Nora Palandjian, a former research intern for the Shattuck CCNR, worked with Bellingcat on this policy report as part of her Applied Policy Project at the School of Public Policy at Central European University. As a completion of her studies, she was required to design and carry out a policy project for an organization with two other graduate students. This team was also supervised by Cameran Ashraf and Marius Dragomir, two professors at the School of Public Policy. Her Applied Policy Project team collaborated with Bellingcat, a well-known investigative journalist organization that has previously written extensively about Syria. The center is pleased to announce Nora and her team’s hard work on the coordination of networks that surround the Syrian conflict.
“Tracing the evolution of communication in the Syrian conflict reveals complex networks of coordination. The lack of direct access is at the core of this evolution—for international actors to provide humanitarian and monitoring support, for regional actors to be included in the decision making process, and for civilians’ concerns and experiences to be considered. Changing approaches to communication have taken center stage to overcome these barriers. While communication strategies develop to leverage the strength of representative messaging, more effective coordination among regional and international organizations is needed.
Through mapping the coordination of regional and international networks, surveying capacity-building efforts, and analyzing changing theories of change, this report assesses how communication has shaped and been shaped in the Syrian conflict. Prepared by graduate student consultants at the Central European University School of Public Policy for Bellingcat, this report is based on findings from 30 interviews from international and regional organizations working in the context of the Syrian conflict. Upon surveying the sort of networks formed, it analyzes their effectiveness. The report further discusses strategies to bridge the work of local and international organizations. It concludes by observing possible organizational theories of change. This report seeks to offer support for organizations working in the context of the Syrian conflict. For other conflicts likewise, this report seeks to understand the opportunities and challenges that arise when designing a communications strategy.”
The full report by Vinicius Gorczeski, Judit Ignácz, Jacob McGrew, and Nora Palandjian can be downloaded here
Below is a video created as part of the research project.
This paper was presented at the fourth Lemkin Reunion, held in February 2018 and organized by the Shattuck Center at the School of Public Policy, Central European University in Budapest. The paper is based on research carried out by the authors in 2017 at the Shattuck Center’s Aleppo Project.
As of March 2018, 384,425 Aleppians remain internally displaced inside Syria with 62,970 residing in Idlib governorate. This portion in Idlib represents 16.3 percent of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) from Aleppo. The approximately other 83 percent that was displaced by the conflict relocated inside of Aleppo governorate (70 percent) or Ar-Raqqa (13 percent).  This report focuses on the residents of Aleppo that are displaced within rebel-held areas, specifically Idlib governorate. These IDPs face the most difficult barriers to return to their homes in eastern Aleppo, a regime-held area. Their current conditions are insecure with continued violence in the region and little economic security. They live in dire conditions with makeshift and rented houses. They have limited access to healthcare and education facilities for their children. Despite being on Syrian territory only a few kilometers from their home they are not able to return.
There are several barriers that prevent IDPs to safely return to their homes. These barriers are compounded due to the post-conflict environment and the political unbalance related to the regime control over Aleppo. Barriers include physical safety such as military and intelligence services, limited transportation and fear of checkpoints. Additional barriers to economic limitations are the lack of economy and industry, looting of houses and businesses and physical destruction. IDPs face more than one barrier at a time and even if they find a solution to one they still have to face others.
These barriers have led to three main concerns for building an Aleppo that facilitates the return of IDPs from rebel-held areas. These concerns are continual fear of persecution, limited reconstruction and social re-engineering of the city. A cross-cutting theme through all barriers is the fear of persecution for being associated before or currently with the opposition. The uncertainty of not knowing who will be targeted and for what reason reduces the chances of their return. Post-conflict Aleppo has seen a drastic change in the social fabric of the city. There is a clear divide between those that opposed the regime and those who did not. The unequal treatment of citizens could lead to rising tensions and discriminatory policies. The moderate and selective reconstruction of the city is preventing and discouraging Aleppians to return.
