Darayya: A ‘ghost town in every sense of the word’


January 26, 2016

The Syrian army dropped more than 800 barrel bombs on the city of Darayya last November, part of a new campaign aimed at cutting the west Damascus suburb off from neighboring Moadamiyat a-Sham, which negotiated a truce with the regime in late 2013.

“The sight of amputees is a common one these days,” a Darayya resident told Syria Direct last month.

After more than four years of encirclement, the city is down to 12,000 residents from a pre-war population of 170,000.

“The city is nearly empty of residents,” Abu Salim a-Deirani, Darayya resident and citizen activist, tells Osama Abu Zeid.

Q: How are civilians still surviving in Darayya after a four-year encirclement?

Since the beginning of the encirclement, civilians in Darayya have relied on food grown inside the city and its suburbs. There are a large number of trees, grapes and grape leaves, and other greens that are planted in order to provide as much food as possible.

We also smuggle in some food from neighboring Moadamiya, which is difficult and extremely dangerous. The regime targets anything that moves between Moadamiya and Darayya. [Nevertheless], smuggling has saved a lot of civilians from dying of hunger and increased their resilience.

The city is nearly empty of residents. I mean we’re talking about 12,000 people remaining out of an original population of 170,000. With that sort of destruction, when you look at Darayya, you see a ghost town in every sense of the word.

Each morning, people begin gathering wood from the remains of destroyed houses, in order to warm themselves and cook. People bring in water from the wells and prepare food.

Q: Has any sort of humanitarian aid entered Darayya during the encirclement?

No, humanitarian organizations have not gotten in any type of aid. Neither have the Red Cross or Red Crescent. The regime has imposed a very tight encirclement on the city.

If the regime continues to bomb Darayya indiscriminately, things will only get worse, especially because the barrel bombs destroy both stone and field, and lots of agricultural land has become unusable. We’ve lost a large part of our harvest because of the bombardments.

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