Most localities of Idlib under insurgent control have local councils responsible for matters of services. While many local councils have become affiliated with the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham-backed Salvation Government, some still assert that they are independent. The Binnish local council is an example of the latter type.
To learn more about the Binnish local council and the situation in the town, I conducted an interview on 31 August 2019 with the media guy for the Binnish local council.
The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the town of Binnish in general?
A: The number of inhabitants of Binnish is around 40,000. The biggest of its families: al-Sayyid, Salat, al-Sayyid Ali, Hajj Qadour. The number of martyrs [since 2011] is 1700.
Q: How is the services and humanitarian situation in general?
A: The services situation is weak in general but the activity of the people of the town and their progress have contributed to increasing the services.
Q: Can you describe to me the situation of electricity, water, cleaning and sewage?
A: People get electricity through generators: in every neighbourhood is a generator supplying homes. As for water, it was operated some time ago by the support of the Ihsan aid organization and then through taxes and then the work stopped because the people did not comply with paying and they rely now on private tankers.
Cleaning is very good because of people's awareness and the local council's employment of municipal office workers, while the sewage is acceptable and the manholes have been cleaned by workers affiliated with the council with the support of the SARD aid organization.
Q: Is the local council affiliated with any side currently like the Salvation Government?
A: The local council is not affiliated with anyone or the Salvation Government and that is because the tint of the people of the town is in the Free Army and Ahrar al-Sham, and the people stood with the Free Army and al-Ahrar against the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] and prevented them from entering the town, and the revolutionary institutions have remained far removed from the Salvation Government.
Q: The biggest accomplishments of the council recently?
A: The biggest accomplishments of the council: renovating a number of houses and placing IDPs in them.
Q: The biggest challenges the town faces regarding services and the humanitarian situation?
A: The town faces the problem of a great deficiency in financial support offered by civilian work aid organizations in the fields of education, services and supporting the water sector. And it is suffering a crisis of residential inflation and lack of availability of support for them.
Q: Are there any aid organizations helping you currently?
A: The aid organizations that help us are SARD for renovating the homes, and very little the Violet Organization for relief and al-Tarbiya al-Hurra in a small sense in education.
Q: What is the number of offices of the local council?
A: The number of offices of the council is seven. Two have resigned and a replacement for them was appointed through the council of notables.
Q: What are the offices of the local council? And how are members of the council chosen?
A: Media office, education, relief, legal, agricultural, public relations, services. Each person has been appointed according to his university qualification and his expertise in his field.
Q: So there are no popular elections until now.
A: Dear brother, elections of the members of the council are democratic elections through candidacy of names. As for the distribution of offices according to expertise among us, we are the successful ones [NB: he meant to say here that they decide the distribution of offices among themselves].
Q: What is the number of members of the council currently?
A: Twenty. Seven heads of offices: each one has two assistants. And six workers with the relief. Note: all members of the council with the head are without a salary. Voluntary work.