“From here, international donor bodies should strive to provide aid through non-governmental organizations that are able to provide direct support to those affected without resorting to the directives of the workers in the Salvation Government.”
The Salvation Government, led by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, managed the aftermath of the earthquake that struck many of its regions more effectively than the rest of the areas affected in Syria, including the areas under the control of the Syrian regime and the Euphrates Shield zone. It published detailed reports on each destroyed village, including tallies of casualties, entirely destroyed homes, and damaged ones.
Monitoring many of the published numbers, we found that most of them are accurate, demonstrating an efficient monitoring mechanism. However, the distribution of aid did not maintain the same standard, as many of the victims who were not close to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham did not receive equal shares.
This is understandable, as most jobs within the Salvation Government are held by civilian individuals, who are required to meet the following criteria:
• Having graduated from university after 2016
• Being affiliated with Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham through the so-called "self-number."
• Being known for their absolute loyalty to the Commission and the Muslim community.
To understand these requirements, it's important to note that Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham didn't establish absolute control over the northwest until after 2017, but since 2016, it has exerted total control over the media and educational bodies.
Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham has transformed from an alliance of several military battalions into a dominant force in its region. Each member of this Commission has a "self-number" to facilitate tracking and employment in the area of their skills. There is a preference for former members of the military brigades in the recruitment process.
Non-combatants need a recommendation from an influential figure in the Commission to ensure the security of the Muslim community. Most of these endorsements come from clerics or leaders in the Sharia Commission.
How does the organization control media?
No independent media exist in the areas of the Autonomous Administration. It is forbidden for any journalist to cover or photograph events without a license from the "General Directorate of Media." Workers in the Media Directorate are exclusively affiliated with Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, unlike the other directorates, which sometimes allow the public to hold positions if they can secure a recommendation from one of the leaders in Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.
Thus, the media in the areas controlled by the Salvation Government seem to echo the demands of the Salvation Government, in a manner similar to the Syrian regime's government. The Salvation Government also provides regular training for its employees on cybersecurity programs to ensure the security of its information. These training programs improve the security and media skills of the Commission's members and are not available to the public to maintain the superiority of the Commission's affiliates.
Jobs within the Syrian Salvation Government aren't particularly attractive. A university graduate earns a salary of $80, an employee with a vocational institute certificate earns $60, and a middle school graduate earns $45. These salaries aren't competitive, leading many young men to join military brigades that offer a monthly wage of $100. Therefore, those who choose to work for the interim government do so primarily to serve the Salvation Government or to fulfill the mission of Islam that was instilled in them by the clergy.
From this reality, we understand that the method of distributing humanitarian aid through the Salvation Government lacked the necessary fairness, given the preference of aid workers for members of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham over other segments of society.
From here, international donor bodies should strive to provide aid through non-governmental organizations that are able to provide direct support to those affected without resorting to the directives of the workers in the Salvation Government.
Furthermore, international bodies should pressure the Salvation Government, through Turkish mediators, to allow the presence of independent media institutions capable of monitoring the government's performance and ensuring transparency in its handling of the relief efforts.