‘Balad’ Initiative: Revolution and Civil Society Institutions

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Enab Baladi Issue # 105– Sun, Feb. 23, 2014

منظمة بلدHana al-Halabi

With the expansion of the protests’ scope in the city of Aleppo, where the revolutionists’ activities have increased on all the levels of social, cultural, humanitarian and services, a number of organizations, charities and initiatives, launched by the revolutionists to meet specific needs of the community at that time as a reaction to the reality imposed by particular circumstances. The initiative called “Balad”, was one of the first civil activities which began in Aleppo and is trying to be an active civil organization in Syria.

“Balad” initiative was launched by a group of youths in July 2012 to achieve the basic objectives that are able to fill the gap when the regime falls down. Their important goals are; protecting the neighbourhoods from the chaos that was resulted by the revolution, helping people to sustain the basic services and working with other associations and initiatives in the relief works with all their different kinds, also, protecting the important infrastructure, especially those which concern energy sources and daily food of the population. In addition, one of its goals is to work in mediation and reconciliation between fighting clans and families, particularly in rural areas.

And because of the civil activities, several months ago the regime arrested all the members of the initiative for ten days. After they were released, most of them went to Aleppo countryside, liberated neighbourhoods or Turkey. Their activities stopped for a while till the 7th of February this year when they held a foundation conference of the organization “Balad” in the presence of 38 members. Seven of these members were nominated for the Board of Directors according to “free and fair” elections. After that, the president of the organization, vice-president and secretary were elected. A discussion of the future plans and the organization’s visions to work on the expansion of their work and promote it were discussed. In this conference, members set priorities for their work that are represented in: developing plans for operational projects, providing job opportunities for the displaced people in the camps or inside Syria, and establishing rehabilitation centres and vocational training in liberated Aleppo.

Now, the organization seeks to obtain a license in its places (Gaziantep and liberated Aleppo) to exercise its work in accordance with the strategy and future vision that are broader than ever before, and to be one of the largest organizations of the international community that represents Syria and covers areas that have not been covered so far from other Syrian organizations.

It is mentioned that the working approach adapted by this initiative is the “apparent” neutrality in their work towards the clashes between the regime army and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), in order to meet the requirements of the community services through mediation between the city of Aleppo which is under the control of the regime and the fighting FSA brigades. These efforts have led the two parties to sign a document containing aspects that are the basics of the initiative. This initiative has managed in the first four months of its inception to achieve a number of accomplishments including the retrieval of several ambulances and Red Crescent cars which have been taken by the FSA brigades, and fixing several affected water and electricity networks, as a result of the bombing, in the points of clashes after a truce agreement with the parties till the networks got repaired. Mr. Hamad Abdul Qader, who is a member of the initiative, was wounded in one of the processes of repairing the networks and that was the reason of his paralysis and he is now in the process of treatment.

This initiative has secured the introduction of fuel to the city of Aleppo when the road between Homs and Aleppo was cut off after it was controlled by the FSA. This initiative ensured the introduction of tanks of diesel to the city so the work of bakeries and hospitals can still go on. This has been agreed upon from the regime and the FSA brigades sides in order to send tanks of diesel to the countryside as well. Many of these services are done in cooperation with several organizations such as the Red Crescent and the Red Cross, and accordingly the initiative has secured 24 diesel tanks.

When the displacement movement in Aleppo began from the eastern to the western neighbourhoods, the initiative began to implement projects aimed to develop human resources and looking for employment opportunities for displaced people in schools. For example, the project of “pickles squeezing” has been implemented in one of the schools and all the refugees participated in it. Also, a sewing workshop project started in another school, this project provided sewing machines to the displaced people who are working in it. The initiative had also carried out the project “Hoset Halab” which was launched before Eid al-Adha where people cleaned the streets and several schools in cooperation with the Bureau of Social Affairs in the province of liberated Aleppo. The project of “Udhiyah” or sacrifice was the last project of the initiative where 435 sheep were slaughtered as a sacrifice and members of the initiative supervised the distribution of these meat portions.

Translated by: Ruba Al Jarf

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