Fishing, a “dangerous” profession provides Deir Ezzor with meat alternatives
The soaring prices of meat and chicken in Deir Ezzor have forced some residents to turn to the fish market in the area concentrated along the Euphrates River.
With the popularity of buying fish, many locals have turned to fishing and trading in fish. However, they still face difficulties, both security-related and in terms of access to the riverbed, as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) does not allow civilians to approach it.
Omar al-Abdullah, a young man from the city of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria, works as a fisherman. He told Enab Baladi that fish may not be cheap, but it represents an economical source of food for the people of Deir Ezzor on the banks of the Euphrates River.
The price of a kilogram of fish ranges between 15,000 and 25,000 Syrian pounds, while the prices of livestock meats have risen to over 120,000 Syrian pounds per kilogram and 27,000 for chicken meat, according to Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Deir Ezzor.
A source from the Economic Committee in the Deir Ezzor Civil Council, affiliated with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), told Enab Baladi that the high meat prices have led to an increase in the demand for buying fish in the markets.
He added that the price of a kilogram of veal has increased from 90,000 to 125,000 Syrian pounds, while the price of a kilogram of lamb reached 105,000 Syrian pounds.
The price of a kilogram of chicken meat reached 27,000 Syrian pounds after it was around 20,000 Syrian pounds.
The source, who works in the Economic Committee, mentioned that smuggling operations, especially of sheep and cows, outside the Autonomous Administration-controlled areas, have led to an increase in their prices, leaving the residents of the area facing difficulties in purchasing meat.
He also mentioned that some SDF military checkpoints charge fees from fishermen to allow them to fish in the Euphrates River, which may increase the prices of fish in the future.
The Euphrates River divides Deir Ezzor province into two sections: the al-Jazeera area (under SDF control) and the al-Shamia area (under Syrian regime control), and the two banks are connected by several bridges distributed throughout the region.
Problems facing fishermen
Fishermen cast their nets in the Euphrates River at noon and leave them overnight in the water, then return the next morning to collect their catch, according to fisherman Suleiman al-Jiris, as he told Enab Baladi.
After the fishing stage is over, the fishermen immediately head to the markets to sell their catch.
Al-Jiris described the demand for their goods as “acceptable” but not necessarily good, especially with the rising prices of the oils people use to fry the fish.
Fishermen also face their own problems, as al-Jiris and others suffer from the high prices of fishing supplies and the difficulty of obtaining them at times, according to what he told Enab Baladi. They are forced to travel to the cities of al-Hasakah or Raqqa to secure these materials, as they are not available in the rural areas of Deir Ezzor.
According to the fisherman, the demand for river fish meat in the rural areas of Deir Ezzor is increasing due to its lower prices compared to red meat and chicken. However, the abundance of fishermen and the large quantities of fish have made their profits low for those involved in this profession.
The increasing problems for fishermen in Deir Ezzor are threatening this profession, according to al-Jiris, who sees no imminent solutions on the horizon. This has made some of these fishermen consider quitting the profession and searching for alternatives, although it represents a source of income for their families.
Royalties and risks
On the western bank of the Euphrates River, where the Syrian regime forces’ Fourth Division is stationed, fishermen are subjected to provocations by the same military checkpoints. They are forced to pay financial royalties in order to be allowed to fish in the Euphrates River, according to what Mohammad al-Tarfah told Enab Baladi. He is a fisherman residing in areas under the control of the Syrian regime, west of the Euphrates River.
On the eastern bank of the river, Laith al-Saho describes the fishing profession as “fraught with risks,” especially during the recent period, which witnessed tension between the SDF and the regime. Fishermen faced gunfire from military checkpoints on the western bank of the river.
He added that he and others pay a monetary amount to a leader in the SDF to allow them to fish, but these amounts do not protect them from the bullets of the Fourth Division elements and the militias deployed on the western bank of the Euphrates River.
Al-Saho, who has worked as a fisherman for about 17 years and depends on it as a profession to secure his livelihood, achieves a daily income from fishing ranging up to 200,000 Syrian pounds.
Since the beginning of November, the SDF has started establishing military checkpoints on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River opposite the areas under the control of the Syrian regime in eastern Deir Ezzor governorate, coinciding with increasing attacks that the SDF says are supported by the regime and coming from its controlled areas.
Naher Media website, which specializes in conveying news from Deir Ezzor, stated that the SDF had launched a project aimed at deploying military checkpoints between the town of al-Jazrat west of Deir Ezzor and reaching al-Baghouz in the far east of the province.
A member of the Internal Security Forces (Asayish) affiliated with the Autonomous Administration, in a previous interview with Enab Baladi, said that the general command is working hard to strengthen military checkpoints throughout the Deir Ezzor countryside in response to “security challenges,” especially with the frequent attacks launched by regime forces on the area.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Deir Ezzor, Obadah al-Sheikh, contributed to this report.
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