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Peace Cannot Wait

Support Social Development in Afrin (Syria) through Social Cohesion activities and Community led initiatives

Photo of Iqbal Khan
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Over 8 years of war, Afrin, a sub-district of Aleppo province in Syria, witnessed many military operations and large waves of displacement resulting in problematic demographic changes. On one hand we have the local residents of Afrin and on the other the internally displaced persons (IDP’s). According to UN studies, 136.000 individuals currently live in Afrin district and the host community-IDP ratio is estimated at 60-40 %. Between the communities there is no social cohesion and no trust. The Syria Center for Policy Research (SCPR) has documented a dramatic decrease in social capital. The “social capital index” (covering social networks and community participation) has declined with 30 % between 2011 and 2014. Research of IMPACT, co-funded by 11.11.11 showed that mass displacement, have resulted in a major shift in social dynamics and hierarchy. Prevailing acts of corruption, unstable security conditions and weak local governance, are the main driving forces of social animosities. While local residents report feelings of marginalization and alienation resulting in the perception of favouritism towards the IDPs, the IDPs mostly view social tensions as a result of failure to properly integrate. We would like to reuse a former theme park, a place for fun and laughter which is easily accessible and has facilities for children and elderly. On these premises we will organise a monthly bazaar where people of both communities can reconnect through food and crafts, and have common areas for their children to play together. The bazaar will reduce tensions among local residents and IDPs and support dialogue and cultural exchanges to promote civil peace and rebuild social cohesion. The bazaar programme will consist of workshops on small enterprise start-ups and providing small grants to selected participants to showcase their handiwork and products. The programme will also include art and craft exhibitions, performances, and fun activities on the periphery of the Bazaar.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Afrin district is located in Aleppo governorate in Syria and is currently under Turkish control. The population consists of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. We specifically choose Afrin because, due to political impasses, it is very difficult for international aid to go in to rebuild civil society - further victimising the people who have endured war. Aid alone does not suffice. People need support and initiatives to strengthen social cohesion. If we do nothing other forces like IS will step in.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The idea is to provide a market place (bazaar) where local products, foods and crafts, are exhibited by hosts and IDPs at the same time. It provides space for social interaction among communities. Cultures and traditions of IDPs and hosts are promoted through the presentation of local products financed by the micro-grant recipients. The bazaar is not only a commercial place; it is a space for mingling, socio-cultural exchanging and joy.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Both local residents and IDP’s are losing their sense of belonging to Afrin. Local Kurdish population were deprived of their rights of practicing their culture and language for decades due to the discriminatory practices of the regime. Kurds now are less than 35% of Afrin population. On the other hand, the IDPs are detached from their homes to a new environment, this makes them search for their belonging in ghettos with minimum interaction among themselves and with hosting community. The IDP’s are not only detached from their groups, they are missing their memories, neighbourhoods, social ties and source of joy. They need to recreate their safe space based on new social contact and new social capital. Moreover, they arrived to a new location with little or no assets to start a new life and need financial support to preserve their dignity. Syrians in Afrin from various sects and backgrounds need to work, live and build trust together for a better future for all.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The overall objective is the create trust among the different communities in Afrin and provide options to economically and socially interact with each other. The former theme park will become the main place for the locals to leisure and intermingle with one another. The selection process will ensure that vendors are drawn from communities across the board. Visitors will be exposed to different cultural and traditional arts and crafts, promoting improved understanding and respect among different communities. Positive collaborations will be witnessed through formation of joint vendors or mixed arts and crafts teams. Regular announcements and advertising in the local media channels will help the bazaar events reach wider and wider audience during the course of the project. Peace Progress Monitoring system (see uploaded Experience Map) will help to monitor and measure the level of interaction on a regular basis.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Lack of social interaction among different communities is currently a major issue in Afrin due to the many IDP’s. However it was already a challenge before the war. When one of our team members in 2010 witnessed an opening ceremony for a cultural center in Afrin, the event supposed to be joyful to the locals, but they were all disappointed because the center did not reflect their local culture and traditions. Since 2015, thousands of IDPs arrived to Afrin from different parts of Syria creating an even bigger challenge. we were inspired by community bazaars in Europe where different groups share their identities in positive peaceful way. The interaction among various communities creates integration, joy and a better understanding and social cohesion. As a concept, the bazaar is rather new to Afrin and we are convinced it will work and create common grounds.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Afrin district has absorbed several waves of IDP’s over the past years. Majority of host community are still out of Afrin, not feeling safe enough to return to their homes. Many of their properties are now occupied by IDP’s or by militia groups drawn from the IDP’s. There is an uneasy tension between the communities, almost a state of cold war. The local authorities are trying to fill the gaps in services, but their efforts are not sufficient due to lack of resources and investment. Many initiatives are directed at building bridges between the local residents and IDP. However, more is required to have significant impact on trust building. Besides the differences in cultural outlook between the Kurds and Arabs, there is also inter-IDP dynamics at play with groups from different parts of Syria. In general, IDP’s, contrary to their expectations, are unhappy to be in Afrin. They feel detached and unable to start any form of livelihood to feel dignified due to lack of capital.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Afrin is a rich environment; one of the strengths is its diversity of cultures and sects. Many people are looking to this diversity as a challenge, yet it is an opportunity for integration and collaboration. The host community has a history of community development and empowerment; they have vast lands with variety of natural resources. IDP’s came to the area with different experiences, different vocational and entrepreneurial skills. These community assets and local resources make Afrin the ideal location for bazaars where the resources and innovative initiatives can be mobilized. Afrin is an agricultural economy and local women, unlike in other parts of the country, have always taken an active role in their local economy. They can therefore be an encouragement for IDPs, an instrument for success of this idea and positive change for all. (see uploaded videos of interviews with Host and IDP as attachment)

