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The New Arab

Syrians face challenges living under Kurdish administration in Manbij

Residents of Manbij find it difficult to see family outside the city during Ramadan (Getty)

Date of publication: 29 May, 2018

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Syrians living in areas controlled by YPG forces continue to face challenges.
The people of the city of Manbij in north Syria continue to face many challenges while living under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). Manbij, a traditionally ethically diverse city, was captured by Kurdish-led forces in 2016 after fierce battles with the Islamic State group.

There is an ongoing fear of young people being forced into conscription to the YPG forces or alternatively face arrest, and it has become increasingly difficult to move to and from the city.

There are also worries concerning yet another round of fighting in the city, as there has been speculation that Ankara, who consider the YPG to be terrorists, will want to oust the Kurdish forces in the area, following Turkey’s offensive in Afrin.

Miran, a 42-year-old resident of Manbij, who is opposed to the Kurdish forces control of the city, says that living in Manbij is "no different" from the rest of the control areas controlled by YPG in north Syria.

"The cost of living is only enough for basic commodities. The members of the YPG are the only ones who make more money, our suffering increases every time they issue a new law to deprive us of our strength," he adds.

"The movement inside Manbij is relatively easy for the elderly," said Irfan, 30. "But the young people who have been asked to serve in the Kurdish forces are very wary [of being conscripted]. Army recruitment of the youth has begun in the surrounding villages."

"It is difficult to travel outside the city because of the large number of roadblocks that prevent the entry of people coming in from areas outside the force’s control. These people are only permitted entry for 15 days, and must have a guarantor from inside the city."

Irfan added that this is especially frustrating in Ramadan,  pointing out that it is difficult for people to see their families freely.  

Younis Osman, 45, is the father of four children, two of them in school, and he worries about indoctrination in their education.

"The teaching of my children is a disaster, and something I obsess over.  The curriculum is taken directly from the Syrian regime, apart from policies relating to the Kurdish forces which provokes racist estrangement between the Arabs and the Kurds, which didn’t exist in the past - we lived together for centuries."

Earlier this year a general strike has started in the Syrian city of Manbij, protesting the death of two men while in custody by YPG forces.

Like other areas liberated of IS, the residents of Manbij are relived to be free of the militants, but subsequently face the authoritarianism of YPG forces.  

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