DARAA: Daraa residents living under regime control are now required to show a recent paid water and electricity bill simply to cross checkpoints from one town to another.
A Daraa resident, requesting anonymity, told the Syrian Voice that regime checkpoints have begun to demand proof of payment for basic services before even asking for identification.
The procedural change comes as many residents have stopped paying electricity and water bills in regime-controlled Daraa (southern Syria) in a protest against what they call the poor services, strict rationing, and discriminatory policies of the Syrian government.
The situation has deteriorated due to overcrowding, as waves of displaced residents have come from villages in the eastern and western countryside where opposition forces have taken control.
Residents of a-Sanamayn and Izra, the two largest cities in regime-controlled Daraa, have felt the effects.
With a combined population 170,000 civilians, these two cities are proof that even regime-controlled territories are not immune to the crumbling economy and worsening humanitarian situation in Syria.
‘Being in regime territory doesn’t mean things are better’
Abu Abdullah had been living in the western Daraa countryside when his area fell under opposition control. He fled to the regime-controlled city of a-Sanamayn in the north of the province.
“Water comes one day every two weeks, for two hours, which isn’t enough,” Abu Abdullah told the Syrian Voice.
“We have to buy large tanks at high prices for [storing] water. The price of a water tank is up to SP2,800 (approx. $5.00]…it’s a lot for us.”
Though the media focuses on conditions in opposition territories, residents are also struggling in regime territories, he explained.
“Being in regime territory doesn’t mean that things are better than other regions. The price of food, of everything, is higher in the country.”
The water shortage stems from the regime’s rationing policy, Abu Omar, a resident of a-Sanamayn told a Syrian Voice correspondent.
“The regime’s spreads out rationing periods over long periods of time so it can meet the need of all the areas under their control,” he said.
“All wells and water pumps are under regime control,” Dr. Abu a-Nour, vice president of the a-Sanamayn local council, told the Syrian Voice. “They control how much water gets to the citizens.”
Electricity services are just as bad as water, Abu Omar added. In north Daraa province, electricity turns on for five hours a day, staggered in three periods with long breaks in between.
Electricity for homes is priced at SP2/watt while commercial prices have reached SP35 per watt. Household bills can exceed SP1,000 ($1.80) per month, a local resident, requesting anonymity, told the Syrian Voice.
Though these prices seem low, he added, they amount to 5-10 percent of an average worker’s salary.
Outages are another issue such as in the central countryside city of Izra where residents have experienced power blackouts for up to 24 hours.
“The electric current arrives for an hour and a half every four hours, and sometimes it cuts off for a full day, sometimes days, under the pretext of technical network issues,” said Dr. Abu a-Nour.
Though several residents pointed to “rationing” as the cause for cuts in electrical service, it can also serve as a form of collective punishment forcing a-Sanamayn residents to pay accumulated electricity bills.
However, services are not subpar in all areas of regime-controlled Daraa, Dr. a-Nour added.
The regime differentiates between non-military households and families of serving officers in the eastern part of a-Sanamayn where water and electricity services are relatively good, he explained.
At this time, households with military enlistees do not need to pay for electricity bills, Dr. a-Nour clarified.
In recent months, residents in regime-controlled territories have resorted to using generators and batteries to meet their electricity needs at home as well as in shops.
This recourse of batteries and generators, often associated with opposition territories, reflects the deteriorating living conditions of Syrians, regardless of whether the opposition or the regime is in charge.
Translated by Tariq Adely