Days Like These

With fighters from the Deir ez-Zor Military Council at their garrison in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The kindness and generosity they showed me was unrivaled. These guys are facing a host of security challenges even before the final liberation of Baghouz and are not sure whether they can count on American military assistance to the SDF continue battling an IS insurgency that is already well underway. Photo by Abo Sima

Deir ez-Zor- I spent the weekend conducting field research in the eponymous district of Syria’s war ravaged eastern governorate to see what was going on beyond the headlines. I saw the press convoy leaving the temporary dormitory on the grounds of the SDF-controlled al-Omar oil field heading down to the battle of Baghouz and wanted no part of what appeared to be a dog-and-pony show as I much prefer to work alone in order to create more visceral human connections. I generally bristle at being told where I can point my camera and whom I can and cannot interact with.

My objective was to interview and embed with members of the indigenous war-fighting group the Deir ez-Zor Military Council. I wanted to get their take on the armed power struggle with an-nizam (“regime” or “system”). Rather than elevate despicable so-called “ISIS brides” to their 15 minutes of fame or cover the offensive being waged by non-indigenous forces, I had wanted to gain insight into the very localised political-military dynamics of the region that may ultimately decide its future. Great power politics are very much at play in Deir ez-Zor with presence of the armed forces of the United States and Russian Federation (“Russia”) along with a litany of other non-state or substate players helming from Lebanon to Pakistan. But I hold that the future of the security status quo in the governorate will ultimately be determined by the local tribes.

The commander I interviewed provided my driver and I with an armed escort from his garrison through the desert that served as both a short cut to the road north back to al-Hasakah governorate and a method to circumvent IS takfiri’een who have been launching attacks on insecure roadways. Article forthcoming…

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