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

There are three partners in this idea, Door, 11.11.11 and Olive Branch, all with experience in operating in Afrin area. Door has a network of volunteers to support the work. 11.11.11 has sponsored a research in Afrin in 2018 on social cohesion. Olive Branch has managed several programs in NW Syria and has operational and management capacity to support the community in Afrin. However, the most important stakeholders in this idea are the local individuals drawn from all sections of the community to take active roles in the programme. 11.11.11 is the coalition of Belgian development NGOs. It does research and financially supports Syrian CSOs with a particular focus on Northern Syria, while also conducting advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns at the Belgian and EU level. It has recently produced two research reports on the situation in NW Syria and NE Syria. Currently 11.11.11 supports a local community center in Raqqa city, while it has also supported Olive Branch in the past.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

Olive Branch Door Beyond War 11.11.11

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Olive Branch and Door Beyond War are both working in the field of development; OB has a great deal of experience in Education and Livelihood, while Door has been working on Community Development and Economic Empowerment. OB has been working with IDP’s for over five years in Syria, while Door has been working at grass root level in North Syria including Afrin region. They both have good understanding of IDP’s that have been forcibly moved to the north. Both organizations are Syrian led who experienced the forced evacuation as either refuges or IDP’s. Both organizations have employees who have a great understanding of the context and peace building skills required for the idea. Part of our team members have been working in Afrin since 2010. We are a diverse group of Syrians coming from different cities of Syria. We are supported by 11.11.11, a Belgium based coalition who has a particular focus on Northern Syria and has recently conducted a research in Afrin on social cohesion.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Olive Branch - TURKEY Door - TURKEY 11.11.11 - BELGIUM

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Olive Branch - Gaziantep Door - Gaziantep 11.11.11 - Brussels
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Attachments (2)


This is an interview piece with an IDP.


This is an interview piece with a Host.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Sevde Şengün

Hello Iqbal Khan  great to have your idea on the platform for the challenge. Sorry for the problem in the system.But your application is valid in any case.It's exciting and I really like your idea's touchpoints and your visuals! As the ideas phase comes to an end within few hours, we would encourage you to again have a last look at the evaluation criteria here:
Also, it will be exciting for your to check out other ideas on the platform, provide some feedback and explore potential areas of collaboration with them! For example check out these:
from Gaziantep by Ata Akil  :
and Bridge to a Better Life :