Damascus University students say transportation crisis affects their future 

Damascus suffers from a shortage of and overcrowded public transportation buses - 6 June 2022 (Enab Baladi)

Damascus suffers from a shortage of and overcrowded public transportation buses - 6 June 2022 (Enab Baladi)


Enab Baladi – Damascus

“Most of the time is wasted on the roads, waiting for bad transportation and stifling traffic jams,” says the 22-year-old engineering student Salma, who has no escape from facing all these conditions and moving from the eastern suburbs of the capital to the university almost daily.

Despite the harsh conditions she lived through during the siege of Eastern Ghouta suburbs, her loss of her husband, and raising her only daughter, Salma chose to waste her time on the streets in order to obtain her dream university degree.

The Syrian capital, Damascus, is witnessing increasing congestion and a crisis in transportation lines due to the decrease in the number of public and private transportation vehicles between the suburbs of Damascus and the city center, which makes the students’ journey to their universities a real suffering.

“It is up to one’s luck”

The only fixed rule applicable to Damascus transportation is based on the popular saying “It is all up to luck,” whether good or bad, and bad luck is when it belongs to the student whose college requires permanent attendance, and therefore not attending the university causes the student to be deprived of one of the study subjects, Salma told Enab Baladi.

Salma needs to take three minibusses to get from her home to the university, and it takes a period of time that also depends on luck, as some days she can reach her university within an hour, while on other days it may take two hours.

Ranim, a pseudonym for security reasons, is another university student who is upset about her daily struggles with transportation.

“Two days ago, after about an hour of waiting for the minibus, I gave up going to university,” she told Enab Baladi.

Ranim often resorts to walking from her home in the al-Adawy neighborhood to the Media Faculty in the Mezzeh district due to the severe overcrowding inside the minibus, which prompts drivers to ignore the queues waiting at the bus stations and in public squares.

Peak time, drivers deepen the crisis

“On Sundays and Thursdays, the transportation crisis is exacerbated by students from other governorates returning to their cities and towns on the weekend and returning to universities on Sunday,” Salma said.

Eight in the morning and five in the afternoon are among the times that make the option to skip the lecture for Salma better than the hours of waiting for transportation on the way while her little girl waits for her at one of her relatives.

The transportation crisis was exacerbated at peak hours as a result of public minibus drivers contracting with groups of students to transport them collectively within a monthly subscription.

Salma is not the only one who sacrifices her university time because of her inability to find a means of transportation to take her to her university. Ranim said that the morning she spoke to Enab Baladi, after an hour of waiting, she decided to return to her home.

Ranim pointed out that her university major allows her more flexibility in terms of missing some lectures, while hundreds of students of science colleges suffer from the possibility of failing due to frequent absences in universities that do not take into account the conditions of students, although they are part of what they live, according to Salma.

Female students suffer twice

“In public transport buses, we stand with bodies close together due to overcrowding, which is a gateway to greater harm that affects female students,” Ranim said, pointing out that harassment is a frequent occurrence in the lives of female students who travel by public transport.

These incidents prompted many girls to avoid boarding the bus alone, creating a new crisis that prevents them from attending university.

“What is happening is harmful to all of us. The faces of girls who do not realize that silence is not an option in this painful situation, in addition to the fact that silence gives the green light to more perpetrators of these heinous acts,” Ranim continued.

As for Salma, she said that “incidents of harassment in a country where there is no protection law require a strong female voice that understands the difference between being victims or culprits.”

Alternatives do not meet the need

Students are trying to find alternatives that will ease their daily commute to university and reduce waiting hours in light of the years-long crisis.

Ranim is trying to find a group of girls who are waiting for the bus, to take a taxi with them to share the rent, to ease the burden of expenses for her family, as it reaches 10,000 Syrian pounds (about 2.25 US dollars) from her home to her college, she says.

She added to Enab Baladi that this option is not always available, as taxi drivers often reject this option as unprofitable for them.

On some days, she also tries to accompany a relative in his car, but this option may help her for two days a month at most due to the different working hours and the fuel crisis in Damascus.

On the other hand, Salma and a group of students chose to contract with a minibus driver, noting that the driver was greedy and was asking for unreasonable wages and adjusting the wage monthly according to his desire,

He also told her and the group she was with, in mid-April, that he had contracted with another group that paid double the amount, Salma adds.

Transportation, fuel crisis

The regime-held areas are witnessing a transportation crisis due to fuel shortages that prevent drivers of public transportation from working with their poor fuel allocations.

On 9 June, the Damascus governorate refrained from supplying minibusses with diesel on the weekends (Fridays and Saturdays), with the continuation of the fuel crisis, amid unfulfilled promises that stipulated that citizens would be compensated for the absence of minibus with 200 public buses on Saturday, in addition to the private sector buses.

On the other hand, Maurice Haddad, Director of Internal Transport in Damascus, said that the Damascus governorate owns 100 buses for the public sector and 130 for the private sector, but this number was reduced on Friday and Saturday to only 60 buses to “prevent fuel waste.”

Haddad added that there are more than 6,800 minibusses in the capital, which he considered a “good” number, pointing out that the city needs about 500 public buses to serve it, according to what he said on the local Sham FM radio on 12 June.

The director of Internal Transport attributed the transportation crisis to minibusses drivers who sell their subsidized fuel allocations in the black market and their non-adherence to transportation lines.


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