Shahba Canton

The Shahba Canton[3][4][5] (Kurdish: Kantona Şehba, Arabic: مقاطعة الشهباء, Classical Syriac: ܦܠܩܐ ܕܓܙܪܬܐ, romanized: Pelqo d'Shahba) is part of Aleppo Governorate, unilaterally declared part of Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS).[6] The canton was established to administer the areas captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in the Aleppo Governorate west of the Euphrates, as part of the DFNS's Afrin Region.[1][2][7][8]

Shahba Canton

Kantona Şehba, مقاطعة الشهباء
One of the 2 Cantons of the Afrin Region of the self-declared Democratic Federation of Northern Syria in Syria

Shahba Canton is in greenish yellow (Tel Rifaat Area) and is administered by Shahba's government.[1]
Country Syria
Council of Shahba createdMarch 22, 2016 (2016-03-22)
Administrative centerTel Rifaat
  Co-president of the Council of ShahbaIsmail Musa[2]
Time zoneUTC+2 (EET)
  Summer (DST)UTC+3 (EEST)
Area code+963 21

The Shahba autonomous region was founded during the first and second conferences of the Shahba region in Afrin on 28 January 2016 and 2–4 February 2016. The conferences set up the Shahba Regional Assembly with its own council and senate and a de facto autonomous administration, created on 22 March 2016.[2][9][10] The borders of the canton are subject to change as a result of military developments in the Syrian Civil War.


Shahba is a nickname for the city of Aleppo.[11] The Shahba Canton denotes the parts of Northern Aleppo Governorate of Syria that are under the administrative control of Democratic Federation of Northern Syria as part of the Afrin Region[1] and is located in the Aleppo Governorate west of the Euphrates around the city of Tel Rifaat. It borders Afrin Canton to the west and clockwise areas controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and by the Syrian government.

At latitude approximately 36 and a half degrees north, the landscape consists of plains and low hills, rivers being Dhahab and Sajur. Part of the Fertile Crescent, its climate is "warm mediterranean" on the Köppen climate classification, as opposed to the colder, semi-arid regions to the south.[12]


The population of Shahba Canton mainly consists of Arab Syrians and Arabized Kurds found throughout the canton, as well as a considerable Syrian Turkmen and Arabized Turkmen population toward the north of the canton. Toponymy and maps published by the French colonial authorities indicate that a significant percentage of inhabitants of Shahba who are officially classified as Arabs have Kurdish origins.[13]

As of March 2016, there were 450 inhabited villages in the Shahba plain to the north and the east of Aleppo around Azaz, Al-Bab, Manbij and As-Safira, 217 of them being Kurdish.[14]

Tell Rifaat is the largest city administered by de facto autonomous civil administrations operating under the umbrella of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. According to the 2004 Syrian census Tell Rifaat had 20,514 inhabitants.[15]


During the Syrian Civil War and Rojava conflict

The second half of 2012, most of the region was captured from the Syrian government by opposition groups, including the People's Protection Units (YPG) and its ally Jabhat al-Akrad.[16] In January 2014 the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who had been infiltrating the region over the course of the previous year,[17] launched a massive assault, which eventually captured almost the region, including Manbij, Jarabulus and Al-Bab, up to Dabiq.

On the western side, some territory in Azaz district stayed under control of non-ISIL forces, villages and towns occasionally contested and changing hands between Afrin Canton based YPG and allies (all since October 2015 under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces, SDF) and diverse rebel militias, until finally a February 2016 offensive by SDF forces, inter alia capturing Tel Rifaat and Menagh Airbase, created today's borderline between them.[18][19]

To the east, near the city of Manbij, in December 2015 the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an offensive from the East across the Euphrates river and captured the strategic Tishrin Dam and surrounding villages, forming a small salient on the western bank of the river. In the following months an offensive to capture Manbij city from ISIS was planned, but was delayed because of opposition and demands from the Turkish government.[20] In May 2016 the SDF launched an offensive towards Manbij city along 3 axes: from the north and south along the banks of the Euphrates river, and on the southern outskirts of Manbij city aiming to block the Raqqa-Manbij road.[21] From 30 May to 12 June 2016, the Manbij offensive captured more than 100 villages from ISIL.[22] On 14 August 2016, after securing Manbij, the SDF established the Al-Bab Military Council with the goal of securing the city of al-Bab and its surrounding countryside.[23] On 19 August 2016, the SDF component Manbij Military Council announced that it took over the security of Manbij city center and surrounding villages.[24][25]

From late August 2016, Turkey assembled some Syrian rebel groups who with Turkish military support captured a strip of territory along the Turkish border from ISIL including the town of Jarabulus. This included some combat with Jarabulus Military Council SDF forces, which eventually settled for an armistice line along the Sajur River. To the south, SDF forces started offensives against ISIL west of Al-Bab in September 2016 and again in October 2016, capturing several villages in the process.

