As-Suwayda: Civil initiatives to provide services in absence of the state
Enab Baladi – Khaled al-Jeratli
As the living situation in Syria continued to worsen, a section of As-Suwayda residents opted for protests and pickets, demanding that the regime’s institutions secure minimum services.
The forms of protest varied from region to region; it happened that an official in charge of the fuels department at the state-owned As-Suwayda General Organization for Drinking Water and Sanitation was abducted.
With the regime’s inability or “unwillingness” as described by As-Suwayda people, to meet the population’s needs, civil and political bodies and organizations in the governorate have taken initiatives to provide services to civilians, albeit at minimum limits.
Community and organizations’ initiatives
Bread, water, electricity, and fuel supply services are basic services, and there may be no life in a region where such services do not exist; these are services that the Syrian regime’s government is not adequately securing for people in As-Suwayda.
During the past years, the people of As-Suwayda, including those loyal to the Syrian regime, have repeatedly protested, demanding basic services. However, the situation remained the same.
Local initiatives began in mid-2022, focusing on bridging the security vacuum caused by the regime’s absence when residents of some villages west of As-Suwayda decided to set up patrols to protect their villages at night from thefts and robberies that spread around.
The initiatives then extended to service aspects, through the distribution of bread and fuels to destitute families and then attempts to supply electricity in the area, which in turn contributes to providing well water.
Activist Rayan Zain al-Din, an As-Suwayda-native and resident, told Enab Baladi that, since the beginning of December 2022, dignitaries and individuals from the villages of southern As-Suwayda held several meetings that brought together the people and parties of the villages of al-Mujimer, Ira, and Rsas, with the aim of securing drinking water for the people by extending a permanent 24-hour electricity line to supply the drinking water well in al-Mujimer with electricity.
In the same village, a Funds Collection Committee was formed to extend the “golden electricity” line, with the aim of supplying the village well with electricity and providing drinking water for all. The committee included five of the village’s dignitaries and 20 other members.
Meanwhile, the committee called on expatriates from As-Suwayda to donate to complete the work on the well, which costs 250 million SYP, according to Zain al-Din.
The Julia organization, which is active in As-Suwayda as well and is concerned with women’s support projects, posted on its official Facebook page that, on 21 December 2022, it was able to distribute the second batch of financial aid to widows and those without a breadwinner.
The Brigade Party is the only distributor of fuels
Local and private initiatives have diversified in As-Suwayda, but none of them have addressed the governorate’s severe fuel shortage, particularly in light of its soaring prices and the fact that fuels are unavailable in light of the low supply to all Syrian governorates, As-Suwayda included.
Since early December 2022, the regime-opposing Syrian Brigade Party has launched an initiative to distribute heating fuel to the residents of As-Suwayda.
The latest batches of fuel were distributed by the party on the 19th of the same month, with diesel fuel distributed to 50 families in As-Suwayda.
About a week earlier, this was preceded by another campaign that included the same number of families. The party has also set the last week of December as the date for the distribution of the third batch of fuel, according to its official Facebook account.
Activist Rayan Zain al-Din said that the Brigade Party was the only party that launched a fuel distribution campaign, while other initiatives included collecting money and providing water and electricity-related services.
On 28 July 2021, the Syrian Brigade Party issued a statement on Facebook saying it was an unarmed political party relying on civil action to support its cause and objectives.
Fearing repression and the arrest of its adherents, the party coordinated with the Anti-Terrorism Force, an armed military entity aimed at protecting civilians in As-Suwayda governorate.
Far from enough
As-Suwayda-based Maher, 55, told Enab Baladi that it is only natural for people’s supplies and community initiatives to be concentrated around primary and basic materials such as food, clothing, and medicines. But it also does not meet the population’s needs, especially that it is organized over separate periods of time that may be up to six months apart.
Most residents rely on their children or relatives who are expatriates who send them money from abroad. These funds have become a lifeline for most of As-Suwayda’s population, says Maher.
The source also noted that the electricity dilemma remains one of the main problems for the residents of As-Suwayda; Electricity is out for about 20 hours a day, and hospitals in the governorate are out of main water for long periods.
Also, some neighborhoods in As-Suwayda would suffer water outages for long periods that may exceed two months.
Since 2020, there have been repeated popular protests in the governorate of As-Suwayda, some of which have carried demands of a political nature calling for the overthrow of the Syrian regime, while most have only demanded improved security and service conditions.
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