Away from the battlefield, there is another fight being waged between insurgent factions and the Assad regime — the struggle to maintain effective administrative control over key neighborhoods in Syria’s major cities.
Those in charge of both regime- and insurgent- controlled areas face the challenge of maintaining services, like electricity, water and garbage collection, to keep local residents happy and avoid unrest.
In recent weeks, the propaganda battle over electricity supply has heated up, as Syrians across the country face ongoing outages. Activists have accused the regime of deliberately cutting off electricity supplies to parts of the country. The Assad regime has taken a two-pronged approach to its electricity propaganda — blaming the blackouts on “terrorists” and “armed groups”, whom it says are deliberately targeting power stations while at the same time stressing that it is working to fix the problem.
In Aleppo, where insurgent-controlled neighborhoods like As-Sukari have been without electricity for some months, a local insurgent organization the Islamic Management For Public Services (IMPS) has begun to fix the problem — and make propaganda videos of its work.
This footage, posted on Saturday, shows IMPS fixing electricity cables for civilians, likely in the Tal Azzarazir district.
IMPS says that it operates in collaboration with insurgent factions Harakat Ahrar As-Sham and the Tawhid Brigade. Interestingly, IMPS does not mention Jabhat Al Nusra, though at the beginning of the year, JAN was one of three groups — including the Tawhid Brigade and Ahrar As-Sham — which formed a council to deal with local issues in the neighborhoods they control.
According to the Facebook page of IMPS, their mission is to “provide basic services to citizens and public needs of water, electricity and flour and to maintain public facilities, hygiene and the environment and secure communications”.
On its own YouTube channel, IMPS distribute its propaganda videos showing its work. In this footage, from Saturday, a civilian thanks the group for restoring electricity to the Tal Azzarazir district. IMPS say that they also restored electricity to parts of As-Sukari, the neighborhood immediately east of Tal Azzarazir, which has not had electricity for some months.
IMPS workers talking to a local woman and a small girl, who “express their gratitude” for the restored electricity supply:
Meanwhile, Damascus maintains that it can provide residents in regime-controlled areas with electricity. On Saturday, Electricity Minister Imad Khamis accused “terrorists” of an attack on gas and fuel pipelines which feed electric power stations in the north of Syria.
Khamis said, “The terrorist attack caused the generating stations to come out of service and the braking off of electricity in parts of Daraa, Sweida, Qunaitera and Damascus,” but added that the Ministry was able to supply the region in part from substitute resources.
Khamis “affirmed that the electric power will be gradually restored within 24 hours as the workshops of the Ministry of Petroleum began maintenance”.