On 13 April 2017, negotiations between Turkey-backed rebel groups and the SDF reportedly restarted under the mediation of the United States. The parties discussed control over the villages and towns of Tell Rifaat, Menagh, Maryamin, Sheikh Issa, Maraanaz, Herbel, Deir Jamal, and several other villages situated in the western part of the Shahba Canton. The US-supported al-Mu'tasim Brigade reportedly represented the Turkey-backed rebel factions in the negotiations.[26][27]

Politics and administration

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria

Since its foundation the Shahba Canton has a Shahba Regional Assembly with its own council and senate.[28][10]

Shahba Regional Assembly has a direct representative inside the Democratic Syria Assembly (MSD) and Cîhan Xedro is also formally elected to represent the Al-Shahba Canton inside the MSD.[8]

Shahba Canton is governed following the Constitution of Rojava. It is noted for its explicit affirmation of minority rights, gender equality and a form of direct democracy known as Democratic Confederalism.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37]

Article 8 of the 2014 of the DFNS constitution stipulates that "all Cantons in the Autonomous Regions are founded upon the principle of local self-government. They may freely elect their representatives and representative bodies, and may pursue their rights insofar as it does not contravene the articles of the Charter."[38]

The governing party of Shahba Canton is the Syrian National Democratic Alliance (Arabic: التحالف الوطني الديمقراطي السوري, TWDS). It is a left-wing multi-ethnic political party established in 2014 in northern Syria.[39]

On 12 March 2017, the Legislative Assembly of Manbij approved the elected co-presidents who then took office. During the meeting the departments of the committee members, co-presidents and committees were determined after speeches and evaluations. 13 committees where determined.[40] The 13 new committees include 71 Arabs, 43 Kurds, 10 Turkmen, 8 Circassians, and an Armenian and a Chechen.[41]

On 2 April 2017, the Shahba Council held a meeting with residents of Nayrabiyah village of the Al-Bab Subdistrict & announced the creation of the Nayrabiyah Council.[42]

Executive officers

The prime ministers were elected[28] and the remaining Executive Council appointed as follows:

Name Party Office Elected Notes
Ismail Musa [43] TWDS Acting Prime Minister 2016
Ayman al-Hafez TWDS Acting Deputy Prime Minister 2016
Mohammed Ahmed Khaddro [43] TWDS Acting Deputy Prime Minister 2016
? Minister of Foreign Affairs 2016
? Minister of Internal Affairs 2016
? Minister of Finance 2016
? Minister of Education 2016
? Minister of Health 2016
? Minister of Martyrs’ Families 2016
? Minister of Youth and Sport 2016
? Minister of Religious Affairs
and Reconciliation
? Minister of Women
and Family Affairs
? Minister of Information
and Communication


Security in the Shahba Canton is primarily handled by the local Asayish police force. There have been reported to be many locals who have joined the police forces, the female component of which has drawn particular attention in international media.[44][45]

On 22 February 2017, the Asayish handed over the security responsibility of Manbij to an internal security force formed in the city.[46]


To the east, in Manbij, public schooling has regained secular normalcy after the ISIL episode.[47][48]

