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Excessive Royalties at the Opposition Checkpoints in Daraa

Members of "al-Nusra Front" in control of a crossing-border point between Syria and Jordan – 6 March 2015 (Reuters)

Members of "al-Nusra Front" in control of a crossing-border point between Syria and Jordan – 6 March 2015 (Reuters)

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A security chaos is rummaging wide spaces of the areas controlled by the opposition factions in Daraa governorate, for it is impossible for a day to pass without explosive devices denotation, assassinations or kidnappings at the roads, despite the prevalence of dozens of military checkpoints, under the different factions in the area; however, they failed to deter the chaos, amidst repetitive promises that they will be intensifying their efforts and checkpoints to control the security situation in the areas which they rule.   

Lately, the voices went roaring and the fingers of blame were pointed at the checkpoints, accusing some of them of blackmail and the imposition of royalties on the cars, transporting merchandise, which turned the people’s demands of the need to increase the number of checkpoints to illuminate the security chaos to contrary demands, asking for removing the checkpoints, to stop the violations they are committing against the people.

The Pain Belongs, Especially, to Yarmouk Basin’s People

In a specific manner, the suffering caused by these royalties affected the people of the Yarmouk Basin, enduring under the control of “Khalid ibn al-Walid Army,” accused of belonging to the “Islamic State” ISIS, for the people, since mid-2016 to February 2017, extremely suffered at the checkpoint in the town of Tasil, at which the factions have imposed massive monetary royalties on the passengers heading to the Basin, before “Khalid Army” took over the checkpoint, shifting the agony to the checkpoints in Ghadeer al-Bustan and al-Jubailia.

Not so far from the Yarmouk Basin, many fuel merchants, in the city of Nawa, have also complained about the royalties that have been imposed by the checkpoint in Jalin Masaken, under the opposition, on the pretext that part of the fuel is going to the areas controlled by “Khalid Army,” which was negated by a fuel merchant in the city of Nawa.

The merchant, who refused to mention his name, said “we provide the city of Nawa and the surrounding towns with fuel, and we are not responsible if someone bought a massive amount and smuggled it into the Yarmouk Basin area.”

He added that the responsibility of preventing the smuggling operations belongs to the factions, explaining that “the factions have forced a belt around Yarmouk Basin, and they have to stop smuggling, without imposing royalties on the merchants.”

The merchant complained about the extravagant amount of money that the checkpoint is demanding, pointing out that it exceeded the four thousand dollars, required on a daily basis in some cases; they are imposed in a systematic manner, not in an individual way.

According to the merchant, “Speaking about individualistic behavior is not convincing, for a fighter cannot take thousands of dollars from the people without the knowledge of his leasers.”

With the increasing complaints by the merchants in the city of Nawa about the Jalin checkpoint, the Military Council of the city declared that it reached an agreement with “al-Moutaz-Bellah Army,” in control of the checkpoint, to stop this phenomenon, while the merchant showed concern that this procedure might be “temporary,” and the things will take their natural tempo after a short period.

A number of altercations took place and developed into fighting between the merchants and the factions’ members at the checkpoints, after the merchant’s refusal to pay the imposed royalties; the last of these quarrels happened at the town of Kafr Shams’ checkpoint, when a driver of one of the cars refused to pay the royalty, according to what a source have told Enab Baladi. The quarrel, after all, turned into an armed fight, which required the interference of disengagement forces between the two parties. The fight led to the death of three people, including a woman, who died due to the fighting’s bullets that penetrated her house.

Royalties with Official Receipts

In a related context, a number of checkpoints, under the control and supervision of the “Dar al-Adel Court in Houran” (Justice), impose royalties with the help of receipts that carry the Court’s seal.

An official, in control of one of the Court’s checkpoints, “Abu Ali al-Mahameed,” explained that the Court has only two checkpoints of this type; the first is at the Court’s gate and the second is to the west of the Nasib town. The two checkpoints have receipts that carry the Court’s seal only.

Al-Mahameed told Enab Baladi, that the royalty is decided according to the weight that the car carries; two thousand Syrian pounds were imposed on the cars that weigh four or less tons and four thousand Syrian pounds on the cars that weigh from four to eight tons.

As for the large trucks, they are supposed to pay six thousand Syrian pounds. According to al-Mahameed, the royalties are imposed on the cars transporting merchandise from and to the areas under Assad’s forces in Damascus governorate.

He confirmed that the money is delivered to Dar al-Adel only, which aims “to provide food for prisoners and fuel for heating, in addition to some supplies. This money does not even cover these expenses, for the Court’s employees have not received their salaries since October 2017.”

As a response about the inquiries that tackled the Masaken Jalin’s checkpoint, al-Mahameed said that “al-Moutaz-Bellah Army” arrested the involved members, describing them as “bandits.”

He pointed out that the Court is not responsible for the two checkpoints in al-Jubialia and Gadeer al-Bustan, which are considered according to him as “Tashbih (in reference to violent behavior) checkpoints that work for the factions, and that Dar al-Adel has repeatedly sought to take the two checkpoints in  Da’el and Kafr Shams from the factions, active in the area, but its request has been denied.”

The deteriorating security situation which Daraa governorate is living cannot be viewed separately from the royalties that some of the opposition factions are imposing at their checkpoints, which are supposed to control the security situation, the thing that indicate that they have lost their sense of direction, in front of big question marks about the “decision maker’s” silence and disregard.

 

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