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“There hasn’t been water for days”: Water crisis hits Damascus as regime accused of preferential treatment

By Fadi Shubat

In regime-held Damascus, recent fighting in nearby Wadi Barada has worsened already-scarce social services in the city.

The Syrian government is rationing water, electricity, and humanitarian aid in Damascus—and giving preferential treatment to foreign militiamen and regime loyalists, claim residents of some Damascus neighborhoods .

“There hasn’t been water in 10 days,” says one local Damascene, who refused to give his name. “But when you go to neighborhoods filled with foreign militias and Assad’s gangs water is still flowing.”

Heavy fighting between the Syrian government and rebels in Wadi Barada—an opposition-held region northwest of Damascus—temporarily halted the flow of drinking water to the Syrian capital two weeks ago.

Wadi Barada is home to the Ain al-Fijeh water spring, one of Damascus’ most important sources of water. Two weeks ago, the Syrian government accused Islamist rebels from Jaish al-Fateh of deliberately poisoning the spring with diesel fuel. Jaish al-Fateh, on the other hand, denies the regimes allegations and claims that government airstrikes have caused the capital’s water shortage.

The renewed clashes in Wadi Barada now threaten the Russia, Turkey, and Iran-backed ceasefire that is temporarily halting hostilities between the rebels and the Syrian government. The opposition accuse the regime of violating the ceasefire with their new offensive in Wadi Barada, yet the government maintains that it is only targeting Jaish al-Fateh forces, which are excluded from the ceasefire.

Damascus residents have been subjected to frequent water shutoffs—or the absence of running water entirely.

Rawda al-Yousef is from Damascus’ al-Midan neighborhood, near rebel-held territory to Damascus’ south. Her husband is in regime prison, and two of her three children have been killed, the other missing.

“We pay SP2,500 for a barrel of water here. But in areas like Sayeda Sakina and Sayeda Zeinab, where foreign militiamen live, they get their water free and without shortages,” al-Yousef tells the Syrian Voice.

Electricity is also frequently cut to al-Midan, where rationing can leave its residents in the dark for up to 18 hours a day. For areas were the Iranian Republican Guard and Syrian army officers reside, the cuts last a “mere 4 hours”, claims al-Yousef.

Um Muataz, another resident of al-Midan, tells the Syrian Voice that food and other humanitarian aid is also distributed unfairly. Aid is transported to neighborhoods that are most loyal to the regime, leaving al-Midan and other areas to make do without.

“My relatives abroad send me money, but it mostly goes to firewood and fuel to heat my house,” Um Muatez tell’s the Syrian Voice. “To get food, I have to buy second-hand aid that was given to other neighborhoods and double the price.”

“Why should we be the only ones who have to buy our food and water, while others don’t,” she asks.

“I can’t live like this.”

Translated by Justin Clark

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