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Damascus: Government planning new provinces

KURDWATCH, April 17, 2013—In early April, government-affiliated Syrian media reported on government plans, according to which the number of Syrian provinces would be increased from fourteen to seventeen. According to these reports, the provinces of al‑Hasaka, Aleppo, and Homs are to be split. The city of al‑Qamishli and its surroundings are to become a new province, as is the region around Aleppo, which is to be separated from the city of Aleppo. In addition, there are plans for the creation of a province by Tadmur (Palmyra) in the Syrian desert. The government has not yet officially commented on the plans. The restructuring could lead to the creation of two predominantly Kurdish provinces: the province of al‑Qamishli, which along with the city of the same name could encompass all or part of the predominantly Kurdish regions in Northeast Syria, as well as a province that would include the predominantly Kurdish districts of ʿAfrin and ʿAyn al‑ʿArab (Kobanî). These districts constitute a large part of the rural regions of the current province of Aleppo. One reason for the restructuring could be that the government wants to create provinces that are not under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—this would be true for the two Kurdish provinces and the new desert province. The latter would be problematic because of its small population (under 100 000) and the fact that there would be no cities in the province according to Syrian law—such a city would need at least 50 000 residents.

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