Within the areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the People's Municipal Office (Baladiyat al-Sha'ab) is responsible for providing services at the local level and can be seen as the equivalent of a local council. This institution has also been set up in areas of Deir az-Zor province captured from the Islamic State by the SDF with the support of the U.S.-led international coalition. For example, a People's Municipal Office exists in the locality of Dhiban in Deir az-Zor province.
Tracking the services and humanitarian situation in the areas captured from the Islamic State in eastern Syria remains an important issue. On 21 June 2020, I conducted an interview with the People's Municipal Office in Dhiban about the situation there. This interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What is the number of inhabitants in the locality and what is the proportion of the original inhabitants who have returned since the liberation of the locality from the Dawla [Islamic State] organisation?
A: Dhiban is located in the countryside of Deir az-Zor and on the east bank of it. The number of its inhabitants reaches 60,000. They mostly work in agriculture and simple business. And after the SDF entered the area around half of the people have returned, and the number is increasing.
Q: How are the services like electricity, water, cleaning and sewage etc.?
A: The area is suffering from a lack of basic services like electricity, whose delivery has been limited currently to the water stations. As for the water, the locality's small station has been repaired and it supplies 35% of the residential homes. As for in the field of cleaning, one of the NGOs has supported the municipal offices with a cleaning project that has contributed greatly to the cleaning of the locality. The sewage is limited to the main streets in the organisational plan for the locality.
Q: The biggest accomplishments and projects of the People's Municipal Office since the liberation?
A: There are projects that have been submitted to the Autonomous Administration and they are under consideration. And the People's Municipal Office in Dhiban has contributed to the organisation and operation of the ovens [for making bread] and their oversight, paving a number of the roads of the locality with asphalt and other branch roads with soil repair, cleaning open sewage holes of the people through a sewage car, in addition to spraying pesticides for the mosques, neighbourhoods and homes, as well as overseeing the pharmacies and considering various projects and preparing them in order for them to be supported materially.
Q: Of course the rise of the price of the dollar has impacted the life of the citizen. What are the measures adopted to reduce the pressure on the citizen? Do you fear the impact of the Caesar law on the life of the citizen in Dhiban?
A: The people are currently living through difficult impacts after application of the Caesar law while the rise of the prices and the pressing need for bigger projects are creating [lack of] work opportunities and lack of availability of liquidity.