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Long lines at fuel stations raise popular anger 

Cars waiting in line in front of a gas station in As-Suwayda- 1 Septemeber 2020 (Suwayda 24)

Cars waiting in line in front of a gas station in As-Suwayda- 1 Septemeber 2020 (Suwayda 24)

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As-Suwayda – Rayan al-Atrash

On 6 September, while several cars were queueing up at a gas filling station in the city of As-Suwayda, a fight broke out between two people, which quickly developed into a shooting.  One of the two wranglers called unidentified persons from a local armed faction for help, and upon their arrival, heavy gunfires took place. As a result, three people were injured and taken to the hospital. Then, a number of unknown persons attacked and smashed the glass at the gas station in protest against its owners for not regulating the turns of vehicle drivers. 

This scene summarizes the depth of the fuel crisis that the governorate of As-Suwayda is experiencing, as drivers have to sleep inside their vehicles for one night to obtain fuel the next morning. 

A taxi driver chose the nickname “Abu Omar” to identify himself. He told Enab Baladi that driving is his sole source of income to meet his family’s needs. He had to park his taxi before midnight behind 50 vehicles, waiting in line in front of a gas station to get fuel. He brought water and a small meal with him because he could not leave his car open for fear of theft. 

Usually, drivers wait for the next morning for the gas fuel tanker truck to come to fill the fuel tanks of their vehicles and go to work. However, this morning the drivers were not lucky because the truck did not show up for an unknown reason. Thus,  Abu Omar lost the hours he spent waiting in vain and the remaining drivers, and he have to start searching for another gas station again. 

The non-arrival of the fuel tanker truck means for “Abu Omar” and the drivers not to work all day and not secure their income to join the high-speed train of prices.

This scene has repeated itself many times in front of the fuel stations since the beginning of this September. Some drivers come late to the station after the amount of fuel runs out. Besides, a few drivers fill up their cars with fuel using their smart card fuel allocation, “only 30 liters”, which are enough only for ten days after the Syrian government reduced it from 40 liters. 

As-Suwayda, in particular, and the Syrian governorates in general, saw several fuel crises. However, the fuel crisis, this time, is more intense.

Fuel on stalls is an expensive solution… What is its source?

During the previous years, the people of the governorate used to buy fuel from fuel stalls in the streets of As-Suwayda. The fuel prices ranged from 400 to 500 Syrian Pounds (SYP- 0.18 and 0.22 USD) per liter.

However, the fuel crisis and the depreciation of the SYP against the US dollar pushed the price up to reach, on 12 September,  1,000 SYP if available ( 1 USD is worth 2,000 SYP on average).

On the other hand, the price of the subsidized fuel  at gas stations is 250 SYP per liter of “octane type 90” and 575 SYP per liter of “octane type 95.”

The fuel subsidies are only sold through smart fuel cards.  

The source of the gasoline sold in fuel stalls or stations, according to what one of its owners told Enab Baladi, is from the industrial zone in Adra in Rif Dimashq.  He agrees with an owner of a factory in the region to fill his car’s tank with a capacity of five thousand liters of gasoline designated to operate the factory. On the way back to As-Suwayda, he pays some “bribes” at the regime forces’ checkpoints to let him have access to his home with these significant amounts of fuel.

The residents’ complaints about the crisis are growing because fuel is available on the black market while the regular fuel stations lack fuel.

Khaled al-Aloush, a teacher in one of the schools in As-Suwayda, said that the residents of As-Suwayda are victims of two things, either queuing for long hours in front of gas stations or buying from black market distributors four times the price gasoline sold in the stations.

Besides, some taxi drivers had to buy fuel on the black market, which prompted an increase in transportation fees, to compensate for what they paid, as the price of a taxi ride within the city ranges between 700 and 1,200 SYP.

How does the government justify the fuel crisis?

The press office for As-Suwayda Governorate,” said, on its Facebook page, on 8 September, the cause of the crisis is due to reducing the governorate’s fuel allocations to less than half of its fuel needs.

He added that the crisis affects all Syrian governorates adversely and that the problem is “being followed up by the relevant authorities in the government.”

As-Suwayda experienced, last May, widespread protests against the deteriorating living conditions, and the protesters’ voices rose to call for the departure of the Syrian regime.

 

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