Arab tribes meet to discuss post-ISIS Manbij future

Tribal figures meeting in Manbij countryside to discuss the future of their area after ISIS expulsion. Photo: ARA News

ARA News 

ABU ABRUS – More than sixty tribes from Manbij attended a meeting in the Abu Abrus village not very far from Manbij city in northern Syria to discuss the future of Manbij in the post-ISIS.

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have reportedly recaptured more than 90% of Manbij border pocket from militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the past two months. 

“The meeting of Arab tribes of Manbij was to discuss the political situation and the end of ISIS [in Manbij] and thanking the SDF-led military council for liberating the area,” member of Kurdish TEV-DEM organisation Omar Aloush told ARA News.

“They are discussing the political system in Manbij if they will join the federal system [of Rojava], the self-administration or to have an independent city of Manbij,” he said. “After Daesh [ISIS] is finished, the Manbij community will take a decision,” Aloush added.

“Until now there is no political program. The regime has no political program and wants to control everything, and the opposition also has no program,” he said.

“Our project as the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] is not just by arms, we have a civil project,” Aloush told ARA News. “We have to convince the people not by force, but in a democratic way.” 

“We as the Manbij civilian council have a project for democracy, since the beginning of the Syrian revolution we have been fighting for freedom,” Faruk al-Mashi, the Arab co-head of the Manbij Civilian Council said during the meeting–in which several Sheikhs spoke.

“Since ISIS captured Manbij, the violations against the people have not stopped. The radical group started beheading people, and forcing them to emigrate,” he said. “That’s why the people in Manbij protest against ISIS and the Manbij revolutionary forces made the decision to liberate their areas from ISIS.” 

Analysts say that involving Arab tribes in the post-ISIS governance is important for the future of Manbij.

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

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

However, the Syrian opposition wants a pro-opposition council to be involved in Manbij, not the SDF-linked council that they see as a Kurdish organization.

“If the SDF did not interfere then it’s very important,” Bassam Barabandi, a Washington-based political adviser to the Syrian opposition told ARA News. “The Syrian opposition reached out to the Americans and asked them to empower the local council which is part of Aleppo provisional council and asked to let the FSA to participate in liberating Manbij,” he said. 

“ISIS is Sunni terrorist movement and only Sunnis can defeat it,” Barabandi said. 

However, the US-led coalition preferred to work with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Speaking to ARA News, SDF official Dr. Nasir Haji Mansour said that they want all civilians and society of Manbij to join the Manbij civilian council.

“We want everyone to participate in administrating the city, whether they are against us or not,” he said. “Only those who support ISIS, and whose hands are involved in shedding blood, will be punished.” 

“We need to accept pluralism,” he stated.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Source: ARA News

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