The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), represented by its General Council, unveiled a newly ratified social contract on Wednesday. The announcement, made at the administration’s headquarters, culminates a two-year, community-engaged process that began with the Euphrates and Jazeera Sons Conference in Hasakah on 25 November 2020.
Reflecting on this milestone, the council outlined the thorough procedure behind the contract’s creation, starting with Resolution No. 6 on 14 December 2020. This resolution established a diverse, 158-member committee for revising the basic charter. The inclusive body represented various political affiliations, technocrats, women, youth, and faith and ethnic groups, ensuring broad representation in drafting the new social contract.
A smaller drafting committee of 30 members, with equal gender representation, was later formed. Their draft underwent extensive public consultation across the Autonomous Administration territories, incorporating community feedback into the final version. The final version was ratified on 12 December, entering into force.
The social contract, comprising a preamble and a total of 134 articles, outlines the AANES’ core principles and sets a framework for governance of the region.
Key highlights of the new social contract include:
Women’s Liberation and Gender Equality: The contract asserts, “the defence of women’s rights and the achievement of their legitimate aspirations” as a core principle. It mandates equal representation of women in all administrative bodies and recognises the distinct role of women in society and governance.
Environmental sustainability: The contract highlights environmental sustainability as a founding principle, underscoring a commitment to “protecting the environment” and promoting “ecologically sustainable development”.
Community-based economics: It envisions a “community and ecology-based” economy, striving for a balanced and fair distribution of wealth. The contract allows for non-monopolistic private investments that align with both community and environmental interests.
Rights and Freedoms: The contract enshrines a range of fundamental rights, ensuring “freedom of opinion and expression”, the right to a “dignified life”, and a right to “participate in cultural and social life”. The contract also prohibits torture and capital punishment, and defines rape as a crime against humanity.
Foreign Relations and Diplomacy: On foreign relations, the contract asserts the right to “develop diplomatic and economic relations with other peoples and countries”, provided they do not contradict the principles of the social contract.
Local Decision-Making and Autonomy: Article 47 empowers local administrative units, from villages to provinces, to make decisions concerning their affairs, aligning with the contract’s principles.
Electoral Body Accountability: Elected officials are held accountable to their electorates, with provisions for withdrawing representatives if necessary, ensuring a responsive and responsible governance structure.
Relations with the Syrian Republic: The contract acknowledges the need for a democratic constitution in Syria, stating, “The form of the relationship […] shall be determined according to a democratic constitution agreed upon in Syria.”
Contract Preamble includes:
Representation of Ethnic and Religious Diversity: The preamble declares a unified approach to people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds in the region, including Kurds, Arabs, Syriac Assyrians, Turkmens, Armenians, Circassians, Chechens, Muslims, Christians and Yazidis. Emphasising a collective struggle against despotism, extremism and various forms of discrimination, the AANES commits to fostering a truly democratic nation.
Historical Dimension: The contract arose from “a history of suffering under non-democratic regimes and the effects of state-centric and authoritarian policies, as well as the dominance of modern capitalist practices in the region. It reflects the aspirations for a democratic system based on self-administration, striving for justice, equality among all peoples and components, preservation of cultural, religious and ideological identities, and the promotion of diversity and tolerance.”
Direct Democracy and Women, Youth-led Development: A significant aspect of the contract has an emphasis on the “women-led societal revolution” in North and East Syria, which has been “pivotal in fostering an intellectual and social renaissance”. Women’s central role in the democratic system is highlighted, along with the historic role of the youth from all components in strengthening and promoting the fraternity of peoples.
Democratic Confederalism: The contract outlines the Autonomous Administration’s commitment to a democratic ecological society, co-presidency and co-representation of both sexes in all administrative levels, a community-based economy, and social justice, in line with the principles of democratic confederalism. It asserts that the AANES is an integral part of Syria and lays down “a strong foundation for true unity, aiming to become the basis for building a democratic Syrian Republic”.
Voluntary Participation: The preamble states: “The peoples of North and East Syria, with all their components and spectra, freely and willingly decided to adopt this social contract, inspired by the democratic values and cultural heritage of the Middle East and humanity. They believe this contract will guarantee freedom, peace and unity among Syrians.”
Full summary of contract by article:
Article 1 states that the charter is the social contract for the AANES, and the preamble is an integral part of this contract.
Article 2 declares that the Autonomous Administration adopts a democratic, ecological and community-based system, with a specific emphasis on women’s freedom.
Article 3 outlines the commitment of the Autonomous Administration to developing and reinforcing an ethical and political society, embracing the principles of “democratic modernity” in opposition to “capitalist modernity”.
