Jarablus… Fishing in the Euphrates River a Risky Livelihood
Aleppo – Enab Baladi
The 24th of August 2016 was not an ordinary day for the people of Jarablus city. On that day, normal economic, commercial and social life returned to the city after Free Syrian Army factions took control of the city and expelled Islamic State fighters.
In the period following the Free Syrian Army’s takeover of the city, its factions removed the mines and various explosive devices planted in the territory surrounding the city, especially those on the banks of the Euphrates River, which passes through the city’s agricultural land. Islamic State forces barred residents from approaching the river throughout the period that they controlled the city and also prevented them from fishing, even though the river was the main source of livelihood for some and a place of leisure and relaxation in the summer.
The residents of Jarablus are now back to fishing in the Euphrates River, which contains rich fish stocks that cover the needs of the villages and areas of Aleppo’s eastern and northern countryside, and even of other areas nearby.
A source of income and profitable trade
A number of residents of Jarablus city and nearby villages in Aleppo’s countryside go fishing in the Euphrates River. Fishing is their source of income and a profitable trade that has become even more popular in recent months as can be seen in the city’s markets, fishmongers and carts that travel to distant villages to sell fish.
Enab Baladi spoke to Ahmed, a fisherman and fishmonger in Jarablus, who pointed out that fish stocks in the Euphrates are currently high, which is encouraging people to head to the river to fish and sell their catch at the city’s market.
Fishermen are not the only ones enjoying the city’s riverbank. The residents of Aleppo’s northern and eastern countryside and residents of villages from other regions also come to the riverside to have fun and relax after several years of not being allowed to do so.
Fishmongers and their different prices
Abdulqader Ahmed, a fisherman and fishmonger, depends on fishing as one of his sources of income. He told Enab Baladi, “The river provides a decent amount of river fish, which are sold in large quantities in the area. This makes it a good profession for anyone who knows how to fish.”
The types of fish found in the Euphrates River vary, as do their prices. Each type has its own price, which is set after the fish is delivered to fishmongers at the local market.
Enab Baladi spoke to one of the fishmongers in the city’s market to understand the differences in pricing and which types of fish are most in demand. Mohammed al-Abed said, “There is no fish market in Jarablus. Fish are sold in a few fishmongers distributed throughout the city.”
According to al-Abed, “Prices vary between 600 and 1500 Syrian pounds. Carp, for instance is sold for 1000 Syrian pounds while the tough variety of fish known locally as Oum Hamidi is sold for 850 Syrian pounds while the soft variety of the same fish is sold for 500 Syrian pounds.”
The price of catfish ranges between 1000 and 1200 Syrian pounds, mullet is around 700 Syrian pounds, Carassian carp is 1500 Syrian pounds while one kilogram of salmon is over 1300 Syrian pounds.
The dangers of fishing
The Euphrates River divides into two when it enters Jarablus city and passes through its lands. One part is under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (QSD) and the other is under the control of Free Syrian Army factions. The river separates the city of Jarablus from the area of al-Shuyukh, which is under QSD control.
Abu Qusay al-Kajak, head of the media office of Jarablus city, told Enab Baladi that the city’s residents and those living in the northern countryside fish on the western bank of the Euphrates River since the eastern bank is under the control of Kurdish forces.
Al-Kajak said that the western bank is sometimes targeted by PKK gunfire from the opposite bank. This poses a danger to the fishermen and the residents who come to the river to have fun and relax.
Despite the occasional gunfire from the other bank, no injuries have been reported among fishermen or civilians frequenting the area and many civilians continue to visit.
The Islamic State’s control over the city was not only military but also involved restrictions on all other aspects of life, imposing laws that they invented. After Islamic State forces left the city in 2016, residents have been emboldened to regain what they lost during the period of Islamic State rule and establish a new system. The city’s markets and commercial and economic activities have now been revived, making Jarablus a new economic capital in northern Syria.