Intermediaries in Contemporary Syria

FES Research and Capacity Building Project, Feb 2018 - Mar 2019

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is running a research and capacity building initiative entitled “Intermediaries in contemporary Syria”. The initiative aims to strengthen the research skills of promising young Syrian researchers and to develop knowledge about the relations between local communities and supra-local powers.

The intermediaries linking local communities to outside authorities are central to how political power is distributed and used in contemporary Syria. These local intermediaries have, historically, been leaders of important families in a town or neighborhood, but they have evolved during the revolution and ensuing civil war, and today include opposition activists, local youths organizing militias, and warlords who have emerged out of prolonged armed conflict, among others. The outside authorities the intermediaries link to include government agencies, opposition bodies, rebel forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and Islamist groups. These typically informal relationships are frequently referred to by authors working on contemporary Syria, but are rarely given the in-depth attention needed to fully understand them. This project seeks to uncover, understand and theorize these local relations in several regions of Syria, from 2000 until the present.

FES is involving seven Junior Researchers in the project, who will each produce a report based upon their own original research, being trained and guided by experienced think tank researchers and academics. The initiative represents an unprecedented opportunity for motivated, young researchers to receive systematic instruction from field-leading experts, as well as extensive mentoring and guidance through the research and writing process.

Project structure and details

  • Late-February 2018: Kick-off of project with three-day workshop in Beirut on basic social research skills, research methodology and how to develop a research plan. Each Junior Researcher’s individual topic and research plan will be jointly developed and formulated at the workshop.
  • March-May 2018: Junior Researchers gather data and conduct interviews, being in close and regular contact with the project’s supervisors.
  • June 2018: Junior Researchers present and discuss initial research results at second three-day workshop in Beirut, and attend sessions on writing skills. Discussions will focus on how to turn field research into a finished report.
  • July-August 2018: Junior Researchers finalize first draft of their reports.
  • September-December 2018: Review and revision of reports.
  • January-March 2019: Publication of all reports by FES (in Arabic and English) as part of a volume on intermediaries in Syria. 

Eligibility and selection criteria

Applicants had to meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • have Syrian nationality or have spent a significant part of their youth in Syria;
  • be under 35 years old;
  • have basic English skills, including the ability to understand workshop presentations and read feedback on written work, not advanced spoken or written English skills (researchers can compose their reports in either English or Arabic);
  • be able to travel to Beirut for each of the three-day workshops (in late February and mid-June 2018).

Syria Project

Berliner Häuser
Hiroshimastraße 17 and 28
D-10785 Berlin

+49 (0)30 26 935-7495
+49 (0)30 26 935-9244


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