As part of its annual Lemkin Reunion, The Shattuck Center on Conflict, Negotiation and Recovery at CEU’s School of Public Policy hosted in Budapest the 4th Lemkin Reunion. The topic was on displaced Syrians and the obstacles to return, with a panel discussion with:
Basel Aljunaidy, Director of Orient Policy Center, Gaziantep
Senay Ozden, Cultural Anthropologist, Hamisch Syrian Cultural House, Istanbul
Ugur Ümit Üngör, Associate Professor of History at Utrecht University and the Institute of War and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam
Radwan Ziadeh, Senior Analyst at the Arab Center, Washington DC
Moderated by Martin Kahanec, Acting Dean of the CEU School of Public Policy and the Shattuck Center
We will be publishing papers from the Lemkin Reunion that can be found on the in the Papers section of the website here. This video features interviews with Senay Ozden and Basel Aljunaidy.
Of the traditional folklore of Aleppo, there is one song that was heard throughout the Middle East. Sung by Fairouz, a Lebanese legend, and Sabah Fakhri, an icon of Aleppo, Al-Rozana describes the atrocious years of World War I and tells the story of how the merchants of Aleppo helped those in need in Beirut, who were facing dire economic circumstances due to the war.
Today, the people of Aleppo are themselves experiencing even worse circumstances and could definitely use the help of a friend, especially during the month of Ramadan and the approaching Eid. Aleppians, evacuated from the Eastern part of the city have joined deportees from other parts of Syria and together they live in small cities in the countryside of the Aleppo. They have an immutable resolution to thrive in their country even against all odds.
This is an online survey of modern areas of socio-commercial activity in the city of Aleppo before and after 2012. Aleppians know where to get things bought or done, but modern maps of the city do not account for these markets, excepting those in the Old City. However, there are a lot of different markets that supply the people of Aleppo with goods and services. The aim of the survey is to document areas of socio-economic activity Aleppians use or used to visit for their shopping before, during and after the war that split Aleppo into segregated eastern and western halves in 2012, culminating in the destruction of much of eastern Aleppo and the forced displacement of most its residents. Through this, we are hoping to create a map of these markets that preserves the memories of the residents of different parts of the city while guarding against ignoring these lived experiences and realities during the reconstruction process. The map and a report of the findings will be published on the website of the Aleppo Project and will be shared publicly with other scholars, including the Syrian Heritage Archive at the German Archaeological Institute. Anything you would like to share with us about these markets will improve our knowledge about them.
When speaking of markets, we do not only consider those areas which bear the word market as part of their name. Please also think about other commercial areas where you used to go and which you might know better as “X Street” or “Y Roundabout”.
To complete the survey in Arabic or English, please click here.
The first set of questions is about one market area you used to go to. You can fill in information about as many markets as you would like by clicking the plus (+) sign at the end of each section. At the end, you can also include information about those areas where you prefer(red) NOT to shop.
The whole questionnaire is anonymous. No data will be asked that can be used to identify the person answering the survey. The data will only be used for the purpose of the survey and will be treated confidentially.
The survey will take approximately 20 minutes. You can leave out any questions you are not comfortable answering. If at any point you do not wish to answer more questions, please do not just leave it, but still scroll down and submit the answers you already gave.
The Aleppo Project at CEU’s School of Public Policy
* Photo: “Souq in Aleppo” by Michał Unolt. Taken on March 29, 2010. Flickr.
A lot has changed for the White Helmets since the success of an Academy Award-winning documentary that followed the volunteers through their humanitarian mission to extract residents from the airstrike induced ruins of eastern Aleppo. The city has since fallen, or been liberated depending on your source, and the political landscape has shifted heavily to favor the regime. Times are not easy for the White Helmets, a civilian organization that does not carry arms or engage in combat, and this has been made all the worse by an online campaign that has rallied against the organization with wide-ranging, and often inconsistent accusations that intend to sully the credibility of the first responders. A cursory glance over their English language Facebook page will reveal a wave of attacks and vicious accusations that have assailed many posts. Charges that civilians are forced by the White Helmets to act like airstrike victims are common, as are claims that the White Helmets are themselves an armed terrorist group. One comment referred to them as the Al Qaeda’s Medical Brigade. Reviews for the organization are similarly polarized, with some thanking the White Helmets for the work they do, while others describe them as pawns of the US, CIA, UK, Israel, Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Zionists, or even George Soros. While one may be tempted to discredit these attacks as misinformed minorities, there is much more to these accusations than lone conspiracy theories. There is a network of such ideas, being supported and encouraged by a series of individuals and news sites that claim to know the truth. These accusations come with citations and sources, but always from the same places.
