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Militants stifle civil society in Syria's Idlib

Civil society groups in Syria’s Idlib are doing what they can to provide aid to about 1 million citizens, despite pressure by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda-linked group that is trying to impose its own presence in the province.
People shop during the holy month of Ramadan in the rebel-held Idlib city, Syria June 8, 2017. Picture taken June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah - RTX39SDA

When Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) stormed into town, Yehiya Sobieh rounded up as many people as he could to start a protest. On June 9, the people of Maarat al-Numan, a small city located in Syria’s last rebel-held stronghold of Idlib, mobilized to protect local fighters from the al-Qaeda-linked group.

Many chanted “Shabiha, Shabiha, leave our city now,” which is a term that originally referred to state-sponsored gangs that terrorized protesters at the beginning of the Syrian revolution. That day, demonstrators held their ground until HTS retreated, signaling a clear victory for civil society.

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