Politics & Economics

Trade unions unify in Syria's rebel-held north


A group of opposition-affiliated trade unions in Aleppo's countryside announce the formation of the Federation of Free Syndicates to enhance the role of syndicates in supporting local councils.

ALEPPO, Syria — On July 3, a number of opposition-affiliated syndicates in Aleppo’s countryside announced the establishment of the Federation of Free Syndicates at the headquarters of the Free Syndicate of Lawyers in Khan al-Asal in western Aleppo, which is under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

The federation includes the Free Lawyers Syndicate, the Syrian General Union of Teachers in Aleppo, the Aleppo Free Pharmacists Syndicate, the Association of Free Syrian Engineers, the Syndicate of Economists, the Media Union of Aleppo and its Countryside, as well as the Sharia Council in Aleppo province. All members of these syndicates reside in opposition-controlled areas in the northern and western countryside of Aleppo.

The seven syndicates elected the head of the Association of Free Syrian Engineers, Yahya Kanaan, as president of the Federation of Free Syndicates. The heads of the other syndicates and of the Sharia Council were appointed members of the newly formed federation’s council.

According to its founding statement, the Federation of Free Syndicates aims to serve the interests of the revolution and those of syndicate members, so as to allow civil society to serve its real purpose, to achieve the revolution’s goals and to build a new free Syrian state.

Kanaan told Al-Monitor, “The opposition-affiliated syndicates in Aleppo’s countryside had been meeting and coordinating for around six months before the federation was announced. It will strive to unify efforts to support the work of the opposition’s institutions, such as local councils and courts. It will also support other civil institutions that offer services to Syrians in FSA-controlled areas in Aleppo’s countryside in general. The federation’s action will be based on a national perspective that goes in line with the Syrian revolution’s goals.”

He added, “The federation will provide opportunities for members of syndicates who have the skills and expertise to strengthen the [opposition] government work in opposition-controlled areas in Aleppo’s countryside, as well as develop the areas’ technical capabilities in managing their own affairs.”

Kanaan explained that the federation does not receive support from any internal or external party, and that it does not administratively follow any government affiliated to the opposition — in reference to the Government of National Salvation and the Syrian Interim Government.

“However, we hope the Syrian Interim Government can be able to carry out its responsibilities and take up an effective role in opposition-controlled areas in the north for us to be able to work under its umbrella,” Kanaan noted.

Ismail al-Raj, the head of the Media Union of Aleppo and its Countryside, told Al-Monitor, “Establishing the Federation of Free Syndicates is a very important step in light of the situation in the opposition-controlled areas in the countryside of Aleppo in northern Syria. Its significance lies in bringing together the majority of professional syndicates under one body. It makes it easier for them to communicate, develop and discuss strategies for local institutional action in the opposition areas, as well as unify their visions regarding all developments.”

Raj added, “The Media Union of Aleppo and its Countryside will support the work of the various syndicates in the federation. We will promote the work of the syndicates individually in terms of services, education, judiciary action, health care and other activities. We truly believe the federation can support local councils in cities and towns controlled by the FSA.”

The Media Union of Aleppo and its Countryside includes 110 members, actively reporting from several FSA-controlled areas in Aleppo’s countryside. Some are photographers for opposition-affiliated news agencies such as Baladi Network, Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office and Orient News, and others are correspondents working for Arab and international agencies, such as Reuters and Anadolu Agency.

Meanwhile, the Syrian General Union of Teachers is one of the largest opposition-affiliated unions in Aleppo, gathering over 7,000 members.

The Free Lawyers Syndicate includes 500 members, the Association of Free Syrian Engineers has 600, and the Aleppo Free Pharmacists Syndicate has 60 members.

Al-Monitor learned about these numbers from the heads of the syndicates but could not get specific figures from the Syndicate of Economists and the Sharia Council in Aleppo province, which refused to divulge these details.

Rami al-Sayed, a member of the Media Union of Aleppo and its Countryside and a reporter for the local Thiqa news agency in Aleppo’s countryside, expressed hope that the Federation of Free Syndicates will significantly improve the collective performance of opposition-affiliated syndicates. He told Al-Monitor that mechanisms to serve the members of syndicates need to be established, so as to protect their rights and provide support when need be.

Sayed believes the federation will have an effective role in supporting local councils in opposition-held areas, as long as both parties cooperate ito best serve society.

The Federation of Free Syndicates calls for unifying efforts between all institutions, bodies and councils affiliated with the opposition in the countryside of Aleppo to promote government work. According to officials from the federation, this will pave the way for activating the role of the civil government, the only one capable of managing FSA-controlled areas.

Image: Al Monitor

Article: Al Monitor