Fact Sheet

The Syrian Democratic Council

The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) is a confederation of multi-ethnic political parties, associations, civil society organizations, and local activists in Syria calling for democracy, religious freedom, individual rights, and the empowerment of women in the country. The Syrian Democratic Council was established in 2015 as a leading coalition in Syria. The SDC is the political leadership of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which liberated most of North and East Syria from the Islamic State in partnership with the United States and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

On the frontlines fighting ISIS, SDC security forces, the SDF, have been a key ally of the United States.

In 2014, the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), an authority governing about one-third of Syrian territory and more than four million people, was established. The AANES provides daily services to millions of Syrians including education, electricity, water, sanitation, and security in North and East Syria. For its part, the SDF continues to serve as an internationally recognized counter-terrorism force against Islamic extremist organizations, and provides support and protection to US military forces and American diplomats stationed in Syria.

SDC leadership with US senators in Washington DC, Fall 2019

SDC officials regularly meet with United States Government officials.

The United States has allied itself with the SDF in the global war on terrorism. The U.S. Mission of the SDC views the United States as a key ally in safeguarding democracy and ensuring peace and security in North and East Syria. Critically, American and Western diplomats and leading international NGOs work freely in the region governed by the AANES.

The SDC seeks support from the United States Government in a number of concrete ways, which it believes also serve the US national interest:

  • Provide development and humanitarian aid to the population in North and East Syria in partnership with and support of the AANES and local councils.
  • Assist SDC to build the capacity of the AANES institutions by providing technical assistance and training in government, administration, public policy, and civil services.
  • Provide the SDF with equipment and supplies to ensure the security of North and East Syria and its inhabitants.
  • Train SDF counter-terrorism units and AANES regional law enforcement personnel to ensure that ISIS or other Islamic extremists do not gain territory in North and East Syria as they have in the past, to the detriment of US national security interests.
  • Call on the United States to ensure that foreign military or militia forces do not destabilize the country’s North and East regions, provide any material or financial support to Islamic extremist groups in the area or challenge Syria’s sovereignty.
  • Help secure a seat at the table for the SDC and the AANES in peace talks with the Government of Syria, rebel groups, and/or regional actors.
  • Call on Turkey’s military forces to leave the AANES region, including Sere Kaniye (Ras al-Ayn), Gire Spi (Tal Abyad), and the region of Afrin, and exit Syria.
  • Sanction the Turkish military if its forces do not leave North and East Syria by a certain date agreed upon by the concerned parties. The Turkish military’s invasion of the AANES-administered region in October 2019 caused death, displacement, and destruction in the region.

SDC’s Leadership

The SDC leadership consists of two Co-Chairs: Amina Omar, a Syrian Kurd; and Riad Darar, an Arab tribal leader, author, and former political prisoner.

Democracy, Decentralization, and Local Councils

The SDC envisions decentralization in North and East Syria and the empowerment of local authorities and communities in the region. The SDC also believes that decentralization should be a model for other parts of Syria, embodied in a new national constitution, and it fully supports a political solution in Syria that delivers peace and security for its citizens and inhabitants.

The SDC has implemented a governance structure that embodies the true spirit of democracy or rule by the people. Seven local administrations or councils working in cities, towns, and villages across North and East Syria, manage the region’s administrative functions and public services, including health, education, housing, and social and economic integration. The SDF provides the North and East regions with public security, and it is accountable to both the AANES and local councils, which represent the citizens of the region.

Residents of Til Temir, representatives of the Autonomous Administration and Internal Security Forces visit the Christmas celebrations of the Christian community.
Residents of Til Temir, representatives of the Autonomous Administration and Internal Security Forces visited the Christmas celebrations of the Christian community.

Diversity and Religious Freedom

The SDC has worked to protect ethnic and religious freedoms and plurality in North and East Syria since its establishment. The region is home to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Armenians, and Circassians, as well as Syriac, Assyrian, and Chaldean Christians. The AANES constitution protects the rights of all to believe and worship as they wish, and mandates that each political position in the regional government, local councils, and villages be held by individuals from two distinct cultural and/or religious backgrounds. The constitution guarantees full rights to minority groups and protects them from persecution. The SDC and the AANES councils actively seek roles for minority group leaders and guidance and participation from them.

There is more religious diversity in the AANES-administered region than anywhere else in the Middle East. Unique to the Middle East, the SDC envisions a Syria in which all in the country are treated equally and fairly regardless of ethnicity, religion, or identity.

Empowerment of Women

Full gender equality is a principle at the heart of the SDC platform, and women make up about half of all SDC and AANES government positions. The women’s military units of the SDF (known as the “YPJ,” or Kurdish women fighters) played an instrumental role in defeating the Islamic State.