Nawar Oliver at Omran for strategic Studies, said in his last interview with AFP, "The Syrian regime cut up Ghouta into three zones, to comfortably work on securing three different agreements, and the Syrian regime is justifying this brutal campaign in order to secure the capital, which is regularly battered by rockets and mortars fired from the opposition territory as the regime claim.

Published in AFP Agency, 15 March.2018,


Wednesday, 28 February 2018 17:02

Syrian Refugee Employment in Turkey

According to official statistics, the Turkish Republic hosts nearly 3.5 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country. A number of studies show that a vast majority of these refugees will remain in Turkey permanently, even if the situation in Syria becomes stable and return becomes a possibility. Despite this trend, however, government institutions and organizations have failed to establish a sustainable framework for integrating Syrian refugees into Turkish society. Although the Turkish government addresses some specific areas of need, many refugees must take responsibility for securing their own livelihoods. Due to a gradual decrease in international aid and the long-term presence of Syrians in Turkey, it has become more difficult for refugees to find suitable employment opportunities. Whereas issues of housing, education, health, and food are related to problems of capacity and bureaucracy, the issue of livelihoods is more closely linked to the legal framework and the perception of Syrian refugee employment among Turkish citizens. This problem is not only a humanitarian issue but a political one, both nationally and globally.

For Syrian refugees, employment is more than a job. It has a significant and sustainable impact on an individual’s life, future, and ability to integrate into a new society. Unemployment, however, is a significant problem in Turkey. Some estimates indicate that working-age people in Turkey account for more than 50 percent of the population, yet the unemployment rate exceeds 17 percent, according to the Livelihood Observatory. Moreover, in response to the influx of Syrian refugees in Turkey, an insufficient amount of funds has been allocated to livelihoods sector to enable Syrians to build their livelihoods in Turkey. According to the 2016-2017 plan of Syria's humanitarian response, the amount of funding available for the livelihoods sector was $11 million (USD), but the funding requirement was $92 million (USD). As a result, the Turkish government has faced significant challenges, creating employment opportunities for Syrian refugees, integrating and organizing refugees in the labor market, and addressing problems between refugees and their employers.

There are a number of obstacles that prevent Syrian refugees from developing their livelihoods. Most notably, legal procedures related to the employment of Syrian refugees lack clarity and integrity. In addition, there is poor communication between Syrian civil society organizations and the Turkish government, as well as a lack of representative bodies demanding employment rights for refugees.

Most Syrians live in Turkey under temporary protected status, which fails to ensure certain protections. In fact, Turkish labor laws that apply to Syrian refugees are inadequate and inefficient. Due to difficult financial conditions, refugees are vulnerable to exploitation, including unfair compensation. In addition, refugees performing physical labor at work face a higher risk of injury, yet some employers do not provide them with health or social insurance.

To overcome existing obstacles, all actors in the livelihoods sector should collaborate to create appropriate mechanisms that enable Syrian refugees to secure jobs and develop their livelihoods. Specifically, the Turkish government should create a database, accessible to all relevant parties, for Syrian employment opportunities and establish appropriate mechanisms to assess the qualifications of Syrian refugees. In addition, the government should implement vocational training programs for secured employment and establish a union for Syrian workers under the supervision of the Turkish Workers Syndicate. The government also should support Syrian refugee recruitment agencies and provide them with necessary funding and facilities. To support small business and micro-enterprisesfor Syrian refugees, government agencies should provide appropriate facilities. They also should facilitate banking and investment procedures for Syrians to expand their ventures and create new jobs, and they should utilize the financial resources and expertise of Syrians abroad in order to develop Syrian livelihoods in Turkey. In addition, the government should establish joint large-scale industrial projects connecting Syrian and Turkish investors.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should identify and develop mechanisms to sustain livelihood programs and ensure their growth. They should establish a cooperative fund to provide small grants to entrepreneurs, and they should conduct community awareness and education campaigns to inform Syrian refugees about their rights and responsibilities in the labor market. In addition, NGOs should establish programs to help at-risk refugees find employment opportunities. They also should create sustainable initiatives that enable coordination and cooperation between Syrian and Turkish employers. These programs should produce joint economic projects in all sectors and support vocational training and rehabilitation programs for Syrian refugees. In addition, these programs should ensure that Syrian refugees are not exploited due to legal status or physical condition.

