Gas tanks become the dream of Aleppo’s residents

Gas tanks become the dream of Aleppo’s residents

Gas tanks become the dream of Aleppo’s residents

/ News & Interviews / Tuesday, 19 February 2019 13:25

As soon as they saw the truck distributing gas cylinders, the residents of the Salaheddine neighborhood in Aleppo (north) spontaneously rushed, forming a queue for 200 meters along one of the arteries of the former economic capital of Syria.

Supervised by municipal committee’s members and the security forces, these residents wait patiently to receive, in turn, their provision.

Men climb the back of the truck to dispense what seems to be shabby gas cylinders while the district mayor notes the personal data of each beneficiary.

Oum Bader is one of those “happy” people elected. All smiles, she staggers while pulling the large container which she has just bought.

“For the past three days, I have been coming here every morning. Today I was lucky, I was able to get a cylinder of gas”, cheers this woman wearing a long dress and a black veil.

Since December, waiting for hours in a queue to get a few liters of gas has been the daily routine of Salaheddine’s residents, who suffer a shortage of unprecedented scale of oil derivatives in the country.

The crisis hit not only Aleppo, but also other cities controlled by the regime, causing a wave of popular discontent.

Recurring power cuts and soaring oil prices have been worsened by higher gas consumption during winter.

The extent of the crisis pushed President Bashar al-Assad to recognize, in a speech, “real suffering”, which he immediately attributed to economic sanctions against Syria and unequal distribution between districts.

“Salaheddine is the most populated area of Aleppo, home to nearly 25,000 families and yet we only receive about 200 bottles of gas a day,” complains the mayor of the district, Hassan al-Jok.

He hopes for a situation improvement “as spring approaches”.

- “Punitive sanctions” -

Jok also puts the blame of the current crisis on Western sanctions, which aim to “punish” the Syrian people and “fight their livelihoods”.

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the United States and the European Union have imposed a series of sanctions aimed at, among other things, the import of hydrocarbons.

In November, the US Treasury threatened to impose new restrictions on entities involved in oil transactions with Damascus.

That same month, Washington mobilized against an international network allowing the “Iranian regime to provide, via Russian companies, millions of barrels of oil to the Syrian government”.

Western sanctions have contributed to the current scarcity, concluded an official anti-monopolies commission, according to which Syria imports up to 80% of its energy needs from “allied countries”.

Before the war, the country enjoyed a relatively autonomy in energy, but its oil and gas sector has suffered losses since 2011, estimated by the authorities at 74 billion dollars, while the main oil fields still escape the control of Damascus.

Syria's current needs are estimated at 130,000 cylinders of gas a day.

Last month, the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Ali Ghanem, announced to Parliament that efforts were underway to boost local gas production and identify alternative resources to meet growing demand.

- Bad for business -

If the government tries to mitigate the impact of the crisis by selling the cylinder at the subsidized price of 2,700 Syrian pounds (about five dollars), the limited supply forced the residents to buy it from private sellers twice that price, according to several testimonials.

Local businesses and restaurants are the first to suffer. In Aleppo's al-Hamidiyé neighborhood, the owner of a chicken restaurant is now closing his shop earlier than usual.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, we have reduced (...) hours of work to avoid a complete closure,” says Mohammad Fattouh.

“We cannot wait in line for hours to buy gas, we have to buy it by paying more” on the black market, says the 50-year-old entrepreneur.

The crisis was also reaching the kitchens and dishes. The manager’s wife, Oum Abdou, claims to avoid the cook and prefer salads and cold food to limit gas consumption.

“We are used to power cuts and fuel oil shortages, but not to gas, which is a basic necessity product,” she sighs.

“Getting a tank of gas has become a dream that is added to the list of dreams of the modest resident of Aleppo”.

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