Local councils normally function on the ground inside the localities they are supposed to represent. But some local councils exist 'in exile'. In north Aleppo countryside, an example of a local council 'in exile' is the local council of the village of Sheikh Isa, which is located between the towns of Tel Raf'at and Mare'a. The village was seized from the rebels in 2016 by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) based in Afrin and remains today a frontline between the rebel-held areas of northwest Aleppo countryside and what remains of the SDF presence in northwest Aleppo countryside following the routing of the SDF from Afrin in 2018 by Turkish-backed rebel forces.
It should be noted that the SDF's seizure of Tel Raf'at and other villages remains a key grievance held against the SDF by the Turkish-backed rebels and many displaced locals.
To learn more about the functions of the local council 'in exile', I conducted an interview with the Sheikh Isa local council on 8 July 2019. The interview is edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the village of Sheikh Isa? The number of inhabitants, the main families etc.
A: The village remains occupied by the Assad militias and the PKK [latter: SDF]. The current number of [original] inhabitants is 15,000. The village has a number of families of whom the most important are: Nabhan, Raslan, Hamidi, Masha'al, Shushan.
Q: And the majority are in camps on the borders with Turkey?
A: Yes, the vast majority.
Q: And there is no one of them who fled to the areas of the regime for example?
A: A small number.
Q: How does the [local] council try to help the displaced sons [of the village]?
A: The displaced people are helped by providing for their requirements and helping them with simple things.
Q: Meaning for example food aid baskets?
A: No, regrettably. There are aid organizations that oversee this matter.
Q: Has the interim government government helped you in trying to help the displaced sons of the locality?
A: No. Self-help from ourselves. All of the displaced persons from the violated areas, the interim government does not offer them anything. The only ones who offer help are humanitarian aid organizations.
Q: But the local council is affiliated with the interim government officially, right?
A: Yes, correct. But nothing has been offered until now.
Q: What are the crimes that the PKK committed against the sons of the locality in addition to displacement?
A: The crimes the PKK committed are many: forced displacement, arrests taking hold of some of the people, looting of private and public properties entirely, changing the features of the village and digging tunnels in it. The one who wants to return to the village, he is completely forbidden from doing so.
Q: Yes so the village has become a military zone under their occupation.
A: Yes, entirely so.