With the significant and lasting presence of Syrian refugees in Turkey, temporary solutions are no longer viable, especially as more and more refugees enter the labor market. Unless concerned parties in the Turkish government work to develop sustainable solutions, refugees and their host communities will face serious problems, such as increased tension between refugees and the local population, as well as social and economic instability. On the other hand, the employment of refugees will benefit the Turkish workforce and economy, while ensuring a promising future for Syrians in Turkey.


Additional Info

  • Files Syria, Turkey
  • Files-Hidden F1,F2
  • Experts Mohamed Al Bdullah
  • Experts No - Hidden E59

Omran for Strategic Studies and Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) hosted in Geneva a workshop entitled ‘Strategies for State Building in Syria,’ for a focus on centralisation and decentralisation formulas that fit post-war Syria. The workshop is part of the Syria and Global Security Project, jointly run by the GCSP and Omran. The project aims to offer a platform for collective informed discussions on Syria that could build bridges between experts and researchers in order to bring peace and security to Syria and the region.

The workshop brought together 21 experts and researchers from Germany, Norway, Russia, Syria, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States. The participants gathered for two days on 1-2 February, 2018 to exchange views on potential trajectories of state building in Syria. The workshop discussed the geo-strategic context for political reform, as well as, political, administrative, financial and security aspects of centralisation and decentralisation.

For more details, a report on the workshop is planned to be published soon on this website.

Additional Info

  • Event Type Earlier
  • Event Place Geneva
  • Files Local councils, Syria
  • Files-Hidden F72,F14
  • Experts Omran Center
  • Experts No - Hidden E43

Map of Control and Influence in Syria:

February 16, 2018

  1. Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) captured several locations in the western region of Afrin from the YPG/YPJ. Separately, reports emerged claiming that the TAF and the FSA had deployed additional troops and equipment west of the Jandaris district indicating an upcoming offensive.

Pro-YPG sources said that Kurdish forces had repelled Turkish attacks in the districts of Rajo and Bulbul, and claimed that more than 20 Turkish-backed fighters were reportedly killed there.

February 5: A massive Kurdish military convoy entered the Afrin region to support the YPG in its fight against the Turks. As a result, many issues were raised:

  •     The number of vehicles that left Manbij was 36, but 41 entered Afrin, meaning five extra vehicles joined the convoy from areas controlled by pro-Iran forces.
  •     After the convoy entered Afrin from a checkpoint in Nubl and Zahraa, areas controlled by pro-Iran forces, multiple Iranian weapons were spotted in the possession of Kurdish forces. Below is a full list of these weapons.

2.  Syrian regime and pro-Iran forces, as well as US-backed forces, are reportedly amassing troops and fortifying their positions in the Euphrates region. According to both pro-opposition and pro-government sources, the two sides are preparing for possible skirmishes in the area.

3.  February 10: Israeli airstrikes destroyed nearly half of the Syrian regime’s air defenses, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which cited “senior Israeli Defense Forces officials” in the article on February 14. An Israeli F-16 was shot down during the airstrike; however, Israeli officials considered the operation a success.

    February 12: AnIsraeli military official said that an Iranian drone shot down 10 February 2018, ago was based on a US stealth RQ-170 UAV, which was captured by Iran in 2011. Iran started production of this drone in 2016.

Additional Info

  • Files Russia, Syria, Turkey, USA, İran
  • Files-Hidden F72,F10,F11,F12,F65
  • Experts Omran Center
  • Experts No - Hidden E43

The representatives of various public institutions and diplomats serving in the Embassies in Ankara attended the meeting as well as OMRAN and ORSAM representatives. Two reports prepared by OMRAN Center experts with respect to the local councils and security sector in Syria were presented at the meeting.

