Prevention, Ignition and Prohibition: As-Suwayda Governorate Combats Looting
In the city of As-Suwayda, Southern Syria, activists have launched campaigns and hashtags against the spread of Assad’s forces’ trucks which have been loaded with different types of furniture, stolen from Daraa’s homes, under what is today known as “al-Taafish,” an immediate theft operation conducted by Assad’s troops once the people of an area leave their houses fleeing military offensives.
(No for Looting)
(Do Not Buy It; Its Owner Is Crying Over It)
(Do Not Buy It, It Is Stolen)
The hashtags varied but have all expressed the same message, the public disapproves the phenomenon.
The loaded trucks triggered the anger of the people in As-Suwayda, especially since that the “al-Taafish” cars are allowed an easy access to the governorate, while the displaced people are faced with many difficulties on the roads. This contradiction motivated the people to launch “No for Looting” campaign which went viral among activists, shop owners and social leading figures. The activists impeded the hashtags in their posts on the different social media platforms.
Young people in As-Suwayda towns, Urman, al-Thaala, al-Mazraa, Malah, Khalkhalah, the city of Salkhad, Shahba and others, have prevented the cars that carried looted items from entering these areas or passing through them. Citizens from al-Thaala town have also set fire in a truck that carried stolen furniture from areas in rural Daraa.
Daraa governorate has been subjected to an intense military offensive, launched by the Syrian regime and Russia. According to UN statistics, this led to the displacement of more than 300 thousand civilians from the eastern countryside of the governorate.
The activists have also created a “Facebook” page called “لاتعفش شايفينك” (Do Not Loot, We Can See You) to post the names of the people participating in the act of looting, selling or buying the stolen furniture in an attempt at social deterrence by scandalizing the involved names and stigmatizing them within a relatively closed community.
Enab Baladi interviewed one of the activists participating in the campaign, wishing to stay anonymous, she said that the campaign aims to prevent the creation of a market in the governorate that would encourage the thefts, which she described as “heinous and motives for hatred and sedition between the two neighbor governorates”.
As for the campaign’s effect, she confirmed that the trucks and cars are heading to Damascus directly, without stopping at the governorate, in addition to people’s abstinence from buying the stolen items, despite the need and poverty for fear of the “scandal.”
A young man, in his thirties from the town of Sami’, told Enab Baladi that a market was started in his town for selling the stolen objects. When he asked for the price of al-Hafez brand fridge, he found that it was being sold for 50 thousand Syrian pounds, knowing that its real price is more than a thousand dollars (440 thousand Syrian pounds), with the seller’s readiness to decrease the price even more.
Omar did not buy the fridge; however, he lamented the people’s poverty and the urgent need pushing them “to buy other people’s dreams”.
The campaigners said that they will forward a file to court through lawyers that documents the names of people who have proven to have participated in looting operations.
Article “637” of the Syrian Penal Code states that “Any person who commits a theft in the event of disobedience, disturbance, war, ship sinking or any other calamity, and anyone who has participated with others in a raid on funds that do not belong to him shall be punished by hard labor”.
Men of Religion Step in and Prohibit “Looting”
The activist’s movement against the phenomenon has triggered the “Rijal al-Karama” (Men of Dignity) movement to issue a statement condemning “Looting”. The “Akl Shaykhhood of the Druze Denomination” have also issued a statement in which they religiously prohibited buying and selling the stolen furniture, as well as participating in the act.
As-Suwayda’s people’s movement is met with a massive wave of reactions among the people of Daraa. “Abu Mohammad” a displaced man from Daraa, who has been based in As-Suwayda for five years, said that “the people’s attitude and fighting the phenomenon while the regime’s elements and security forces are spread deserves utmost respect. And those who do not acknowledge this act of honor are either blind or their hearts and minds have been affected by their own sectarian grudge and the regime-triggered sedition”.