The Worst Conditions Since France’s Occupation... Syrians Dream of Having Electricity

Sunday 11 July 202101:48 pm
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الأسوأ منذ 2011… السوريون يشتهون عودة الكهرباء بعد التقنين الحكومي

The mounting livelihood crisis has continued worsening for Syrians. The people had once dreamed that the subsiding of hostilities and the fighting would lead, at the very least, to a gradual return to “normal” life. However, this did not take place, causing the issues in the country to exacerbate even further — starting from the lack of essential goods to the spiralling of commodity prices, and last but not least, power cuts that last for many long hours at a time.

On Monday, June 28, Syrians residing in areas under the control of the Assad regime launched the hashtag #StopCuttingElectricity, arguing that the prolonged and frequent power cuts and outages amount to a “crime against humanity” in light of the severe heat and the disruption of businesses and services.

The virtual campaign, which was circulated by angry citizens, stated in its post, “Is cutting off electricity for five, six, seven, and ten hours in exchange for just one hour of power in this scorching summer weather not considered a crime against humanity?!” It went on to detail that it is considered a crime particularly against the sick, the elderly, the young, those whose businesses have been disrupted, students taking exams, and people with limited income unable to afford solar batteries, in addition to the spoilage of foof due to lack of refrigeration.

The post referred to a ‘thirst crisis’ that accompanied the power cuts due to the stoppage of electric water pumps, adding that the continuation of this crisis is “a crime against human life, merely craving a cup of cold water in this scorching summer!”

A number of Syrian told Raseef22 that there is a tendency — more than ever before — to install solar power generators, even though they cost more than $1,500 to operate basic appliances.

Communications Too

In parallel with the unprecedented increase in the hours of rationing in Syrian cities, Syrians have noticed a noticeable weakness in the mobile telephone network, as mobile coverage weakens and is sometimes completely absent during long periods of rationing that exceed four continuous hours at a time, even within the central districts and neighborhoods where the coverage is usually better.

#StopCuttingElectricity... Syrians in regime-controlled areas are speaking out over 10-hour-long electricity cuts, and an economic says the reason is “a preference to military spending at the expense of spending on reform, development and production”

An informed source that did not wish to be named told Raseef22 that the reason behind this pressing issue — which Syrians have never encountered before — is the inability of telecommunications companies to keep communications towers continuously operating during periods of no electricity, as power generators overheat and demand scarce diesel oil to operate. Here, the source highlighted another crisis that Syrians and telecommunications companies are facing — difficulties obtaining the fuel needed to operate power generators.

This has angered many citizens, with some making fun of their having to apparently go back to using landline phones instead of mobile smartphones, just like many of the technologies that they were forced to relinquish as a result of ongoing crises in recent years.

‘Provocative’ Official Statements

The “Stop Cutting Electricity” campaign came in response to the “provocative” statements made by the Syrian Minister of Electricity Ghassan al-Zamil, who merely apologized to Syrians for the grievous electricity situation on the evening of June 27th and left it at that.

Al-Zamil said that the power outage “is due to the fact that 70% of the stations operate on gas and 30% operate on fuel, and there is a shortage of quantities in gas in addition to a rise in temperatures in addition to stations going out of service without any new power generating stations being put into service” in their stead.

The minister detailed the crises plaguing his ministry, saying, “There are three stations that need maintenance. The Tishreen Station will be closed for a restoration that will last 100 days and at a cost of up to 50 million euros, and the Mhradeh Thermal Power Plant also needs to be rehabilitated at a cost of 168 million euros, aside from needing to cut the power supply from the Al-Zara Thermal Power Plant to carry out emergency maintenance work, and it will take four months to be able to return to service due to difficulties in securing spare parts.”

Following the minister’s statement, which indicates that the crisis will carry on for weeks and perhaps months to come, Syrians called for his dismissal from his post. Even the pro-regime newspapers openly mocked the statements.

The expectations of Syrians that the subsiding conflict would improve their conditions and restore normal life exacerbated their suffering. The cruel irony was that the hours of rationing increased and life became more difficult, with shortages in electricity and now diesel fuel

Is There a Solution?

In an explanation for Raseef22, Syrian economic researcher Nabil Marzouk admitted that the current electricity crisis is the worst it has ever been since the start of the conflict in 2011, pointing out that “what worsens it even more is people’s hopes and expectations following a long period of suffering.”

He added, “The expectations of Syrians that the subsiding of the conflict’s intensity would improve their conditions and gradually restore normal life have exacerbated their suffering. The cruel irony was that the hours of rationing increased and their lives became more difficult with it, so they now see the current crisis as something worse than ever before.”

Speaking on the factors that saw the continuation of the electricity crisis despite the decline in fighting and the regime taking back control of most cities, Marzouk explains, “They are primarily maintaining the security option and are excluding a negotiated political solution. The security option means giving preference to military spending at the expense of spending on reform, development and production in all its forms, including the production of electricity.”

While many blame US sanctions against the regime for the deterioration of the local currency and the accompanying severe livelihood crises, Marzouk says, “Of course, there is an impact from US sanctions impeding the arrival of oil and gas shipments, but they lose their effect if the main path is headed towards rebuilding and devoting efforts to advance service and production realities.”

He goes on to stress that “Syria can achieve energy sufficiency by adopting a different economic and developmental approach,” noting that what Syria currently needs of oil and gas “is directed mostly towards military capabilities and for the benefit of warlords who play a mediating role and are transferring oil to the end of the chain,” in reference to selling it on the black market for greater gains.

Marzouk added by saying that the deterioration of the exchange rate of the Syrian pound is “related to the country’s economic well-being, the wheel of production returning to normal rotation, and the allocation of resources for human, humanitarian and economic development, and not for destruction and war.”

He concludes by stressing that there are solutions to the electricity crisis that citizens are waiting for their implementation, describing them as “obvious,” and saying that they consist of “stopping all forms of violence and fighting, conducting dialogue between Syrians in order to solve outstanding problems, discussing ways to overcome them, achieving justice for all and holding the abusers accountable.” He also notes that these conditions are “necessary to restore civil peace, mutual trust, and solidarity on the road to restoring social capital.”

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