A recent study published by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung examines how the Syrian conflict has transformed Aleppo, by deepening previous socio-economic divisions and setting-up preconditions for a new balance of power between the North and Damascus. Consulting with regional experts (like former Aleppo Project fellow Armenak Tokmajyan) and utilizing data collected from structured interviews conducted within Aleppo, Lebanon and Turkey, author Kheder Khaddour explores the fragile interdependence that existed between eastern and western Aleppo with the northern part of Syria. Khaddour further analyzes how the destruction of Aleppo goes far beyond destruction of the city to reshape domestic power structures. Ultimately, it has also changed the structure of Northern Syria, of which Aleppo was once the main economic, political and administrative hub, but now risks falling under the dominance of Damascus.
Deftly maneuvering through historical ties and allegiances, Khaddour exposes how the current ruins of Aleppo (the east depleted of the majority of its population and the west of its mechanisms by which it used to function as the administrative, economic and political hub for northern Syria) are in fact the “cleansing of an urban population unprecedented in the history of the modern Middle East”.
The Fall of Aleppo City* (October – December 2016)
Dead End for Kerry-Lavrov Negotiations
The clouds of war started gathering after the fall of Lavrov-Kerry agreement that aimed to cease hostilities in Aleppo. The fall of the
Changes in areas of control in Aleppo City from October 1st, until December 13, 2016 Red: Government. Green: Rebels. Yellow: YPG
ceasefire agreement was followed by intensified bombing on eastern Aleppo, and periodic attacks towards western Aleppo. Blames exchanged between Russia and the United States diplomats for breaking the agreement highlighted the fragmentation and fragility of this agreement and the lack of leverage over their allies on the ground. The resumption of violence caused a mass scale damage and deterioration of living conditions in Aleppo and gave a space to armed opposition forces especially Jabhat al-Nusra to carry out further attacks.
Although rebel groups managed to break the siege in eastern Aleppo earlier in August 2016, which allowed food and ammunition to come in the eastern part, the humanitarian situation deteriorated, and the level of deprivation inflicted upon inhabitants of eastern Aleppo increased till the fall of the city in December 2016. In continuation of the regime’s strategy “Surrender or We Wipe You Out,” bids for an urgent intervention to stop the annihilation of eastern Aleppo and its people went in vain.
In an interview with Australian national radio, Aleppo Project fellow AlHakam Shaar said the return of resident displaced from the city is an important condition for a successful reconstruction of Aleppo.
Images showing recent severe destruction in Raqqa, following the expulsion of the Islamic state bring to memory the severe destruction Homs and Aleppo faced and still face. The defeat of the Islamic State in Raqqa brings the conflict in Syria closer to an end, but this on its own is not enough. The end of the fight in Raqqa and Deir Azzor marks the end of intense fights in these cities. Without a process of reconciliation, sustainable peace building, and inclusion, these cities would suffer from a permanent division, not only in terms of the physical structure but also in terms of its demography.
Aleppo has been known for centuries for its food. Like many gastronomic centers, the city was blessed with a set of circumstances: a location on key trading routes, a diverse population, a prosperous middle class, and a place amidst the most fertile farms in Syria.1 This created a diverse cuisine that blended elements from its various ethnic and religious groups. Unfortunately, war has put all of this at risk. Much agricultural land is cut off, restaurants are closed, food is in short supply, and destruction has nearly halted food production. With many of its people scattered around the world, there is a risk of the loss of knowledge and skills. Not only is there a need to preserve food ways, but Aleppian cuisine is an important aspect of identity that once bound people together and might do so again.