Syrian city liberated from ISIS expands council to better represent community

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SDF-led Manbij Military Council announcing the outcomes of the anti-ISIS operation in the Syrian border city of Manbij. File photo: ARA News

ARA News 

The Manbij Civilian Council in Syria’s northern city of Manbij, which was liberated from ISIS last August, has expanded in order to better represent the ethnic and tribal communities in the city.

“Manbij Civilian Council was expanded to include representatives of various social components,” said Sharvan Darwish, the spokesperson of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)–that liberated the city in August 2016.

“The council will be enlarged to 131 members. Manbij Civilian Council will be co-chaired, with 4 deputies, every deputy from a different component. Also, women constitute at least 40% of the council’s members,” Darwish said.

As for the ethnic representation within the Manbij Civilian Council, Darwish explained: “60% of the members are Arabs, 25% are Kurds, 11% Turkmens and 8% Circassians. Also, there is an Armenian family in the city, Jejan family, and they will be represented too in Council.”

The Manbij Civilian Council was formed on 5 April 2016 and took over the city’s administration and countryside after the city was liberated from ISIS in August 2016, in a campaign that took over two months.

The Manbij council was headed by co-presidents Faruk al-Mashi, an Arab tribal member and a former Syrian parliament member, and Sozdar Khalid, a female Kurd from Manbij.

The Arab-majority towns of Manbij and Tel Abyad are seen as future examples for Raqqa that is now being besieged by SDF forces.

“And the Manbij Military Council has stood up the Manbij Civilian Council to govern there while they provide security. So we’re going to try to follow that model for Raqqa. That will take a lot of effort and take a bit of time,” US-led Coalition’s commander Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said in October 2016.

Washington-based Middle East researcher at the Centre for a New American Security, Nicholas Heras, told ARA News: “Establishing local councils comprised of Arab tribal leaders is an important component of the strategy to replace ISIS.”

“Local governance must be present on Day 1 after ISIS, to coordinate humanitarian aid, oversee reconstruction, and to support the security forces left by the SDF to hold the hard-won territory taken from ISIS,” Heras said.

“The Coalition depends on the SDF for military victory over ISIS, and the SDF will depend on the local councils for the governance after victory over ISIS,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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