DeirEzzor – Sound and Picture
In January 15, 2015 IS began a genocidal siege on Alqosour and Aljora neighborhoods in Deir Ezzor, which are controlled by regime and its militias. In conspiracy with IS, Assad’s forces have used this siege and imposed it from inside on the people of these neighborhoods. The people, as a result, live in poverty, hunger and persecution during a whole year of difficult circumstances which claimed the lives of many people for various reasons.
The report “A year of siege” shows a part of the people’s suffering in the neighborhood of Alqosour and Aljora in Deir Ezzor east of Syria. Activists of “Sound and Picture” said that about 14 thousand families are trapped in these neighborhoods, as well as the families of the National Defense Militias and displaced families from other areas, bringing the number to nearly 250 thousand people. The report information is based on families’ testimonies who recently escaped from the besieged areas and information documented by activists since the start of the siege.
Deir Ezzor… March 2011 to January 2015
The people of Deir Ezzor have been participating in peaceful demonstrations against Al-Assad regime since March 2011, but due to excessive use of violence by regime forces, “Free Syrian Army (FSA)” groups were created within the city’s neighborhoods and in rural areas. In June 2012, FSA took control of most of the city’s neighborhoods and then all the rural areas with the ends of 2012. Regime remained in control of only few areas, such as Deir Ezzor airport, the scout camp and Aljora and Alqosour neighborhoods which were non-military areas inhabited by civilians but the regime turned them later to a military barracks, taking advantage of civilian’s conditions there.
In mid-2014, IS dominated the liberated areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army Brigades, after fighting for nearly five months which enabled IS at the end to take over these areas, while regime remained in control of areas it had since 2012 .
In mid-January of 2015, IS prevented anyone from having access to Alqosour and Aljura neighborhoods which are located on the outskirts of Deir Ezzor city from the northwest side. Since then, people suffer difficult living conditions under the siege imposed by IS.
How did the siege begin and why
In the beginning, people were not affected much by the siege, ase they were still living on the available foodstuffs in their homes and shops, but almost a month later, the suffering began, especially with the crisis of power outages and drinking water shortage and the lack of fuel and food.
The siege began with the blockade of roads leading to those neighborhoods, as IS prevented anyone from getting inside while allowed going out by imposing a military cordon around the region through military roadblocks, and watching water crossings that lead to these neighborhoods. From inside, regime, collusion with IS and took advantage of people’s needs by lunching arresting campaigns and monopolizing food and preventing some families from leaving through Deir Ezzor road which became a military barracks and one of the most important regime sites in the eastern region.
IS justified the siege with the words “areas of infidelity” as it announced the siege after preventing the access to the areas of blasphemy according to IS which are considered an infidel because its controlled by regime. Almost a year before, and after IS domination over Deir Ezzor liberated countryside and parts of the city, it proceeded to cut off the land route which food supplies and medical come through to regime areas, then gave the people a period of one month only to get out of these neighborhoods, and had tightened the noose further and issued decisions to prevent the entry or the exit of those areas once and for all.
The regime colluded with IS in the siege
The Regime has besieged the people under the pretext of IS’s siege, and started using the siege in its favor. Regime dealers and supporters benefit from the crisis by exploiting the daily needs of the people. Food, electricity and even escaping the siege. People have to pay money to the regime in order to get what they need.
The Regime prevents people from leaving its controlled areas, or exploits people’s desire to get out through the borders under its control or through flights from Deir Ezzor airport by forcing people to pay large amounts of money as bribes to security forces and influential people in those neighborhoods in order to obtain travel or crossing approval. Regime uses the military airport to provide its fighters and supporters with military supply, food, medicine. This explains why regime and its institutions were not affected by this siege, also detects the falsity of IS claims of fighting regime by the siege. On the contrary, the siege has helped regime to recruit hundreds of young people and earn a lot of money exploiting the agony of the people under siege.
On the other hand, IS started to humiliate families who left the areas under regime control, and even though they left “the land of infidelity”, according to IS, some were arrested and deprived of its official documents, while regime arrested many on these crossings under the pretext of being IS agents. Between IS and regime violations, the people of Deir Ezzor live their tragedy.
Families under the siege
Bus drivers for instance put themselves in danger to enter the food, but then they were subject to arrest, kidnapping or murder by the regime and IS under charges of smuggling food. Which contributed to the lack of food which could only be provided through regime traders, especially that entrepreneurship stopped, and many of the shops in the neighborhood were closed because of a lack of goods, and regime stopped paying salaries for workers in government departments for months, making purchasing and sales impossible. This forced lots of the families to escape outside the besieged neighborhoods.
People relied on firewood in order to fill the shortage of fuel for both in cooking or heating, but even with the wood over a period of siege has become rare, so people resorted to use their furniture wood for cooking and heating. The education is turned off in these neighborhoods, teachers and instruction left specially that regime stopped giving salaries to them, while students stopped going to school, where there is no obligation in regime institutions anymore, and this applies to in health, education and other regime sectors.
- Deir Ezzor people suffer from hunger, poverty and unemployment, according to testimonies from within these neighborhoods, some families can only afford dry bread, thyme and some parsley to eat.
- Medical services are very poor in these neighborhoods, as regime only provides medical care for its injured and prevents medical services for the rest of the people in the neighborhoods. Not to mention the spread of diseases due to the lack of medicine and poor services offered by regime and the shortage of vaccines causing the spread of diseases such as “anemia, scabies, jaundice.”
Regime violations in the besieged neighborhoods
- exploiting the siege in order to collect a lot of money, paid by people in exchange for water, electricity, food and medical care.
- Conscription and random arrests for people between 18 and 45 years old.
- killing dozens of people on water crossings either by snipping or using live bullets, so as to attempt to smuggle food or trying to flee.
- preventing medical care for poor people, as every hospital has become military hospital to serve soldiers only.
- Humiliation and insults against by the militia of National Defense deployed in these neighborhoods.
- Forced workers to go to the battle fronts, taking advantage of the siege and the financial crisis experienced by the people there.
- Taking large sums for security officers and the army, in order to release the detainees.
- bombing the neighborhoods using mortars under pretext of fighting regime, which caused deaths and injuries among civilians.
- arresting people for trying to enter the food from the countryside to the besieged neighborhoods
- Executed more than 40 people for trying to enter food from its areas to the besieged neighborhoods.
- shooting people with sniper causing casualties and injuries among displaced people from these neighborhoods.
People still living under siege
Despite all the humanitarian appeals by Syrian local organizations, and the submitted reports on situation on the ground, starvation, poverty and violations against the people of Deir Ezzor, but there is no response from the international community, or regime in facilitating the entry of food and open safe humanitarian corridors for those areas. While the regime shares and organizes trade deals with IS such as sending three trucks loaded with cotton from besieged neighborhoods to be sold to IS.
The responsibility of saving children and women in these neighborhoods remains subject to the response of the international community, which has not provided any reaction to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Deir Ezzor.