Wed 14 Nov 2018

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“Private Cars” Impose Themselves on the Transportation Market in Southern Syria

A taxi at a Free Army checkpoint in the countryside of Daraa city – January 2016 (Facebook)

A taxi at a Free Army checkpoint in the countryside of Daraa city – January 2016 (Facebook)

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 The “yellow” taxies, a familiar sight of course, are no more alone in the transportation market in Daraa Governorate, for the deteriorating financial situation has triggered many people to turn their private cars into a public means of transportation.

The changes in the transportations’ market combination helped in spreading the phenomenon in the governorate, as a result for the control distribution among the opposition factions and Assad’s forces, which transformed the two cities of Daraa and Da’el, as well as the town of Saida to a new transportation knot, where the public means of transportation changed to enter a competition with the private cars.

Working as a car driver, moving between the two parts of Daraa – the one under the regime and the other under the opposition — is the young Ausama’s new profession, who used to work as a clothes sales man prior to the revolution in 2011. He explained to Enab Baladi the conditions which threw him into the public transportations market.

Asuama said that his clothes shop in Daraa’s market was sabotaged and robbed by Assad’s forces, and that he underwent a massive financial loss, which could not be overcome. He added that he, for months, searched for a job to no avail, in the shadow of the war circumstances which pushed the unemployment ratios, among Daraa’s youth, to unprecedented levels. Therefore, he made up his mind, finally, and decided to work as a driver, turning his own private car into a public taxi.

Ausama explained that “I found a massive lack in the cars that work between the areas under the Assad’s forces and the those under the opposition; I had my private car only, so I decided to use it.”

Ausama faced no difficulty in finding customers, the number of whom he describes as “too many.” They are both citizens and employees who need a ride, especially the driver’s relatives and friends, “who prefer to take the journey with people, with whom they are familiar, in the shadow of the difficult security conditions. There are also people who want to transfer papers and other belongings only.”

As a result for the transportation market’s need for additional working force, Ausama pointed out that many of the private cars owners started to enter the field; a number of the owners resorted to hiring other people to work as drivers.

The New Profession’s Challenges

Many of the drivers who work between the areas controlled by Assad’s forces and the opposition factions in Daraa believe that the difficulties that hinder their work are greater than the income they manage to get.

Ausama said that the worst thing to face is the people’s idea of the driver, especially when some people consider him an agent or a pro-regime figure, simply for being able to cross its checkpoints, a perspective that takes a serious manifestation if the driver is new to the field and has never done this before.

These difficulties are backed by economic challenges, according to Ausama, who pointed out to the damage which the inspection process is causing to his car and a few cases of intentional car sabotage which the checkpoints practice, in addition to the “obsession” with the need to find spare parts, the difficulties of filling and evacuating benzine, as well as the long hours waiting. Despite all of this, the drivers are attached to their profession, as their only means to resist unemployment.

An Agreement Decides the Fees

There is not a unified charge for the public or the privately-owned taxis in Daraa governorate; so, the fee came up to be decided according to the mutual decision of both the driver and the client.

The charge swings from 2000 to 2500 Syrian pounds per passenger for driving her or him between the areas under the opposition in the eastern countryside of Daraa and the two cities of Daraa and Izra, which endure the Assad’s forces control. As for the fee to transporting a passenger to Damascus, it varies between 3000 and 4000 Syrian pounds (a dollar equals 470 Syrian pounds).

Working in the field of public transportation, many years ago was many unemployed citizens sanctuary, but, today, it is an independent profession. Lawyers, teachers, bank employees, university students and many others are turning to taxi drivers. This change corresponded to another, for the modern Korean and Japanese cars, “Kia” and “Hyundai,” for example, are costing people a fortune, besides the Russian and the Iranian, “Saba” and “Lada” cars, which in comparison are classified as cheap.

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