The Violet Organization aims to clean, rebuild and renovate schools, roads, parks and other public spaces in rebel-held Idlib. The first project, dubbed “Idlib’s Spring”, focuses on the heart of Idlib city, where volunteers have painted, planted and renovated the famous clock square.
“We have 1,500 volunteers working on this project with the help of local committees, and we will continue with a similar project in areas such as in Ariha, Jisr al-Shughour, Maaret al-Numan, Marea and Kafranbel in Idlib province,” spokesman Fouad Sayyed Issa told Al Jazeera.
“The feeling of hope was felt by everyone as we finished our project in Idlib’s clock square. This clock tower means so much to the people of Idlib,” he added. “We could see happiness on the faces of adults and children; everyone was so happy. Everyone felt like life was brought back to them.”
Founded in Idlib city in 2011, the same year the Syrian conflict began, the Violet Organization was launched by a group of volunteers focused on distributing humanitarian aid.
“Between 2015 and 2016, we managed to reach out to 2.7 million people in need,” Issa said. “We mostly receive our donations from organisations and individuals. Our work includes creating shelters, providing health facilities and education, and protection.”
Amid deadly fighting between rebels and government forces, the team later moved its office to the suburbs and expanded aid operations to Aleppo, Hama, Latakia, Homs and the Damascus suburbs.
Most of Idlib province in northwestern Syria has been under rebel control since 2015. It is regularly bombed by both Syrian and allied Russian warplanes, and many schools, hospitals and homes have been destroyed.
The Violet Organization has received praise from the United Nations for its aid during the eastern Aleppo evacuation, and the group has also teamed up with other relief groups, including Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee.
“Our message to the world is that the Syrian people can and will get back on their feet. We will bring life back to our country and smiles back to our peoples’ faces. The war must stop; the air strikes and the fighting must stop,” Issa said.
Idlib was part of a deal on de-escalation zones in Syria that came into effect in May.
The deal, signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, called for a cessation of hostilities between rebel groups and forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian government in four zones located mainly in opposition-held areas of the country, including the provinces of Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Deraa and Quneitra.
With the Syrian conflict into its seventh year, more than 465,000 people have been killed in the fighting, more than a million injured and more than 12 million Syrians – half of the country’s prewar population – displaced from their homes.