This project may be the most detailed public study conducted on the Syrian conflict to date. First Mile Geo was leveraged to collect, manage, and visualize time-series data from within the human tragedy still unfolding in Aleppo City, street block by street block. Our users at Caerus Associates, a strategic consulting firm that focuses on fragile and conflict states, leveraged its research teams familiar with the city to conduct biweekly and monthly in situ assessments over a four-month period. Collectively, this provides a rich and dynamic picture of the humanitarian and security conditions within the ongoing conflict, its impact on the city’s residents, and the strategies of those who employ violence to assert control. With this work we hope to enable NGOs, humanitarian organizations, development institutions, and the media to better understand and appreciate the realities of war in Aleppo and Syria more broadly.
Below are just ten of the findings prepared by Caerus derived from its use of our technology.
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From September-December 2013, the al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained control of 1/3 of all neighborhoods in opposition-controlled Aleppo. Though in late December 2013, armed opposition groups began fighting to push ISIS out of Aleppo, it still controls more neighborhoods (10) than any other armed opposition group. Still, ISIS is unpopular in Aleppo: they control the most restrictive checkpoints in the city, and residents often avoid their checkpoints altogether.
Radical islamic influence waxed and waned between September 2013 and January 2014 in Aleppo.
Red areas indicate where researchers identified ISIS as dominant force in the neighborhood.
Only residents in regime-held neighborhoods reported receiving more than 12 hours of electricity from the government grid. Most residents in opposition-held Aleppo have 6 or fewer hours of grid electricity per day. This means that in wintertime, residents have cut down trees in the streets to warm their houses.
This is particularly true in regime-held areas away from the conflict's front lines, where 20 to 40% of residents reported believing the Assad regime is the “greatest threat to Syria.” These residents were among the least likely to receive a salary, and were more likely to say they trusted “no one” to resolve local disputes or crimes than in other areas.
In four months of surveying 561 residents, Aleppo residents are more likely to believe that “No One” represents the Syrian people than any other group. Almost 40% - across all districts in Aleppo – believe “No One” represents the Syrian people. This compares to the regime, which received 12.1% of the vote, and the national Syrian opposition (the “Etilaf”), which received less than 2% of the vote.
In September 2013, bread in regime-held neighborhoods cost 150SYP (130SYP-1USD), 3-5 times more than those in opposition-held areas. By mid-October, regime-held area bakeries returned to pre-war bread prices, which, at 15SYP, is 10 times less than its previous cost, and 2-5 times cheaper than opposition-held areas.
Nearly 75% of the “most restrictive” checkpoints in Aleppo are stationed along the highways entering the city and the two ring roads surrounding it. These disruptions significantly impede the flow of traffic within the city which has an impact not only on economic flows but also limits governing structures from growing beyond the neighborhood level.
Large armed groups in Aleppo are growing more powerful by adding or eliminating smaller, local groups. This “franchising” of opposition groups means a consolidation of opposition forces into fewer, larger units.
This is a combination of three factors: first, that many of these neighborhoods are on the front lines; second, they are also the poorest and least equipped to connect to aid agencies; and third, ethno-sectarian politics may complicate aid distribution in mixed communities.
Residents on the front lines in regime-held Aleppo are more likely to receive a government salary. The regime also deploys its Air Force Intelligence, the most feared agency in its security apparatus, to suppress dissent. The Air Force Intelligence Agency is now in charge of half of regime-held Aleppo.
Because of this, and what Human Rights Watch called “recklessly indiscriminate” shelling of bakeries in opposition-held Aleppo, almost no residents in opposition-held Aleppo line up for bread today. Instead, more than 90% of bakeries in the area work with local neighborhood groups to distribute bread directly to residents.