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Household gas crisis escalates in Syrian government-controlled areas and people express anger

Editing: Ayham Nasif Amena Riyad |
TranslationEditor: Farah Nassif |
Translation: Nouha Salti
Publication date: 2019/01/26 13:19

Turkey - SMART

The household gas crisis is escalating in the Syrian government-controlled areas and burdening citizens, who suffer from the high prices and lack of heaters under cold weather and poor living conditions. This caused a public rage that led to armed confrontations in several areas, while favoritism and monopolization prevailed.  

People stand in line for gas and struggle against favoritism and high prices:

People stood in line by the hundreds at household gas distribution centers in the Syrian government controlled-areas, each hoping to collect a gas cylinder that will aid a family for only a few days.

Local sources from the al-Suwayda governorate reported to SMART that citizens stood in line at household gas distribution centers all day to no avail. Some people asked their relatives, who work in the household gas company, to provide them with cylinders, saying that cylinders are distributed with favoritism if available.  

People in other areas of Southern Syria also suffer from the same situation, as cylinders price has tripled in the governorates of Daraa and Quneitra. People said that a cylinder price reached nine thousand Syrian pounds, while earlier it costs 2,800 SYP.

Pro-Syrian government media social media account published pictures of hundreds of civilians gathering near distribution centers in the governorates of Tartus and Latakia, amidst strict security measures by committees of the National Defense loyalist militia.   

Local sources from the city of Aleppo said that the people register their names at the neighborhood's clerk office and stand in line for more than seven hours sometimes waiting to buy a cylinder. Some of the people cannot get any cylinder because Shabiha and security services members confiscate the cylinders dedicated for civilians to sell them at higher prices.    

The sources added that a cylinder costs eight thousand SYP in the black market. People's demand for household gas increased, as they depend on it for heating due to the lack of fuel oil in the city and to the increased power rationing hours, according to the sources.

In the city of Hama, traders control pricing of cylinders, as local sources reported that a cylinder price reached ten thousand SYP. People are forced to buy gas at high prices because they cannot depend on electricity only.  

Some people express anger and others deal with the crisis with sarcasm:

The crisis caused a public rage that led to armed confrontations with household gas distributors, while other people deal with the situation with sarcasm and sense of humor.  

Local sources from the city of Jaraman in Rif Dimashq reported to SMART that people protested and besieged the municipality building to confiscate a truck loaded with cylinders; the truck was dedicated for some local officials. The protesters clashed with the Shabiha members with white weapons and threatened to block the road to the Damascus International Airport.   

On social media sites, activists published videos and photos of people mocking the crisis, as one of the videos showed two men singing wedding songs and trilling celebrating after they got a cylinder.  

The activists also published a photo of a man proposing for a cylinder that is wearing a white dress, while other people took photos with their cylinders raising the victory sign.  

The SADCOP Company is close, and the Syrian government lacks liquefied natural gas:

The crisis started when the Syrian government closed the SADCOP Company in the city of Hama due to the lack of liquefied natural gas, which is used to make household gas.

Local sources reported to SMART that the SADCOP employees informed the people that the Syrian government does not have liquefied natural gas in Damascus, as the Syrian government is waiting for Russia and Iran to send new amounts of gas and fuel.

The sources added that the traders started exploiting the crisis in Hama, as they mixed gas with water and sold 20-kilogram cylinders instead of 24 kg.

The Syrian government justifies the lack of gas:

On Dec. 12, 2018, pro-Syrian government media channels reported that the closure of Syrian ports due to storms delayed the arrival of an oil tanker loaded with 2,500 tons of household gas.

The People's Council of the Syrian government discussed the gas crisis two times in one and a half month, on Dec. 7, 2018, and on Jan. 20, 2019. The Council's members demanded to solve the problem and provide gas for people. Other members assumed that the crisis is contrived to distract people from poor living conditions.   

These statements do not seem convincing for many people, especially after the United States and the European Union imposed new sanctions on several people and companies that transport gas and fuel from Iran to Syria.  

On Nov. 20, 2018, the USA applied economic sanctions on six people and three companies for transporting Iranian fuel to Syria.  

The US Department of the Treasury stated that the sanctions were applied against people from Iran, Russia, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, in addition to two companies in Russia and another in Iran.  

The USA also applied economic sanctions against the Syrian businessman Muhammad al-Qaterji and his company, which sponsored fuel trading between the Syrian government and the Islamic State.  

Economic analysts said that the Syrian government had reached a bad situation, as it does not have an economic policy. The Syrian government depends on external financing from other countries including Iran by 90 percent. This policy will weaken the Syrian pound, increase Inflation, and force the Syrian government to increase gas, fuel, water, and electricity prices.  

The availability of electricity and fuel is not better:

The gas crisis coincided with the lack of fuel for heaters in the Syrian government-controlled areas, while power cutoffs are more frequent and fuel oil and firewood prices are increased.  

Local sources from northern Homs reported that the Syrian government allocated 100 liters of fuel oil for each family for 200 SYP per liter, adding that oil distribution is going slow and not all families got their allocation because oil is not available.   

The sources added that people replied on buying firewood for 50 thousand SYP per ton, as each family needs two and a half tons in winter on average. The firewood heaters are expensive, as one heater costs 30 thousand SYP.  

In the city of Hama, the people relied first on electric heaters, but after they received high bills, they were forced to use firewood heaters. One kilogram of firewood in Hama costs the same as one liter of fuel oil.  

Sources from the Quneitra governorate reported that the people could not afford to buy expensive heaters and fuel oil, as one liter of oil costs 300 SYP, while one ton of firewood costs 40 thousand SYP. The price of a good-quality heater reached 40 thousand SYP (about 95 dollars).