Additional Info

  • Event Type Earlier
  • Files Local councils, Syria, Terrorism and Security
  • Files-Hidden F72,F15,F14
  • Experts Omran Center
  • Experts No - Hidden E43

Omran Center for Strategic Studies held a special briefing at its new office in Washington, DC, on Thursday, January 25. Dr. Sinan Hatahet, a research fellow at Omran Center, and Dr. Ammar Kahf, executive director of Omran Center, each delivered a presentation on Syrian military and political trajectories in 2018. They discussed patterns of local governance and the influence of domestic actors and cross-border groups in Syria.

This presentation marks the official launch of Omran DC, which will serve as a companion of its headquarters in Istanbul. Through its publications and workshops, Omran DC seeks to inform sustainable solutions to existing challenges, concerning security and military reform, local governance and administration, Iranian and international influence in Syria, and national political issues. Omran DC is a Partner in Residence with New America, a think tank dedicated to a range of public policy issues.

Additional Info

  • Event Type Earlier
  • Start Date Thursday, 25 January 2018
  • End Date Thursday, 25 January 2018
  • Files Local councils, Syria, Terrorism and Security, İran
  • Files-Hidden F72,F14,F15,F65
  • Experts Omran Center
  • Experts No - Hidden E43

Executive Summary

The military bodies that are part of the Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria receive their inspiration from a number of factors related to the political leanings of the parties that control the region. Thus, the group extracts its legitimacy, not from local demands for its presence, but instead from the urge to achieve certain political ends, including local empowerment and establishment. There are two main references for the group’s project. First, the project references the political ideals of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and Tev-Dem, formerly known as Rojava KCK, which contributed to the formation of the military units there. Second, it references the direct connection of the military units to the administrative, legal, and executive bodies of the Autonomous Administration.

