“Corruption” in power sector ignites Aleppo countryside

Demonstrators in the electricity company building in the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo - 4 June 2022 (Enab Baladi / Siraj Mohammad)

Demonstrators in the electricity company building in the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo - 4 June 2022 (Enab Baladi / Siraj Mohammad)

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In early June, the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo witnessed several demonstrations, protesting against the policy of electricity distribution companies operating in the region, where the number of complaints by residents filed against the electricity company exceeded 1,200 over the previous few periods.

This number of complaints was reflected on the ground, where the building of the Syrian-Turkish Electricity Company and other service institutions were set on fire in the city of Afrin, where dozens of angry demonstrators protested on 3 June.

Some demonstrations were met with military alert, while others were promised to respond to demands as available and to stand on the side of protesters and people.

Enab Baladi monitored the efforts of the Syria Civil Defense (SCD) teams to put out the fires while the military and civil police operating in the area mobilized and fired bullets in the air to disperse the demonstrators, which created a state of fear and panic among the residents. No medical or military source reported casualties.

Escalation continues, specific demands

The escalation of the demonstrators came after several demonstrations and protests in the region in general and Afrin in particular, during which the demonstrators demanded not to take advantage of people’s needs, accusing the electricity company of “theft and corruption.”

These recent demonstrations are an extension of the demonstrations that preceded them earlier this year in the same area, protesting against the high electricity prices and the frequent power cuts to the city.

Residents of the areas in the countryside of Aleppo complain about the high electricity prices, compared to the deteriorating economic situation in northwestern Syria, as the family needs the equivalent of ten days’ wages to pay the monthly electricity costs.

The recent demonstrations in Afrin carried 12 articles and demands that were published by the Joint Committee for the Restoration of Rights in the City of Afrin and its Countryside (the Committee for the Response of Injustice and Rights). The committee said that the demonstrators in the city submitted the demands to the committee in order to stop the protests against the work policy of the local council in Afrin and the electricity company.

These demands included holding accountable the shooters of the demonstrators, as well as appointing a head of the local council with a “revolutionary history,” and forming a monitoring committee for service institutions and their work mechanism.

Among the demands conveyed by the Joint Committee were the restructuring of the local council and the participation of everyone in it, in addition to decision-making in service institutions based on a popular referendum, the establishment of a committee to monitor supplies and prices, the preservation of the institutions’ independence and not being subject to a military authority, and the exemption of citizens from the taxes of the local council.

The provisions also included prohibiting decisions to evict the homes of the displaced unless after securing an alternative and holding those who are involved in mediation cases for elements from “counter-revolutionary parties” accountable.

Through the clauses, the demonstrators called for the opening of the fronts, the unification of the factions, and the formation of an independent revolutionary committee, to monitor the functioning of institutions in all their forms.

For its part, the Electricity Company published a statement that Enab Baladi has seen, in which it said that it is being subjected to “terrorist” acts and systematic sabotage targeting the infrastructure of the electricity sector.

Meanwhile, local networks circulated a statement by “revolutionaries and displaced persons” in the city of Afrin, declaring their readiness to completely shut down the electricity company and prevent the company’s employees from working until the people’s demands are met.

The statement granted a deadline until 6 June, with any employee or worker of the company deemed to be “a partner in the humiliation of the people,” and promised to arrest the director of the electricity company and interrogate him to know his partners and those supporting him to hold them all accountable.

The electricity sector in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo witnessed the entry of several investment companies with contracts to connect the network to the homes of civilians and the official departments that administer the area and work to deliver services to them.

Over the previous five years, investments were concentrated in Turkish private companies, which signed contracts with local councils operating in the region, whose work is linked to Turkish states, such as Gaziantep, Kilis, and Hatay.

 

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