Written by Aldo Sauda, from Minbaij (Syria)
Friday, 25 October 2013 22:33
Read the article below about the day to day routine and the challenges faced by the inhabitants of Minbaij, a rebel city fighting against Assad’s tyranny.
Geting to the city of Minbaij is not an easy task. The reason for this difficulty is not the lack of paved roads, or that the city is too far away; Indeed, Minbaij is one of the main urban centers under the control of revolutionary Syrians. Gaziantap, one of the main industrial centers of neighboring Turkey, which has an international airport, is just 30 minutes away from the city of Minbaij. But the challenges to arrive at Minbaij are others; the isolation of the revolution has made the country free zones in true political and military islands, disconnected from the rest of the world.
The passage from Turkey to the northern Syria, as well as through anywhere else, might happen legally or illegally. However, owning a stamp of the Syrian Free Army on your passport may not be a good idea. To run fastthrough the olive fields on the border, avoiding whenever possible the landmines and the Turkish army patrols, is somehow the safest alternative to get into the country.
Almost all the cities set free in the north are small, extremely poor, and in most cases, inhabited by peasants. In fact, to call them city comes to be an overstatement. The great majority are villages with few inhabitants. Even the city of Minbaij, despite its nearly half a million inhabitants (half of them refugees from other parts of the country) is more akin to a large village.
The inside of the province of Aleppo, whose capital has been the stage for the fierce battles since the beginning of the revolution, has always been characterized by its poverty. Historically the regions far from the capital Damascus have been abandoned by the dictator Bashar Al Assad regime. If the situation was poor before the revolution, after the war it has worsened even more. The hospitals in Minbij suffer from chronic lack of medicines, there are constant electricity cuts, and above all, there are no more jobs. The nearby city of Aleppo, the provincial capital and economic center of the country, was a significant source of employment for the inhabitants of Minbij. It is no more today. The war devastation has caused the destruction of more than 80% of the city’s industries. In addition to that there are the constant air raids of the Assad regime with the sole purpose of terrorizing the population.
All power to the Revolutionary Councils!
Within Aleppo, the revolution strength is easily and deeply felt in any environment. Young activists, who, until a few days ago, used to run demonstrations, today they are running cities. Many of them are former students, who, because of the revolution strength, dropped their daily lives to give themselves for a cause. To them are added the poor and the working people of the region. Through the Revolutionary Council, a front that initially organized anti-Assad demonstrations and has evolved into a body of dual power, the activists from Minbaij manage their lives.
Forty years of a brutal dictatorship means that until recently the idea of an open discussion of the political problems in the streets was something entirely unthinkable and forbidden to the people.
There is little interaction among the activists and the great mass of the inhabitants of the city within the Revolutionary Councils. But the space is indeed open to the most politicized sectors of society who want to participate.
The deficit of the women presence in the council is undeniable, but in a conservative, provincial and religious city, where women are rarely seen in public, the problem cannot be taken out of its context. The mere existence of an activists’ council trying to democratically manage a city of 500,000 inhabitants in the chaos of war is one of the most radical political experiences of the 21st century.
The lack of discipline among the guerrillas often makes them disrespect the councils’ resolutions, weakening the dual power bodies. However, there are brigades who proclaim themselves to be centralized according to the civilians’ decisions, working in the implementation of their wills. Are integral parts of this mosaic the armed groups that only use the town as a base for resting before going to the battle front.
The fifth column of Assad
The confusion and disarray, a result of the lack of the militancy democratic centralism, is only one part of the political-military problem existing Minbij. Today, the main threats to the revolution arenot the unruly battalions of the Syrian Free Army, but rather, a much more sinister and obscure organization – the Al-Qaeda. One of its two sessions that exists in northern Syria, the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (EISI), has mobilized significant part of its efforts to take over the city. Operating in unfair ways in the rear, the “Islamic State” has been trying to take for himself the free zones in the country.
According to the very members of EISI, the Al-Qaeda central battle is not about the confrontations with the tyrant Assad, but in the implementation of an Islamic state in the region. This helps to explain why the oil wells controlled by the group sell fuel to the Syrian regime. Unlike much of the radical Islamist groups, the EISI militiamen are hardly seen in the struggle against the regime, they act almost exclusively in the areas already set free by the revolution.
The EISIS is comprised, in large part, by extremists from different parts of the world, and is seen by locals as an alien body to the community. There is not, at all, a mass support to Al-Qaeda in the province of Aleppo. However, by having a political and military group highly centralized and disciplined, by being rich in material resources and with a clearly defined political program, the EISI militants have advanced in the territory taking of.
More than ever before, the absence of a political-military organization in the region, democratically centralized and able to present a real alternative to the Syrian workers, has opened up room to different counterrevolutionaries groups try to take advantage of the people’s struggle.
It is open in Syria a wide revolutionary phase, whose results will only be known in the long term. No matter how much the Al-Qaeda, Assad, Putin and Obama try, with all their efforts, to stifle the Minbij revolution, as well as in the rest of the country, the revolution follows more vivid than ever before.