  • The organization into a united structure of the military groups loyal to the PYD happened during two time periods. First in 2004, small groups were formed after the protest movement at the time. These groups were formed in villages and did not form into any official military group as part of the PYD untilthe recent Syrian revolution. The majority of the party’s military activities were directly aligned with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), especially on issues like recruitment. The second time period is best identified by the organization of military forces into a united force, known as the Syrian Youth Movement, which was led by Khabat Derik.
  • Military control over the armed forces of the Autonomous Administration is due to a combination of internal factors, including a joint effort between the Assad regime and the Autonomous Administration to establish stability, as well as support from outside actors, such as the international coalition. These factors did not result in a degradation of the group’s autonomy.
  • The YPG and YPJ are the backbone of the military forces in the Autonomous Administration. They depend upon the PKK for their training and military planning. Their force is estimated to comprise between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters. To maintain military hierarchy and organizational structure, they depend on the experiences and advice of the PKK. The YPG also created two academies, one for men and women respectively. The academy for women is called “Martyr Sheelan Academy.”
  • The Autonomous Administration started its reform and restructuring of its military units at the beginning of 2017. This was done in coordination with the international coalition and with American support for the Syrian Democratic Forces. The YPG, along with the SDF, also managed to take control of expansive, another factor that resulted in the need for restructuring. The structure they chose to implement is not much different than the YPG’s existing structure, since it is based on their internal bylaws. The YPG does not give accurate public information about its true numbers, but the group has suggested that it comprises approximately 50,000 fighters.   
  • The HPX is another main fighting force in the Autonomous Administration. This group is composed of citizens who are required to join through the forced conscription program. The Self-defense Council spearheaded these efforts after the Self-Defense and Protection Council provided confirmation through a social contract signed on January 21, 2014. The council’s bylaws were adopted by the legislative council on July 13, 2014.
  • The military forces created this structure to “build a well-trained and disciplined military force that would form into an army with official recognition and organized with a clear hierarchy,” according to Rizan Kilu, a co-president of the Self-Defense and Protection Committee in Jazira.
  • In Jazira Canton, there were 29 training courses offered between November 20, 2014 and July 21, 2017. In the Ain Arab Canton there were 8 training courses offered between June 6, 2016 and October 10, 2017. In the Afrin canton there were 10 training courses offered between July 5, 2015 and June 5, 2017.
  • After the training program, the Self-Defense Council depends on the conscripted fighters to provide various services, offer logistical support to the YPG, and construct or renovate military academies and buildings.
  • The Self-Defense Council in Afrin trains special forces at a higher rate than other cantons. These special forces are recruited and trained from among the conscripted locals. Three groups of special forces in Afrin have graduated as of the date of publication of this report.
  • At age 18, males are required to serve a minimum amount of time and are not excused, unless they have special permission or they reach the age of 40. Women are allowed to volunteer.
  • The Military Discipline Units of the Self-Defense Council are the military police. They pursue defectors and others who have failed to report for service. They also carry out some court orders alongside the conscription office.
  • There are also a number of foreign groups that fight alongside the YPG. One such group is the International Freedom Battalion, formed in Ras Al Ayn on June 10, 2015. The members come from a number of countries and ideologies, including Turkish leftists (MLKP) and the Liberation Army of the Workers and Peasants of Turkey (TIKKO). There are also members of leftist movements from Europe that formed the Bob Crow Brigade and the Henri Krasucki Brigade.
  • Some of the Christian forces in Hasakah province are allied with the YPG. Their military alliances are determined according to three main factors, 1) ethnic identity, including Christian Arabs and those with an independent Christian nationality; 2) the ethnic differences between the Assyrians, Syriac, and Armenian Christians; and 3) the different Christian dogmas and their affiliations with different churches.
  • The Asayish were formed as a central security force when the People’s Council of West Kurdistan (MGRK) took over cities populated by Kurds in the area. They started their official operations after the regime pulled out of Ayn al Arab (later named Kobani), Rmeilan, Malkiye, and Deirik. Once organized, the Asayish announced their intention to submit to the power of the Kurdish Supreme Committee (DBK), comprised of the Kurdish National Council (ENKS) and the MGRK. They now consider themselves to be a part of the Syrian Democratic Council (MSD) and the Autonomous Administration’s legislative wing. They oversee a number of forces, including the local traffic police, the counter terror forces (HAT), the Women’s Asayish, security checkpoints, general security, and anti-organized crime operations.
  • The Hêzên Antî Teror Asayîşa Rojavayê Kurdistanê (
  • The Women’s Asayish first convened on October 26, 2016 with 500 volunteers in Ain al Arab in Jazira canton.
  • The Civilians' Defense Forces, or HPC, was named for the Autonomous Administration’s role within the “core of society.” The HPC is responsible for protecting local neighborhoods and the committees that operate in the cantons. The group has its own checkpoints and actively investigates any possible threats in the cantons.
