Eastern al-Ghouta | Unlivable neighborhoods destroyed by military operations and others trying to cope with hard conditions amid Iranian expansion
Across eastern al-Ghouta starting from Douma, passing through its countryside, from the areas of al-Shifouniyah, al-Rayhan and others, and the areas of Marj such as al-Nashabiyeh, al-Balaliah, al-Abadah, al-Jarba, Marj Al-Sultan, Bezina, Qaysa, Al-Bahariyah, Utaya, Harran Al-Awamid, Al-Otaiba and other villages, all the way to the areas of the southern sector such as Deir Al-Asafir, Zabadin, Hateta Al-Turkman and Al-Maliha which is the last areas which considered as the heart of Eastern Ghouta such as Jisreen, Saqba, Kafr Batna, Baeit Nayem, Ain Tarma, Zamalka, Hammouriyeh, Arbin, Misraba, Madira, and Harasta, more than three and a half years have passed since the regime military forces and its Russian and Iranian allies’ full control of Eastern Ghouta.
But the region is still suffering from the ravages of eight years of bombing, systematic destruction and killing until the population even have experienced displacement of factions and civilians who don’t desire to remain to northern Syria in March 2018. Since then, Eastern Ghouta areas have suffered from deliberate marginalization by the regime’s institutions present in the media and absent on the ground.
Completely destroyed neighborhoods
Towns, villages, and cities in Eastern Ghouta are empty of completely destroyed buildings, homes, and neighborhoods. Though more than three and a half years passed, the regime’s institutions have not removed any debris, except for those scatted on main roads to open them. Accordingly, the destroyed neighborhoods remained completely isolated from the inhabited one.
As soon as you enter one of the areas of Eastern Ghouta, you find a populated neighborhood next to a dark one that has become a shelter for dogs. Even when some of those who returned to Eastern Ghouta after the regime takeover attempted to rehabilitate their destroyed homes, they failed because most of the houses were completely destroyed, and needed reconstruction, in addition to the high costs of removing the ruins.
In October 2018, the Director of Operations at the International Committee of the Red Cross said after his visit, that he had not seen anywhere similar destruction as in Eastern Ghouta during his 27-year-work with the organization.
Life neighborhoods at surface
The regime’s media repeatedly displays some of the main streets and neighborhoods in Eastern Ghouta in pictures and videos as if there was no war in the area to promote the return of security and services to areas that witnessed military operations. However, the reality is completely different.
Ratio of livable neighborhoods and roads do not exceed 40 percent, but the branch roads and street far away of the eyes of the regime’s media cameras have been almost empty of residents, services and shops.
Almost lack of services
Entering one of the eastern Ghouta areas, the first scene you will see, in addition to the massive destruction, will be the rubbish mountains. Garbage spreads everywhere in cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta because they were not transferred by local municipalities to places far from the residential areas due to poor capabilities provided to them by “Rife Damascus province.”
Eastern Ghouta suffers almost complete blackout amid deteriorating electricity condition across the areas under the control of the regime forces. But, Eastern Ghouta suffers further problems compared to other areas with regards to the increase of outage hours, which may reach 14 hours, compared to only one hour of only fluctuated current.
Additionally, the region suffers almost lack of water in the main networks as it is affected by the power outage where many people were forced to use primitive methods by generating water from wells or bringing it by movable tanks. The people of Eastern Ghouta accuse the regime of deliberately marginalizing the area and planned to transferred it to the era before modernism as a kind of collective punishment for going into protests and revolutionary movement which was the most significant in Syria, as well as the killing of thousands of the regime soldiers and forces on Eastern Ghouta borders turning into destruction and debris by the regime military machine.
Deteriorating medical services on ground
In addition to the aforementioned sufferings, cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta suffer from absence of hospitals and medical centers except for some doctors in private clinics, and some hospitals work only partially in the city of Douma, but the people are forced to go to the hospitals in the capital city Damascus in case of emergency cases or treatment.
Growing tendency of migration among young men
Eastern Ghouta, since a year, has witnessed a large flow of migration of young men. According to SOHR local sources, dozens of young men have been sent by their families abroad over concerns of compulsory conscription after several delays to end their studies, in addition to the deteriorating living conditions at all levels, and lack of job opportunities.
Moreover, young men leave Eastern Ghouta either through official roads to Egypt, Sudan or Lebanon, and others go to areas controlled by the Turkish-backed factions in north of Aleppo with an aim to reach Europe via Turkey.
Recently, brokers working for regime’s officers smuggled young men who want to leave, or whose school postponements have finished, or those wanted by the security services to northern Syria, at cost varying from 1500 to 5000 USD, based on whether the young man is wanted and charged with crimes.
Iran’s militias largely continue purchase of real estate
On Sept, 9, reliable sources have informed the Syrian Observatory that the purchasing of real estate throughout cities and towns of eastern Ghouta by individuals from Deir Ezzor province working for Iranian-backed militias in Syria has escalated alarmingly. According to SOHR sources, individuals working for a man called Aby Yaser al-Bakari from al-Bakara tribe in Deir Ezzor have purchased nearly 500 apartments and shops in Ain Tarma city in the past few months. It is worth noting that most of these units belonged to Syrian people living abroad, and they were sold through representatives authorized by the real owners in eastern Ghouta.
According to local sources in eastern Ghouta, brokers from eastern Ghouta have been recruited by a group affiliated to the Iranian-backed local militia of “Liwaa al-Abbas”, while Aby Yaser al-Bakari is a prominent trader in this group. Al-Bakari had purchased lots of real estate in Deir Ezzor at orders by Liwaa al-Abbas’s leader Adnan al-Abbas. Now the Iranian-backed group and brokers it recruited have been prevalent in all cities and towns of eastern Ghouta with a task to find every apartment or shop offered for sale. Moreover, the group has stopped dealing with real estate offices because of the high fees. It is worth noting that the purchasing of civilians’ properties escalated recently in the areas of Saqba, Jesrayn, Kafr Batna, al-Mulayha, Zubaydin, Beit Sawa and Hamouriyyah.