Article 4 specifies that the legitimacy of the AANES is derived from the will of the people and groups, based on free and equal participation, and through democratic elections.
Article 5 asserts that the AANES is a part of the Democratic Republic of Syria.
Article 6 guarantees equality of all languages present in the geography of North and East Syria in all aspects of social, educational and cultural life. It also states the right of every people or cultural group to organise their lives and manage their affairs in their mother tongue.
Article 7 recognises Arabic, Kurdish and Syriac as official languages in the areas of the Autonomous Administration.
Article 8 provides for the AANES to have its own centre and flag, which will be raised alongside the flag of the Democratic Republic of Syria. The Administration will also have its own emblem, to be organised by law.
Article 9 establishes the principle of judicial independence in the AANES.
Article 10 includes an oath: “I swear by Almighty God, and I pledge to the martyrs: that I will adhere to the social contract and its articles, preserve the democratic rights of the peoples and the values of the martyrs, and safeguard the freedom, integrity and security of the areas of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria and the Democratic Republic of Syria, and work for a dignified, free life and the realisation of social justice, according to the principle of the democratic nation.”
Article 11 establishes that the Autonomous Administration is composed of provinces based on the concept of local democracy, founded on the democratic confederalism of social groups and communities.
Article 12 outlines that the Autonomous Administration relies on an organised democratic society and free individuals, using local organisations of peoples, groups and components as its foundation, based on the principle of direct democracy.
Article 13 establishes that decisions directly affecting components are based on the principle of consensus.
Article 14 emphasises the adoption of an ecological and communal democratic life, working towards building an ecological democratic society, and preventing unfair treatment, exploitation and destruction of nature.
Article 15 reinforces the values of coexistence according to the principles of the democratic nation, fostering a spirit of fraternity among all peoples and groups in North and East Syria within a free, fair and democratic societal system.
Article 16 guarantees the political, economic and cultural rights of the Kurdish people, preserving the historical characteristics and demographic structures of Kurdish regions.
Article 17 ensures the political, cultural and economic rights of the Syriac Assyrian people, maintaining their historical values and existence, and rejects any demographic changes in their areas, based on the principles of representational justice and consensus.
Article 18 adopts the principle of community economy, which aims for self-sufficiency, sustainable, and balanced development.
Article 19 focuses on developing the community economy for women, opposing all forms of commodification and exploitation of women.
Article 20 states that natural resources and wealth belong to the community. Their use and investment should be based on the needs of the provinces and implemented fairly, regulated by law.
Article 21 aims to develop a health insurance system for the entire community, ensuring that public health services are free.
Article 22 prohibits monopolies in the fields of education and health.
Article 23 declares that martyrdom is a sacred value. The Autonomous Administration guarantees care and a dignified life for the families of martyrs, war wounded and prisoners.
Article 24 adopts a co-presidency system in all political, social, administrative and other areas, considering it a fundamental principle for equal representation of both sexes. This system contributes to organising and establishing a democratic confederal system for women as a distinct entity.
Article 25 ensures women’s freedom and rights in society and equality between sexes.
Article 26 recognises women’s free will in the democratic family, which is founded on the basis of equal and shared life.
Article 27 mandates the preservation of environmental life and the ecosystem as a duty of the citizen, society, all organisations and institutions.
Article 28 identifies youth as a dynamic and leading force in society, organising themselves specifically in all social activities and participating freely and actively in all areas of life.
Article 29 calls for fair representation of all components in the institutions of the Autonomous Administration according to the demography of the provinces.
Article 30 affirms the right and duty of self-defence against any external or internal threat. Individuals and groups living under the Autonomous Administration are obligated to defend themselves and maintain their dignity in case of assault.
Article 31 defines a citizen in the Autonomous Administration as a free individual imbued with ethical and democratic values, with the right to participate in more than one commune.
Article 32 declares the historical monuments and cultural heritage of the peoples of North and East Syria as national heritage, with the preservation responsibility resting on all individuals and the community.
Article 33 establishes the legal principle that there can be no crime or punishment without a law explicitly defining it.
Article 34 asserts the presumption of innocence, stating that an accused individual is considered innocent until proven guilty by a final court judgement.
Article 35 specifies that taxes or fees can only be imposed by law.
Article 36 commits the AANES to “liberating occupied territories and restoring their inhabitants to their regions”.
Article 37 stipulates that the Autonomous Administration shall adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all related human rights charters.
Article 38 upholds the right to life as a fundamental and protected right, and prohibits the imposition of the death penalty.
Article 39 guarantees the dignity of individuals, prohibiting physical or psychological torture, and stipulates legal punishment for perpetrators.