  • The Roj Mine Control Organization (RMCO), which coordinates with the demining units in the Asayish, is responsible for disarming all mines, especially in the rural areas where there have been—or still are—active battlefronts. Since 2014, RMCO has cleared 51 square kilometers and destroyed 8,704 mines.
  • Not only are the aforementioned military structures the backbone of the Autonomous Administration, but the alliances that the YPG made with foreign and regional powers also contribute to the effectiveness of the military structure. With the YPG as the main force in the alliance, and with the group’s growing importance, the focus quickly shifted to the fight against terror. This fact was confirmed when the International Coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria designated the YPG as its military partner, leading ground operations.
  • At the establishment of the SDF, the groups present included the YPG, YPJ, Sotooro, Jaysh al Thuwar, Syriac Military Council, Sanadeed Army, Raqqa Revolutionary Front, Northern Sun Brigades, Jazeera Brigades, Freedom Brigade, and the 99th Infantry Brigade. After its formation, a number of other groups joined the SDF. These groups included the Free Officers Gathering (Hussam Awak), Manbij Military Council (Manbij Revolutionaries, Jund Al Haramayn Brigade, Euphrates Brigades Gathering, Al Qusay Brigade, Turkmen of Manbij Brigade, and Northern Sun Brigades), and the Army of Tribes. There are special forces allied with the SDF, but they are not officially part of the group.
  • The formation of the SDF came two weeks after the Russian intervention in September 2015. On October 12, 2015, two days after the SDF’s formation, the spokesperson for the US Secretary of Defense announced that an American C17 landed in Hasaka province to deliver more than 100 containers of military supplies.
  • According to unofficial sources, the American weapons delivery was organized by Lahor Sheikh Jinki, the nephew of the late Jalal Talabani.
  • At the same time as the SDF’s formation, the YPG was expanding its control of majority-Arab territories in rural Hassaka, Raqqa, and Afrin. Only 11 days earlier, the Americans announced the termination a program to train and equip Syrians due to a decision to call back some troops from foreign training missions.
  • American support for the SDF is a main factor contributing to the group’s strength and capacity. The US provides air support, protects YPG forces from attacks, and sends experts, advisers, marines, and other American troops to SDF territories.
  • These trends were supported by the continued leadership of the coalition, which offered increased armed support to Syria's Democratic Forces and the YPG through the construction of a five or six military bases in the countryside of Hasaka, Aleppo, and Raqqa. The US provides three main types of support for the SDF—arms, military bases, and protection from enemy advances.
  • The SDF consulted more than 500 foreign advisers, primarily from the US, France, and the UK to a lesser extent. These advisers helped train the SDF and YPG.
  • There are approximately five to six moving and permanent American military bases in northern Syria.
  • The SDF does not publicize accurate information about its numbers. Instead, Omran’s research team depends on public statements, which provide hints that uncover more accurate information. Often, SDF commanders speak to friendly local media and exaggerate the group’s true numbers. Rough estimates suggest that the group comprises 60,000 to 75,000 fighters.
  • On January 1, 2016, the SDF began recruiting fighters by accepting volunteers, offering monetary compensation, and forcing others to join through conscription. The group has trained and graduated 12 groups since February 16, 2017. The graduates were from Shadadi, Raqqa, and Deir Ezzor.
  • After the formation of the SDF, new fighters directly joined the military structure, instead of joining groups that operated under the SDF banner. The SDF leadership even used force to stop people from joining such groups, as was the case with the special forces of the Tayyar Al Ghad. It is notable that the Christian Forces and the Sanadeed Army are not held to the same standard.
  • The SDF structure includes the following components: the Military Council (which includes leaders from all member groups), the SDF General Commander, the General Command of the SDF (led by the General Commander and 9 to 13 members, depending on need), and the Military Discipline Committee. Unlike the YPG, the SDF did not form separate military units, except for the Jaheesh Tribe, which formed a special force of 200 tribesmen independent of the SDF.
  • The SDF has not completely integrated of all their forces, for the same reasons that the Syrian opposition groups have failed to do so for six years. The groups that have joined the SDF have, in fact, not separated completely from their original structures.
  • The SDF was created from a mixed alliance of groups including tribes, as well as groups that were not tribal in nature but had formed in Raqqa and rural northern Aleppo. There are also some religious groups, like Christian forces, and others built upon nationalistic visions.
  • There are major differences between the main force of the SDF and the YPG, and they continue to face difficulties due to this reality. Currently, there is not active armed conflict between the YPG and other groups that are part of the SDF, but some of the problems are rooted in previous conflicts. For example, there was a conflict between the YPG and the Sanadeed Army. During the Raqqa operations there were also tensions between the YPG and the special forces controlled by the Tomorrow Movement.
  • The Raqqa Revolutionaries Front is considered to be one of the oldest allies of the YPG. The group had a central role in taking control of Raqqa from the regime in March 2013.
  • The SDF alliance is problematic and will continue to negatively impact local and regional developments, despite the rationale for the SDF’s, its military and security structures, and its alliance with the YPG.

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Additional Info

  • Files Russia, Syria
  • Files-Hidden F11,F72
  • Experts Mohamed Al Bdullah
  • Experts No - Hidden E142