Enab Baladi – Deraa
Inhabitants have started to resettle again in the neighborhoods of Deraa Al-Balad and Tarik Al-Sudd after months of fighting between Al-Assad forces and the opposition, which have ceased by the second half of July with a truce and cease-fire announcement, thanks to an agreement that was sponsored by Russia, Iran, the United States and Israel.
During the past few months, the city witnessed ruthless bombing that turned houses into wrecks and ruins. Lots of efforts now need to be done so that life can return to normal again. This pushed civil institutions to start working immediately after the declaration of armistice.
The Syrian Civil Defense collaborated with the General Services Commission, engineering units, and citizens who collectively started a campaign that they have called “Hopeful Deraa” that aims at reviving the opposition-controlled neighborhoods in the city.
Omar Al-Mahameed, one of the people working for the General Services Commission said: “we do not expect life to go back to what it used to be. The city is terrifically destroyed and needs a huge reconstruction plan. However, we aspire to prove to the world and to ourselves that we are able to stand on our feet again”.
The campaign is currently focusing on reopening roads as cooperators are working on re-connecting the neighborhoods to allow the inhabitants to have an easy access to their homes and to remove the rubble from the streets to prevent diseases from spreading.
Al-Mahameed explained to Enab Baladi “the campaign has actually started in the neighborhoods of Deraa- Al- Balad and Tarik EL-Sudd as well as the Al-Deraa Camp and is expected to extend to the surrounding farms inhabited by thousands of migrants in the next few days”.
This action is not risk-free despite the remarkable decrease in bombings. Activists in the campaign are concerned about the unexploded munitions that are scattered in the streets and under the ruins, especially after the extensive use of cluster bombs by Al-Assad forces.
According to Al-Mahameed, civil defense specialized crew are continuously working on handling these remnants by warning citizens of their existence and by instructing them about how to behave in case they came across them.
A Cautious Come Back of Civilians
The announcement of the truce has generated different reactions among the inhabitants that vary from sheer optimism to utter pessimism and anxiety about the future. This coincided with the return of more than 300 families to their homes hoping to fix what can be fixed and regain the peace they have lost.
Khaled Al-Jawaberah, one of Deraa Al-Balad’s inhabitants who returned with his family from Al-Shayah farms, wishes that their return will not be temporary and expresses his satisfaction with the efforts that the local entities are doing. He also insists that “despite the high levels of destruction and the many years it would take to rebuild Deraa, the initiative of the services commissions in itself sounds promising”.
Khaled explained to Enab Baladi that he has yet to rebuild his own house, and that all he could do was simple and basic cleaning and restoration activities because he fears that bombings might start again.
Details about the armistice and the future of Deraa are still unclear. Khaled considers that “most of those who refuse to come back are not scared of the present destruction but are, in fact, scared of the future itself. The countries that signed the agreement haven’t yet professed its details, and this, he says, “opens the gate wide open for rumors that do nothing but add to the inhabitants’ feeling of fear and insecurity.”
Despite the efforts of the services commissions in the opposition-controlled neighborhoods in Deraa, the end of the fighting revealed a tragedy that these commissions have not been equipped to deal with. The neighborhoods need thorough rebuilding plans starting with basic facilities such as electrical power, drinking water and sanitation grids and then moving to rebuilding the houses that have been demolished..