SDF and Coalition control of Al-Raqqah four years on | Low salaries and poor services amid economic hardship
After fierce battles against ISIS in its former de-facto capital in Syria, Syria Democratic Forces and International Coalition managed to capture Al-Raqqah city four years ago, where SDF and Coalition started to rehabilitate the city and improve many services. However, the current economic hardship has manifested itself in the dire living conditions of most of the residents in Al-Raqqah city, as well as across the entire Syrian geography.
In the following report, SOHR focuses on the various segments of people living in Al-Raqqah city.
There are three categories of employees in Al-Raqqah city and they are as follows:
- Employees working for the Syrian regime institutions: These employees have refused to work for the “Autonomous Administration” and its affiliated departments, and they are forced to travel daily to regime-held areas. The monthly salaries of these employees range between 150,000 SYL and 300,000 SYL each, equivalent to 42 USD and 70 USD.
- Employees working for civil organizations: These organizations are accused of blackmailing their employees who get 500 to 1,200 USD per month, according to certifications, experience, and roles.
- Employees working in the Autonomous Administration institutions: The monthly salaries of these employees reach 260,000 to 400,000 SYL, equivalent to 80 to 120 USD, but they complain of the lack of proper employment laws that can guarantee their rights.
It is worth noting that the varying salaries and wages in Al-Raqqah city also affected the monthly rent of houses, as some employees are able to pay for houses whose monthly rental fees are unaffordable by many others.
Al-Raqqah city also hosts thousands of indigenous inhabitants and displaced people, where the people who have been displaced to Al-Raqqah from various provinces across Syria now inhabit nearly 53 refugee camps and shelter centres in the city’s neighbourhoods and surrounding villages.
These people make a career of trading in cattle, selling used haberdashery, scraps and other businesses.
Al-Raqqah city centre is the most densely populated area in the entire SDF-controlled areas, especially the popular neighbourhoods, such as Rumaylah, Al-Dar’iyyah, Al-Rumaniyah, Al-Tayarah and NazlatShehada.
On the other hand, some family breadwinners, mostly women and children, earn their living by collecting and selling old and used items, recyclable building materials, metal and plastic cans and electric wires.
In early March 2013, opposition factions and Jabhat al-Nusra captured Al-Raqqa city that became the first capital of a Syrian province to go outside the control of regime forces at that time. Then violent battles erupted in the beginning of January 2014 between the opposition factions and Jabhat al-Nusra on one hand, and ISIS on the other, before ISIS imposed its control on the entire city in the middle of January 2014. Finally, SDF managed to capture the city in October 2017, with International Coalition Forces’ support.
On October 30, SOHR sources reported that Al-Raqqah city, the former capital of the “Islamic State”, was suffering from destruction, unemployment and child labour for over four years after it came under the control of the International Coalition and Syria Democratic Forces, although there were nearly 125 international licensed organizations and the Civil Council operating in the city.
It is worth noting that the Civil Council and international organizations managed to rehabilitate bridges, irrigation canals and a bridge on Euphrates river, as well as rebuilding hospitals and schools in the city and countryside. However, the residents’ extreme poverty, unemployment, child labour, begging and searching for plastic and metal objects in houses’ rubble became worrying phenomena.
On the other hand, power and energy crises plagued most of the city, as the residents in two thirds of al-Raqqah city were struggling with lack of electricity in light of the high prices of electrically-generated amperes which reach 3,500 SYL each. Accordingly, the projects and tasks of the organizations operating in Al-Raqqah city were confined to relieving solutions and programs of psychological support, while securing job opportunities and fighting the phenomenon of child labour remain the tasks of the officials in charge of the city’s administration.