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Demonstrations failed to achieve desired goals in Idlib

Night demonstrations in Idlib city against the increase of electricity and bread prices from the Salvation Government - November 2, 2019 (Enab Baladi)

Night demonstrations in Idlib city against the increase of electricity and bread prices from the Salvation Government - November 2, 2019 (Enab Baladi)

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Enab Baladi – Idlib

Idlib citizens took advantage of the darkness of the night to express their rejection of the high prices and the lack of basic services in the city, condemning the “salvation government” and its practices. But their fear of the reaction of the authorities silenced them after a few days, without extinguishing the demands’ intensity.

Evening demonstrations have taken place for a few days in the beginning of November in Idlib city. Demonstrators raised banners and called for price reduction and stopping the taxation on basic services.

Demonstrations were ignited by the decision of the Ministry of Local Administration, affiliated to the Salvation Government, to impose an increase of 500 Syrian Pounds on the prices of electricity delivery to homes, to become 3,000 Syrian Pounds for each house just for three hours in the evening, and raise the price of subsidized bread from 150 to 200 Pounds, with a weight reduction from 900 to 750 grams.

Agreement on condemnation, but different perspectives

 The Salvation Government attributed the decision to raise the prices of services to the rise of fuel prices in the region. The Minister of Economy and Resources, engineer Mohamed Taha al-Ahmad, said that the rise is “beyond their control,” and the result of the Turkish “Operation Peace Spring” on the northeastern border of Syria, which cut off ways of fuel supply.

Since its formation two years ago, the Salvation Government has been accused of the dependency to “Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.” It has expanded its administration to include Idlib Governorate and parts of western Aleppo countryside following a military operation launched by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham against the Free Army factions earlier this year.

 In his interview with Enab Baladi, al-Ahmad described the demands of the demonstrators as “just,” insisting that protests are peoples’ rights, provided that “they stay away from politicization and mobilization, and communicate demonstrators’ demands to those who deprived them of services and raised prices.”

One of the demonstrators told Enab Baladi, on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested, that the government’s speech did not convince the protestors.

The demonstrator, a teacher, has no doubt that the “Salvation Government” is responsible for the poor living conditions in his city.

He added to Enab Baladi that “protests were ignited due to the coercive measures of self-proclaimed government that imposed itself by force of arms. It is a non-civilian government, and does not represent the entire people, but a single military faction.”

In his view,  the protests failed to achieve the demands because of their “weakness and limited scope,” and as a result of “people’s fear of prison and the brutality of the Front.” He also pointed out that the approach of both “salvation” and Syrian regime is “quite similar”.

From his part, al-Ahmed denied that the “Salvation Government” arrested any of the demonstrators, and insisted: “Many people disregard the organization and management that we have reached and they are making every effort to thwart it.”

Neither services nor solutions

The Minister of Economy and Resources in the Salvation Government agreed with the demonstrators, confirming the lack of services, but attributed this to the “difficult circumstances” in the region and not to authoritarianism and monopolization.

Al-Ahmad said that demonstrations are justified by the terrible reality not mismanagement, and the “Salvation Government is working intensively despite the lack of means to raise the level of services.” He added that the obstacles to success are “all countries and organizations’ fighting” of the region, while pretending to forget “the injustice of the regime and Russians and their crimes.”

But the teacher confirmed that Idlib effectively lacks services, with the preoccupation of “military government in collecting taxes, monopolization of materials and resources and pursuing profit.”

Another participant, a media activist who asked to remain anonymous, tackled the difficulties in Idlib, especially of the absence of paved roads, reduction of electricity allocations, higher water prices, and a fuel monopoly as winter approaches.

While participating in protests, the activist said that the protests are “an expression of people’s anger, but he does not expect anyone to respond to them.” He added that the government’s intervention in all matters is the main motive for the demonstration, expecting that the “Salvation Government” will justify any attacks and suppression of demonstrators as “individual actions.” 

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