Article 40 affirms every person’s freedom of belief, conscience, thought and opinion.
Article 41 recognises the Yazidi religion as an independent faith and guarantees its followers the right to preserve their unique religious, social and cultural identity. It also ensures their protection against assimilation and genocide through their institutions and relevant institutions of the Autonomous Administration.
Article 42 affirms the right of every person to hold meetings, conduct marches and protests, which are regulated by law.
Article 43 guarantees freedom of political thought for all peoples, components and individuals, granting them the right to establish parties representing their aspirations, as regulated by law.
Article 44 ensures the right of peoples and components to freely organise and express themselves in communes, councils, cooperatives, academies and self-administrations.
Article 45 states that social groups can freely organise themselves and operate in forms such as communes, councils, associations, unions, chambers, societies and organisations, according to the legal framework specified for them.
Article 46 declares repression, assimilation, cultural genocide, demographic change, occupation and rape as crimes against humanity. Peoples and groups have the legitimate right to resist these actions.
Article 47 grants every administrative unit, from villages to provinces, the right to decide on matters and affairs concerning them, provided it does not contradict the content of this contract.
Article 48 provides everyone the right to participate in democratic politics and to run for and participate in elections, as per the law.
Article 49 prohibits discrimination, insult or exclusion of any person based on differences in colour, sex, race, religion, belief or sect.
Article 50 defines all forms of violence against women, their exploitation or the imposition of negative discrimination against them as crimes punishable by law.
Article 51 ensures women’s equal rights to participate in all aspects of life and in making decisions related to their affairs.
Article 52 grants youth the right to organise themselves and participate freely in all areas of life.
Article 53 obligates the Autonomous Administration and society to provide necessary resources for the mental and physical participation of people with special needs in all areas of life and to ensure a dignified life for those unable to meet their needs.
Article 54 recognises the elderly as the memory and knowledge-bearers of the community, granting them social security rights, participation in all aspects of life in a healthy manner, and deserving respect and appreciation.
Article 55 protects children’s rights, prohibiting violence against them, their labour, exploitation and recruitment, regulated by law.
Article 56 affirms the right of everyone to a fair trial.
Article 57 prohibits arrest, entry or search of private places or homes without judicial permission or in cases of flagrant delicto.
Article 58 states that individual freedom cannot be restricted without legal basis.
Article 59 grants everyone the right to live in a healthy environmental community.
Article 60 ensures cultural, ethnic and religious groups and components the right to name and form their democratic organisations and institutions and to preserve their cultures. No person or component has the right to impose their beliefs, thoughts or culture on others coercively.
Article 61 focuses on enhancing the historical values of tribes and clans to serve development and peaceful coexistence in society, opposing any tribal customs that conflict with the social contract.
Article 62 declares education free at all levels, with primary and intermediate education being compulsory.
Article 63 grants every citizen the right to work, mobility and housing.
Article 64 protects the rights of workers, ensuring the right to organise and social life, regulated by law.
Article 65 ensures freedom of media, press and publication, ads regulated by law.
Article 66 affirms the right of everyone to access and obtain information, as regulated by law.
Article 67 allows everyone the right to develop, publish, participate in and benefit from cultural, artistic and community activities, regulated by law.
Article 68 provides every person the right to seek humanitarian and political asylum, prohibits ill-treatment of asylum seekers, and states that political refugees cannot be repatriated against their will, to be regulated by law.
Article 69 declares natural resources and wealth as public property of the community, prohibiting their privatisation and mandating fair and lawful management and investment.
Article 70 safeguards private property, stating it can only be expropriated for public benefit and must be fairly compensated, as regulated by law.
Article 71 prohibits ownership and transfer of property intended for demographic change.
Article 72 establishes the participation of all citizens in legitimate defence as a right and duty to deter any attacks on the Autonomous Administration areas and the Democratic Republic of Syria.
Article 73 notes that intellectual property is protected and regulated by law.
Article 74 established that the Autonomous Administration organises its democratic and free societal life through the formation of communes, councils, academies, cooperatives, community economic units, and institutions, which self-organise in a confederal manner. This structure underpins and strengthens the democratic system.
Article 75 defines the commune as the basic grassroots form of direct democracy, the smallest administrative unit and the site where ethical-political society and social, economic and cultural life develop. The commune acts as an autonomous council and decision-making entity for social issues within its administrative and organisational scope.
Article 76 describes the structure of a commune, comprising a number of families within its administrative and geographical boundaries. Every citizen is a member of a commune, which elects its co-presidency and committees. The principle of direct democracy is employed in its operation.
