Darkness in Damascus as power cuts expand

The Syrian government recently cut power availability in Damascus from 21 hours per day to eight.

A Ministry of Electricity spokesman says the current cuts are a result of a shortage of crude oil, which is needed to run power plants.

“There is a shortage of crude oil because fuel tankers, which are contracted by the government, have been delayed due to prevailing weather conditions,” Mustafa Shekhani, the general manager of the Electricity Generating Corporation of the Ministry of Electricity, told pro-regime al-Watan news on November 3.

“Syrians are sick and tired of the excuses surrounding electricity cuts,” Damascus resident Nader Gharib, 22, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali.

“We are aware that our infrastructure has become a disaster,” says the recent University of Damascus graduate.

Q: Tell us about the current electricity rationings. Do the electricity cuts in Damascus vary by district?

The most recent cuts started two weeks ago. In Damascus and its countryside, for every two hours of electricity, there are four hours of darkness.

In some areas, power outages only last for two hours a day. Often there are none. I’m talking about [wealthy neighborhoods] like Abu Roumaneh and al-Malki, in the heart of Damascus.

 Bab Touma, Damascus on November 3. Photo courtesy of Lens Young Dimashqi.

Q: How are Damascenes dealing with the power cuts? What alternate sources of energy are you using? 

People are using rechargeable batteries and LED lights, which are decent, relatively affordable alternatives for power. 

Others, who are in better financial situations, use electricity generators that run off of gas or diesel.

Q: How has rationing affected electricity prices? Does your electricity bill reflect the amount of power you’re using?

Electricity bills are unpredictable. Electricity collectors are corrupt. Most of the time they don’t even review electricity meters, they just write down fictitious numbers.

Sometimes the bill is low, no more than SP500 ($2). Other times it’s a whopping SP7,000 ($33), SP8,000 ($38) or more.

Bills are either extremely low or ridiculously high and they never correspond to people’s salaries or electricity use.

[Ed.: Electricity bills in Damascus come every two months.]

Q: The Electricity Corporation said that the rationing is a result of a shortage in crude oil, since shipments have been delayed. What are people saying about this recent electricity rationing?

Syrians are sick and tired of the excuses surrounding electricity cuts. Many of us no longer pay attention to the excuses that the government makes, especially since we are aware that our infrastructure has become a disaster. Electricity isn’t the only sector that has been affected.

Q: What were things like before this recent rationing? How many hours of electricity did you get per day? Did this apply to the entire Damascus area?

Things had gotten a lot better, especially during this past spring. Electricity cuts only lasted three hours or less per day. Some days passed without any power outages.

Unfortunately, that didn’t last long. 

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali

Mohammed Al-Haj Ali, originally from Daraa, had completed his first year studying Broadcast Journalism at Damascus University before leaving Syria in August 2012.

Jessica Page, Reporter/Translator

Jessica was a 2013-2014 Georgetown University Qatar Scholarship Program fellow in Doha, Qatar. She received her BA in both Arabic and International & Area Studies from Washington University in St. Louis. She has worked and studied in Jordan, Oman, and Qatar.