The crisis in Syria raises questions about how Syrians live their lives amidst the ongoing war, particularly in the “liberated zones” which are no longer under the control of the Assad regime. Bashar Assad’s forces have imposed a strict siege on these zones and, together with Russian and Iranian forces, have subjected them to heavy bombing. The war has damaged the economy, causing thousands of families and individuals to lose their sources of income and live in deteriorating conditions. It has thus forced many people to change their economic activities in order to provide for their families.
In an attempt to take control of their lives and build some stability in incredibly difficult conditions, residents in these liberated zones have formed local councils. In some zones, they have indeed succeeded in forming actively independent local councils, while in other areas the local councils have limited freedom to perform their duties. In all cases, local councils operate like “small governments” in managing the affairs of their region. They work with development and service institutions to lessen the chaos of war and provide support in the absence of state institutions. This raises questions about the challenges that local councils face and offers an opportunity to assess their performance in a war context. For this purpose, this paper presents case studies of local administration in Douma, Qalaat al-Madiq and Tasil, which represent three different regions of the country.