Article 77 established that the People’s Councils represent the community and make decisions on social, political, cultural and economic matters. They oversee implementation, establish democratic life principles and organise and protect society, ensuring its sustainability and security in various domains.
Article 78 details the structure of People’s Councils, including representative ratios, election procedures, term limits, and the operation of councils and executive bodies. It mandates 50 percent female representation in all councils and includes participation in executive councils.
Article 79 enumerates the tasks of People’s Councils, including electing co-presidencies, approving executive council members, overseeing justice institutions and internal security, and validating community protection forces. Councils work in coordination and integration with each other.
Article 80 describes the Neighbourhood Council, its composition, election procedures, and responsibilities, including overseeing neighbourhood executive councils and peace committees, and making decisions affecting the neighbourhood without interfering with commune operations.
Article 81 outlines that the Executive Council of the Neighbourhood Council is responsible for implementing decisions, overseeing committees, reporting to the council, and coordinating between executive committees and communes in the neighbourhood.
Article 82 describes the Town Council, its composition, election process and responsibilities, including oversight of town executive councils and coordination with communes.
Article 83 establishes that the Executive Council of the Town Council is tasked with executing council decisions, supervising committees and coordinating between town executive committees and communes.
Article 84 defines the City Council, including its composition, election process and responsibilities, such as overseeing city executive councils and coordination with councils of towns and communes.
Article 85 details the tasks of the City Council, including electing its bureau and co-presidency, supervising executive council members, and making decisions affecting the city without interfering with the operations of towns and communes.
Article 86 stipulates that the Executive Council of the City is responsible for implementing city council decisions, overseeing committees and coordinating between city executive committees and those in neighbourhoods.
Article 87 defines the Province, its composition, organisation, responsibilities and rights, including self-organisation, economic self-sufficiency and equitable distribution of resources.
Article 88 describes the People’s Council of the Province, including its composition, election process and responsibilities, such as policy-making, legislative functions and supervising executive councils.
Article 89 outlines the tasks of the People’s Council of the Province, including electing co-presidencies, approving executive council members, overseeing security and community protection forces, and enacting laws.
Article 90 stipulates that the Executive Council of the Province executes decisions of the People’s Council and judicial decisions, reports its activities and organises itself into executive bodies, each with a co-presidency and sufficient members.
Article 91 describes the Autonomous Administration’s region, composed of seven provinces: Al-Jazira, Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Euphrates, Manbij, Afrin, Al-Shahba and Al-Tabqah.
Article 92 defines the structure of the Democratic Peoples’ Council of North and East Syria, representing diverse ethnic and religious groups. It emphasises women’s representation, regional representations and the safeguarding of various group identities.
Article 93 outlines the Council’s tasks, including legislative authority, policy-making, approving executive and judicial appointments, overseeing security and defence, and ratifying treaties and agreements.
Article 94 details the functions of the Council’s bureau, responsible for coordinating and supervising the Council’s activities and committees.
Article 95 describes the Autonomous Administration’s Executive Council, including its composition, representation and decision-making processes.
Article 96 details the Executive Council’s responsibilities, including implementing policies, diplomatic activities, inter-provincial coordination and reporting to the Democratic Peoples’ Council.
Article 97 explains the structure and function of executive bodies and committees within the confederal democratic system, emphasising coordination between various levels of governance.
Article 98 describes the Education and Teaching Council, responsible for educational strategies, language teaching, popular awareness, and the development of educational and scientific projects.
Article 99 outlines the Culture and Enlightenment Council, focusing on intellectual, enlightening and artistic activities, “countering capitalist modernity’s influence on art and media”, and preparing academic specialists.
Article 100 addresses the Council for Families of Martyrs and War Wounded and Prisoners, recognising “their fundamental value in the revolution”. The Council organises support for these families, ensuring their effective participation in society and providing rehabilitation and employment opportunities.
Article 101 establishes the Environmental Council which comprises representatives from relevant organisations and institutions, focusing on developing environmental awareness and promoting ecological living. It opposes industrial activities harmful to the environment and collaborates with ecological movements.
Article 102 outlines the Council of Social Affairs and Workers which is formed by organisations concerned with workers, farmers, craftsmen and displaced persons. This council aims to secure job opportunities and develop unions, cooperatives and vocational schools to establish a democratic societal system.
Article 103 established the Council of Rights which consists of legal institutions, lawyers’ unions and human rights organisations. It develops laws based on democratic principles, monitors human rights violations and works to achieve legal legitimacy for the Autonomous Administration.
Article 104 establishes the Health Council which includes representatives from health-related organisations and professional unions. It focuses on developing healthcare projects, ensuring free health services for all and opposing exploitation in the health sector.
