Previously on this blog I have interviewed mukhtars of al-Karak al-Sharqi (east Deraa countryside) and Azaz (north Aleppo countryside). Those interviews illustrated two important and contrasting points: namely, how a mukhtar in a rebel-held area (in this case, al-Karak al-Sharqi) could still serve as an important link to the Syrian government and how a mukhtar in another rebel-held area (in this case, Azaz) could illustrate a local administration's direct links with Turkey rather than the Syrian opposition's interim government, whose influence in the Turkish-occupied Euphrates Shield zone of north Aleppo countryside is limited.
Elsewhere in the remaining rebel-held northwest where there is much less Turkish influence than in the Euphrates Shield zone, the situation is different. The interviewee for this post is Abu Brahim Aloush, the mukhtar of the north Idlib countryside locality of Killi. He was appointed the mukhtar of Killi in 2003 and presently works with the Syrian interim government. This interview was conducted on 29 October 2018 CE. A couple of the questions have been reordered for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions of mine are in square brackets.
Q: Firstly can you tell me a little bit about the locality of Killi and its history?
A: Killi's name goes back to an Ottoman army that destroyed the villages surrounding it and became established in this place as it was crowned with trees, and the villages that it destroyed are Dhumat, Kafr Sahel and Qinin.
And so it was called by this name from the weariness [Arabic root k-l-l] and tiredness that exhausted the army. And this locality is well-known for lack of submission to any oppression or colonialism that comes upon it as it resisted the French colonizer and killed in one day 30 of its people and there remained people from the revolutionaries until recently and I know people from them- may God have mercy on them.
As for now, the number of its inhabitants reaches around 18,000 people approximately except the IDPs from the other localities and it is well-known for the goodness and generosity of its people.
And we have the honour of being among those who undertook this revolution and among its forefront as this locality has offered more than 450 martyrs in the path of glory and dignity.
Q: Yes. And what is your role as the mukhtar of the locality? You were the mukhtar before the revolution? And now you deal with the interim government only?
A: As for my role in this good locality, the people of the locality chose me to be a mukhtar for it since 2003 until now, and I work striving with all effort for conciliation among the people and I do all I can to offer services to this locality as before the revolution I was with a group of the people of the village undertaking charity work (charitable association) and distributing to the poor and needy. And I am responsible for all documents and supporting documents [IDs etc.] as they are stamped with the official stamp for the peoples of the locality. And I deal with the interim government in an official sense and without any disdain in any transaction.If the documents are not official, I will not sign them, whether before or after the revolution.
Q: Yes. So before the revolution you dealt with the regime in stamping documents, and now the interim government only. Right?
Q: You are responsible for conciliation among the people. What are the types of problems in the locality that you must resolve?
A: Brother among the problems like marriage, divorce and other matters from incidents among the citizens.
Q: For example a clan conflict, you are responsible for resolving it?
A: Brother, I participate in resolving them with the notables of the locality.
Q: How is the situation generally in the locality of Killi? And what are the main problems from the realm of services and the humanitarian situation in the locality?
A: The general situation in this locality from the realm of security is very good, praise be to God. As for the services realm, although the local council in all its humble capabilities offers the necessary services to the citizens, the lack of capabilities makes services insufficient regarding electricity and water and the rate of unemployment is very high.
Q: What are your expectations regarding the future of Idlib, especially after the Turkish-Russian agreement? Are there people in the area supporting the idea of 'reconciliation'?
A: Dear brother, we are among the first who undertook the revolution, so let them agree on what they wish. We will not accept any conciliation or truce in which there is no protection for our martyrs, detained and dignity. This will only be through bringing down the regime. And all who support this conciliation are traitors to their religion, Ummah and homeland.
Q: But are there many of the people who support this idea for 'reconciliation' or the number is small only?
A: Whoever wants this reconciliation, let him go to hell.
Q: Yes, so do you expect that most of the province of Idlib will remain liberated and outside the control of the regime?
A: Yes yes yes, by God's permission.
Q: But it's possible for some people to say that the people of Idlib must deal with a central state. So in the future what is your opinion for example on the idea of the Idlib region becoming officially a part of Turkey? I mean Idlib becoming a Turkish province.
A: Better that we be independent.
Q: Yes, but isn't the current situation like partitioning Syria? I mean part of Syria under the regime and a part liberated.
A: We will work to liberate all of Syria, if God wills.