Military trenches squeeze Qamishli residents
Enab Baladi – Majd al-Salem
While he was on the roof of his house in the northeastern city of Qamishli, Hussein, 33, was shocked by the Internal Security Forces of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) besieging his house and climbing up to take him by force and confiscating his cell phone.
Hussein, a pseudonym for security reasons, told Enab Baladi that he remained in detention for three days, during which he was subjected to interrogation, severe beatings, and insults after the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the military arm of AANES, accused him of filming their members while they were digging a trench.
“They searched my phone and threatened me if I had filmed anything on the site,” he adds.
But Hussein was making a normal call with a relative from the roof of the house as a result of the weak telecommunication network coverage when the excavation mechanisms of the SDF were digging a trench that surrounded the entire neighborhood from the south and east.
Hussein was released after pledging not to go up to the roof of his house, or any of his family, even when the trench was completed.
The Qamishli-based Ali, 50, a pseudonym for security reasons, was detained for three months after he tried to prevent the SDF from digging a military trench inside his agricultural land.
He told Enab Baladi that “the excavation has severely damaged the agricultural lands adjacent to the southern outskirts of Qamishli and caused heavy losses to the soil planted with wheat.”
When Ali tried to object and demanded financial compensation, an Asayish (Internal Security Forces) patrol raided his house and arrested him. He remained in prison for three months, after which he was released without any compensation, Ali added.
According to what Enab Baladi learned from the city’s residents, during April, the pace of digging trenches increased significantly in the southern and eastern neighborhoods of Qamishli, such as the al-Mahatta and the Syriac neighborhoods, which were isolated by trenches, earth mounds, and huge concrete blocks.
Also, residents of al-Thawra neighborhood complained to Enab Baladi about the damage to the road connecting the neighborhood with the rest of the city’s neighborhoods.
The excavation of tunnels coincided with the recent rainfalls, the spread of mud throughout the neighborhood, and sidewalks that need repair.
Residents fear that the foundations of the buildings adjacent to the trenches would be damaged as the excavation waste is still in the neighborhood.
Saeed, 39, pseudonym for security reasons, has been digging trenches for nearly three years, told Enab Baladi that the company responsible for digging and preparing trenches is the SDF-run Zagros Company.
In addition to military engineering construction operations, this company designs and manufactures prefabricated rooms (caravans) that are distributed to SDF military points, as well as paving roads and constructing small bridges and ferries.
Most of the workers, who came from the southern Qamishli countryside, receive a daily wage between 15,000 and 20,000 Syrian pounds (4 to 6 US dollars).
They have no compensation or insurance against accidents that may be endured during digging operations, Saeed added.
A number of Qamishli residents, interviewed by Enab Baladi’s correspondent, said that millions of dollars are wasted in these tunnels, which “have no military benefit,” recalling what happened during the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army’s control of the areas of Afrin, Ras al-Ain, and Tal Abyad despite reinforcements and tunnels.
Some said that this money should be spent on improving the dilapidated infrastructure like roads, bridges, and service facilities or allocating the money to subsidize the basic staples such as sugar, cooking oil, bulgur, rice, and bread, whose prices have witnessed a significant hike.
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