With the gradual revival of life in the city of al-Malihah, rural Damascus, Mohammad, the son of the city, is seriously considering going back to his area after a four years absence, which he spent in moving from one house to another in the capital Damascus, in the neighborhoods of al-Midan, Sabaa Bahrat Square and Baghdad Street.
Mohammad, who refused to reveal his full name for security reasons, could not afford the rents, so he decided to share a house in the city of Damascus with one of his relatives. However, many obstacles faced his family’s and his own comfort, including a work injury that rendered him unemployed since 2010.
Due to the injury, Mohammad, 73 years old, counts on his wife relating to providing the household’s expenditures, in which he limitedly contributes. Nonetheless, all the money they manage to collect is not sufficient to support a family of a father, a mother and two kids or to cover the monthly rent, according to what he has told Enab Baladi during an interview, pointing out that the dire financial situation is the reason deriving him to return to his house in the city of al-Malihah.
A Gradual Return
Mohammad decided to go back to his city after Assad’s forces managed to control the area and gave some of al-Malihah’s families a permission to enter the area and stay there.
Mohamad said that he was surprised that his house was intact, despite the destruction inflected upon al-Malihah during the military campaign launched by the Syrian regime to regain control over the city in 2014. However, he found none of his belongings which he left there; they have all been looted.
In addition to Mohammad and his family, the city of al-Malihah, Eastern Ghouta, is witnessing the gradual return of its population, in sync with the reopening of roads, removal of debris and the remnants of the shelling that accompanied the battles.
Assad’s forces and allied militias captured the city after battles that lasted for 135 days with the “Free Army” factions in the area in 2014.
The percentage of the returning population constitutes about a third, going back to areas that are far from the headquarters of “Air Defense Administration,” which did not have the same share of shelling that the western part of the area witnessed, as local sources confirmed to Enab Baladi.
Al-Malihah’s population is over 23 thousand people, according to the population census of 2014, issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Personal Efforts Seek to Put Life Together
Mohammad told Enab Baladi that with the help of a few associations and relatives he managed to fix the damages that hit his house and buy some need. But still, he prefers to stay in his house in Damascus until he finishes restoring his house completely.
The returnee families volunteered to remove debris from their houses, waiting for the al-Malihah Municipality to finish clearing off the rubble from the entire city.
The municipality has promised the people of opening an infirmary in the area and restoring the former healthcare center, in addition to the return of water and electricity services, as well as opening the commercial road with Damascus entirely.
Despite the government’s promises and the gradual return, the people who once left the area are yet afraid of the massive expenses they have to pay as to restore their houses in case they decided to return, a fear backed with the strict security investigations that Eastern Ghouta, in general, is enduring.