previous meetings of this unfair policy in the appointment of representatives of different social groups in the councils and institutions of the administration. On their return, the officials promised to find a solution to eliminate this unfair policy.

An employee of the Legislative Council in Raqqa, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said Enab Baladi that “Most of the representatives of the legislative councils of northern and eastern Syria are elders and tribal dignitaries, whether from Kurdish or Arab tribes.”

The employee questioned whether it would be possible to generate new national laws in the presence of tribal authorities, which are often governed by customs and traditions. Moreover, these tribal authorities are notorious for not keeping pace with rapid developments and events in the Syrian arena.

Most of the people, who are appointed as representatives of various political and social components in the areas held by the Autonomous Administration within the joint presidency of some authorities and other positions of the Autonomous Administration, do not work in the interest of the people. They used their positions to legitimize their claim to power and management.

The SDF controlled the town of Raqqa on October 17, 2017, after 166 days of fighting against ISIS, with support from the US-led collation, which provided air and logistical assistance to forces on the ground.

After the SDF succeeded in eliminating ISIS from the area, the autonomous administration was announced. The SDF indicated that it aims “to form an administrative structure which coordinates the services between the regions and fills the administrative and security vacuum”.

The structure of the self-government includes an executive council which oversees the work of “democratic civil administrations”, made up of “general and legislative councils” in the areas held by the SDF, while the civil councils operating in the region are considered to be. governments that manage local affairs.

General amnesty granted, but first to whom?

The components of society in northeastern Syria are not only appointed in administrative institutions on the basis of the quota system. These aspects are also appeased with the decisions taken by the Autonomous Administration concerning “the fight against terrorism”.

The administration, through the use of the anti-terrorism file, is working to appease the tribal component in certain areas, mainly in densely populated Arab areas, in order to ease tensions over its relations with them. .

In the context of tribal reconciliations or the general amnesty in the region, there are two types of amnesty, according to a study prepared by Sasha al-Alou, a researcher at the Omran Studies Center.

The first type of general amnesty concerns civilians arrested by the Autonomous Administration in the context of security campaigns for “terrorism”.

The administration grants the second type of amnesty to satisfy or rally elders and tribal dignitaries. Thus, some elders and tribal dignitaries take responsibility and sign the decision to release former IS group members, although they do not know them in person, especially most of the inmates of al-Hasakah prisons are from of the eastern governorates.

In 2020, some families asked why their children had not been released under a general amnesty issued by the Autonomous Administration, even though the decree included them. However,

However, these families had to pay to obtain the return of their children to prison officials through intermediaries. The agreements reached by the elders of the tribe with the Autonomous Administration to release some people arouse great popular discontent within the local community.

Recognition of the presence of a dysfunction at the current stage

An official from the Autonomous Administration recognized the lack of coordination between representatives of social components. He stressed that what has happened is a “progressive flaw that the administration can avoid when the appropriate opportunity arises.”

Talk with Enab Baladi, the official considered that the rapprochement with the representatives of the components of the society, in particular with the elders and the tribal dignitaries, was aimed at polishing the image of the Autonomous Administration. The administration has also sought public acceptance in areas under its administration.

The administration official, who declined to be appointed because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue, stressed that the reformulation of the Social Contract Charter on which the autonomous administration is currently working is a opportunity to avoid previous errors that have occurred in the organization structure.

He elaborated: “the restructuring after the completion of the drafting of the social contract will generate a local government capable of satisfying the masses and avoiding quotas to the detriment of the interest of the people”.

Last June, the Autonomous Administration announced the formation of a committee to revise the Charter of the social contract. The committee was supposed to have 157 members, but the administration reduced the number to 30 members a few weeks after the announcement.

The move comes amid criticism of the social contract, which neglected several core principles, such as the prohibition of arbitrary detention, the right to expeditious judicial review and the right to a lawyer in criminal proceedings, according to one. report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The preamble to the charter has also been criticized on several fundamental issues.

It should be noted that the modified social contract should not be formulated by those who occupy positions in the institutions of the self-government to avoid the limited reflection in the framework of the work of the self-government.

The Autonomous Administration project comes up against several problems, in particular that the administration struggles to obtain societal acceptance in different areas with their human, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. Moreover, the administration is encountering difficulties in getting its project politically recognized by the parties to the conflict in Syria.

The sources of legitimacy are determined by the people and their cultural and political effectiveness. However, the Autonomous Administration has not yet been able to push the communities under its control, whether Arab or Kurdish, to support its project for several reasons, including the lack of fair representation of these communities within the management of the resources available by the Autonomous Administration.

Thus, the reality of their governance acquires a complexity that is more difficult to resolve in the future.


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