See also


  1. "Rojava region holds local elections, parliamentary vote set for January". Rudaw News Desk. Rudaw News. Rudaw. 22 September 2017. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  2. "Delegation from the Democratic administration of self-participate in the first and second conferences of the Shahba region". 4 February 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  3. "What is Next for PYD/YPG in Syria?: Manbij Operation and the Aftermath - ORSAM". Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  4. "Rojava authorities announce elections". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  5. "Syrian regime shells SDF positions east of Euphrates". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  6. Giancarlo Elia Valori (19 September 2016). "The ceasefire in force in Syria as from September 12, 2016". Retrieved 2016-10-31.
  7. "Ciwanên Şehbayê 3 çeteyên DAIŞ'ê kuştin" (in Kurdish). Hawar News Agency. 2015-05-24. Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  8. "Executive Board of Democratic Syria Assembly elected". ANF Naws Desk. ANF News. ANF. 13 December 2015. Archived from the original on 20 December 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  9. "Interview with Ahmad Araj Member of the Executive Committee of the Syrian Democratic Council". WKI. WKI. 18 March 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  10. "Notables and tribal areas Shahba Council issued the final statement of its founding congress". Hawar News Agency. 2 February 2016.
  11. Almaany Team. "معنى كلمة شَهْباءُ في معجم المعاني الجامع والمعجم الوسيط – معجم عربي عربي – صفحة 1".
  12. "Updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification". European Geosciences Union.
  13. Balanche, Fabrice (2016-08-24). "Rojava's Sustainability and the PKK's Regional Strategy". The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  14. "Rojava – a "protection zone" for religious and ethnic minorities in Syria?" (PDF). Society for Threatened Peoples. June 2016.
  15. General Census of Population and Housing 2004. Syria Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). Aleppo Governorate.(in Arabic)
  16. "The Campaign in Northern Syria, November 2012". ISW. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  17. Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (18 July 2013). "The Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham Expands Into Rural Northern Syria". Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  18. "Azaz: the border town that is ground zero in Syria's civil war". The Guardian. 21 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  19. "Kurdish Expansion is Changing Ankara's Priorities". News Deeply. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  20. "Ignoring Turkey, U.S. backs Kurds in drive against ISIS in Syria". The Washington Post. 1 June 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  21. "Exclusive: U.S.-backed Syria forces launch offensive for Manbij pocket - U.S. officials". 1 June 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016 via Reuters.
  22. "The Syria Democratic Forces reach 16 kilometers in the western countryside of Manbij and control about 100 villages". SOHR. 11 June 2016.
  23. "Syrian Democratic Forces aim to capture al-Bab, call for coalition support". ARA News. 15 August 2016.
  24. "SDF withdraws from Manbij after liberation, handing city over to local council". aranews. 19 April 2016. Archived from the original on 21 August 2016.
  25. "Manbij Military Council takes over the security of Manbij". ANF. 19 August 2016.
  26. "My source News: negotiate "intentionally" to restore the entire northern Aleppo countryside". Baladi News Network. 13 April 2017.
  27. "Leader: "intentionally" will hand over the villages north of Aleppo for "free" under an agreement sponsored by America". SMART News Agency. 13 April 2017.
  29. "A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS' Backyard". New York Times. 2015-11-24. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  30. "Power to the people: a Syrian experiment in democracy". Financial Times. 2015-10-23. Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  31. "The Kurds' Democratic Experiment". New York Times. 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  32. "Why is the world ignoring the revolutionary Kurds in Syria?". The Guardian. 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  33. "Regaining hope in Rojava". Slate. 2016-06-06. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  34. "American Leftists Need to Pay More Attention to Rojava". Slate. 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  35. "The Revolution in Rojava". Dissent. 2015-04-22. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  36. "The Rojava revolution". OpenDemocracy. 2015-03-15. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  37. "Statement from the Academic Delegation to Rojava". New Compass. 2015-01-15. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  38. "2014 Charter of the Social Contract of Rojava". Peace in Kurdistan. 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
  39. من نحن؟ [Who are We?] (in Arabic). Syrian National Democratic Alliance. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  40. ANF. "Manbij Democratic Civilian Administration Council takes office".
  41. "Manbij declares new administration in much-contested city". Kom News. 12 March 2017. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017.
  43. "Self-management in a visit to the headquarters of the Shahba areas council". Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  44. "Syrian women liberated from Isis are joining the police to protect their city". The Independent. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  45. "Liberated from ISIS suppression, women of Manbij join security forces (includes Video)". ARA News. 13 October 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  46. Wladimir van Wilgenburg (23 February 2017). "US coalition continues to assist SDF-led Manbij Military Council north Syria". ARA News.
  47. "Syrian kids relish return to school in ex-IS bastion". ReliefWeb (AFP). 28 September 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-15.
  48. "Manbij: students back to school after ISIS explosives dismantled". ARA News. 10 October 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-15.

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