Social Coexistence in Manbij

‘’Visions and recommendations of the people of Manbij about the future of their city in terms of society and its relationship with the political solution’’

In the last ten years, the Syrian people have experienced great sufferings. Their sufferings have started after the revolution in which all the sects and (ethnic, religious) components of the Syrian society participated until it turned to a war and conflict (due to acts of the regime) in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed, wounded, and disappeared, and millions were displaced internally and externally.
These events and transformations that took place in recent years have created (social and political) blocs and divisions in the Syrian society. It is a significant concern that the social divisions will develop into a civil war. Therefore, it is important in the coming stages in Syria to work to promote coexistence and civil peace, before a political solution.
Starting from these motivations, the Stabilization Support Unit has set up a project entitled “Coexistence” in which many regions are targeted with various activities, including studies, needs assessments, and workshops to enhance coexistence social cohesion.
The start is about the city of Manbij.
The Stabilization Support Unit, through Syria Peace Team which is implementing the project, held a workshop entitled “Social Coexistence in Manbij” in Jarablus city on Monday, August the 10th. The workshop was attended by approximately fifty Male and Female participants from the local community leaders, civil society organizations, political, military, and tribal leaders from Manbij community/city. The workshop held to achieve the aforementioned goals and rearrange the relationships between the people of the same city who are scattered in several places, through numerous studies and workshops in Syria, Turkey, and Erbil.

The workshop was divided into three sessions:
1- Introduction and definition about coexistence, the origin of the term and its importance, and a historical review of coexistence in Syria and its transformations.
2- The coexistence situation in Manbij previously and now, examples that can be built upon for the future and the role of women in promoting coexistence.
3-Forming working groups to get recommendations that could be worked on to promote coexistence.

The First Session:

During the first session of the workshop, a short video which is prepared by the Stabilization Support Unit about coexistence in Syria and its importance was presented, in addition to presentations and distribution of brochures on the same topic. During the session, there were periods of discussion between the participants, where a group of participants expressed the importance of this topic that is not addressed previously and at present and the importance of presenting it now, considering the disintegration of society (not only the disintegration between different social components but also the disintegration between the sons of a single component and a single region).
One of the women participants expressed the importance of starting this step with the Manbij community in Jarablus before embarking on the Manbij community in Turkey, Manbij, and elsewhere.

In the session, the facilitator talked about the harmful generalizations made by society along the lines of the political disputes (for example the Kurds may describe all the Arabs as extremists and the Arabs may describe all the Kurds as terrorists, etc.). Generally speaking, these generalizations may increase the rift/disintegration which stems from disagreements in the society, and attempts must be done to separate political differences from social relations and to adopt the culture of accepting the different others to increase the opportunities and possibilities of coexistence .
The history of Syria, which is rich in coexistence was also discussed (no ethnic or religious disputes were mentioned on the land of Syria). If we look at the close history of Syria before the Ba’ath Party control (which tried to impose a kind of coexistence based on the loyalty to the party), Faris El-Khoury the minister of endowments of one of the governments was Christian, Fawzi Selu and Husni al-Za’im who are from the minorities were among the presidents, alongside to existence of many other examples in the close history of Syria.
Second Session:
In the second session of the workshop, a historical review about Manbij was presented (how Manbij was before the revolution and how the regime created community leaders who held positions based on their loyalty to Ba’ath party and how the social components and families feared each other ( . The regime worked to disintegrate the single society and even the single family, and imposed a kind of culture based on that the Arab and other residents of the city disdain those who celebrate Nowruz, which is considered a legacy of the Kurdish heritage, alongside to disdaining those (who are from different ethnicities) who speak languages other than Arabic. And how the scene changed to a completely different picture after the city was liberated from the regime, the demonstrations against the regime were circulating among the neighborhoods of the city according to their components, As well after the liberation of the city from the regime, Nowruz became officially celebrated day and the ethnicities gained their rights.
Talks took place about ISIS’s terrorist policies and violations and how it had a great impact on threatening civil peace and disrupting the social structure in Manbij and the region in general. Where ISIS began to subjugate youth, whether through money or coercion for fear of arrest or killing, which led to the creation of great sensitivities due to the massacres and violations committed by ISIS against everyone, not to mention the many arrests based on race whether inside or outside the city. ISIS was able to instill hatred or reactions among the people of the same city with all its various components, on the one hand, and between different ethnicities and clans on the other hand.
One of the participants in the workshop who previously had a role in one of the reconciliation processes that took place between Manbij and its neighbor Ain Al-Arabi (Kobane) said: Coexistence and brotherhood emerged in many times when disputes occurred and turned into wars and then quickly ended with

reconciliations and agreements after the intervention of the people, society and community leaders from both cities.
One of the participants stressed the importance of bringing together the people of different components of Manbij whom the communication between them has cut off without any logical reason; only due to the harmful generalizations based on their ethnicities. As bringing them together could assist many civilians affected by this situation.
The women talked about the importance of their role, as majority of the women can go to all over the Syrian regions and most of them still maintaining the social relations, they are not affected so much by political differences/desputes as it is the case with the men. Another woman called for more activation of their role and formation of women committees inside Manbij and in general the areas where Manbij people gatherings exsit to work to promote coexistence. Perhaps in this regard, they will have a greater role than men due to the aforementioned reasons and circumstances.

Third Session:
In the last session of the workshop, the participants were divided into six (6) small working groups (every group 5 – 6 participants). Each group discussed within itself and came up with ideas and suggestions regarding how to enhance coexistence and community communication among the people of the same city considering three axes:
1- Coexistence of Manbijians inside Manbij and the Manbijians displaced from the city.
2- Coexistence of Manbijians within the same component / ethnicity
3- Coexistence between different Manbij ethnicities and components

Among the recommendations that were presented / proposed (the most important or the most frequently mentioned ones) to enhance:
1- Community communication and coexistence of Manbijians inside Manbij and the Manbijians displaced from the city.
– Protection of the property of the displaced Manbijians
– Allowing visits of relatives between those in Manbij and those in Jarablus. Allowing the initiatives that could promote community communication.
– Formation of a women’s committee that would enhance communication between the two parties (Manbijians inside Manbij and the Manbijians displaced from the city), given that women’s movement between Manbij and Jarablus is much easier.
– To stop compulsory military recruitment in Manbij.
– To stop imposing the Kurdish language in the school’s curriculum.
2- Community communication and coexistence of Manbijians within the same component / ethnicity
– To enhance the role of clans in the communication processes
– Continuously holding seminars and meetings
– Getting rid of the pride in ethnicity, lineage and clan
3- Community communication and coexistence between different Manbij ethnicities and components
– Urging to stop hate speech and national intolerance
– Joint meetings and dialogue sessions
– Finding a common space for everyone and building on it
– Strengthening the civil society institutions that support the idea of coexistence
– Activating the role of youth and launching initiatives on promoting the concept of coexistence

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