Omar Aziz was an economist, intellectual and anarchist dissident. Born in February 1949 in Al Amara, Damascus, he went on to study economics at Grenoble University in France. He worked in information technology in Saudi Arabia but returned to Damascus in 2011, to participate in the struggle against the regime. According to his daughter Joana; “Seeing the youth galvanized, during the early stages of the revolution, is what motivated him to move back to Syria.” He helped organize humanitarian assistance to displaced families from the Damascus suburbs.
Aziz believed that protests alone could not bring about the downfall of the regime and that a social revolution was needed to transform society from the bottom up. In late 2011 he published a discussion paper advocating the establishment of local councils. These were envisaged as autonomous grass roots forums through which people could manage their lives independently of the state. Aziz believed the councils could promote human solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid by providing the space for people to collectively find solutions to common challenges and build horizontal links among revolutionaries on the local, regional and national levels. Putting his ideas into practice, Aziz helped found four local councils in the working-class suburubs of Damascus. Joana says; “Ever since I can remember, my father talked about this collective dream of liberation from domination. It is a desire that cannot be killed militarily or otherwise.”
Omar Aziz was arrested by the mukhabarat (Syrian government intelligence) on November 20, 2012 and was later imprisoned at Adra Prison, near Damascus, where his health deteriorated. He was transferred to Harasta Military hospital on 16 February 2013 and died the same day, possibly from heart failure.
As towns and cities across Syria were liberated from the regime, hundreds of local councils were established, enabling communities to self-organize and keep basic services functioning. They organized the provision of electricity and water supplies, hospitals and education. Some grew and distributed food. They didn’t follow any one model but many held elections for council representatives– the first democratic elections to be held in Syria in four decades. Omar Aziz is renowned for his work in building and developing civil society in a liberated Syria.
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