Article 105 outlines the Council of Economy and Agriculture which is composed of representatives from economic and agricultural institutions and unions. This council develops a confederal democratic economic system based on ecological and cooperative principles.
Article 106 stipulates the Council of Foreign Relations which is formed by diplomatic institutions and political science faculties, and manages foreign relations, develops strategies based on democratic nation principles with the aim of a democratic system in Syria and beyond.
Article 107 establishes the Council of Religions and Beliefs which includes representatives from religious institutions and religious studies faculties. It facilitates the free practice of various religions and beliefs and promotes tolerance and freedom of religion.
Article 108 outlines the Youth Council which represents the youth of North and East Syria, organising itself according to confederal democratic principles. It engages in cultural, economic and political activities and plays a pioneering role in forming community defence forces.
Article 109 establishes the System of Democratic Municipalities. Municipalities organise themselves under the Democratic Municipalities Union of North and East Syria, adopting direct democracy and coordinating through a designated committee.
Article 110 outlines the Women’s Council of North and East Syria which represents women in all areas, from local communes to the region. Women’s Council formulates strategies for women’s issues, preserves and develops achievements of the women’s revolution, and works towards a democratic family structure and women’s rights in all areas.
Article 111 focuses on protection and self-defence and establishes the principles of self-defence as essential for the continuity of life. It includes the organisation of Society Protection Forces, responsible for the protection of North and East Syria and its citizens against attacks and occupation. Also includes the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as legitimate defence forces and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which have a special role in defence. Additionally, it mentions the National Intelligence Agency and Internal Security Forces.
Article 112 defines the financial management system, including the public budget process and the establishment of a Central Bank and Payments Office, which is independent and responsible for maintaining a stable financial system. It also details the Public Financial Supervision and Accounting Institution, responsible for overseeing financial practices in the autonomous administration.
Article 113 establishes a Public Financial Supervision and Accounting Institution which is responsible for financial oversight and reporting to the Democratic People’s Council of North and East Syria.
Article 114 describes the social justice system, based on democratic, ecological, and women’s freedom principles. It aims to protect individual rights and resolve justice-related issues through various institutions.
Article 115 outlines the principles of social justice, including conflict resolution, gender equality, and special provisions for women’s justice.
Article 116 details the organisation of justice institutions like Peace Committees, Women’s Houses, Justice Offices, Justice Councils and Women’s Social Justice Councils.
Article 117 stipulates a Women’s Social Justice Council which focuses on organising and supervising women’s justice councils and institutions.
Article 118 establishes a High Electoral Commission, an independent body responsible for organising democratic elections and referendums.
Article 119 defines the Court for the Protection of the Social Contract which will interpret the social contract’s provisions and ensure the conformity of laws and decisions with the contract.
Article 120 stipulates that the relationship between the AANES and the Syrian Democratic Republic, including other regions, will be determined by a consensual democratic constitution.
Article 121 stipulates that the elected administrations are subject to supervision by their electing bodies.
Article 122 establishes that the electing bodies have the right to withdraw confidence from their representatives when necessary.
Article 123 outlines that referendums are used for critical societal issues at various administrative levels.
Article 124 stipulates that local components have the right to object to public body decisions that conflict with their interests and decisions, and these objections are resolved by the concerned component.
Article 125 stipulates that towns, cities, and regions may hold referendums if they disagree with impactful decisions, with the referendum results being foundational.
Article 126 establishes that, in case of conflicts between regional or local decisions and general interests or the social contract, the Court for the Protection of the Social Contract has jurisdiction to decide.
Article 127 stipulates that non-monopolistic private investments that do not harm the community-based ecological economy are allowed and regulated by law.
Article 128 outlines that the minimum age for voters and candidates in all autonomous administrative institutions and councils as 18, with candidacy and election conditions specified by law.
Article 129 obliges the Autonomous Administration to reverse all demographic changes in occupied areas to their original state.
Article 130 allows People’s Councils to declare states of emergency under exceptional circumstances.
Article 131 stipulates that the powers of executive councils are detailed according to principles of democratic confederalism, ensuring they do not override the will of the people at various administrative levels.
Article 132 establishes that amending the fundamental principles of the social contract requires three-quarters approval from the People’s Councils in the regions and the Democratic People’s Council of North and East Syria. Other articles can also be amended with two-thirds approval from these councils.
Article 133 stipulates that the contract is amendable if a democratic constitution is agreed upon in Syria.
Article 134 stipulates that the social contract will come into effect on Tuesday, 12 December 2023, following its ratification by the General Council of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.