November 25, 2014
Prior to its takeover of Deir e-Zor province this past July, the Islamic State (IS) was known to win the hearts, and stomachs, of the people with its bread distribution policies.
“IS…gives out food and focuses on distributing bread–the essential ingredient in gaining popular support,” a Deir e-Zor-based journalist told Syria Direct in June.
In turns out that the source of that support may have actually come from international aid agencies.
The Daily Beast reported last month that humanitarian aid organizations looking to distribute in Deir e-Zor must bribe IS officials, who then take the aid and distribute it under their name.
Recently, however, the extremist group has been less generous.
IS has shut down all aid operations in the province, says a Deir e-Zor-based media activist who works with pro-opposition media campaign Deir e-Zor Under Fire.
IS wanted to take 50 percent of the humanitarian aid for itself, hiding behind the excuse that the aid had been tampered with by the West, the activist, who goes by the pseudonym Abu al-Baraa a-Sharqi, tells Syria Direct’s Mohammed al-Haj Ali.
When the aid organizations refused, IS confiscated bakeries and equipment from the aid organizations.
Now, “the ghost of hunger hovers over the city.”
Q: What is happening in your area in east Deir e-Zor? What are you seeing and hearing?
In addition to the smell of death, which is in most homes, today the ghost of hunger hovers over the city. It is the same agony as when regime implemented the blockade on the city and prevented anything from entering.
Q: Is there any official statement by IS about stopping the flour subsidy in Dier e-Zor? Did they explain why?
There was no official explanation about it. The Islamic State informed the aid organizations that it will take over the aid instead.
IS distributed 50 percent of aid to the people and saved 50 percent for IS. The aid organizations rejected that, as it is not fair to take half of civilians’ aid.
The Islamic State [then] confiscated all bakeries’ equipment. It also asked the people who work for aid organizations to quit their jobs or be detained.
Activist says that IS has prevented aid organizations from distributing food in Deir e-Zor. Photo courtesy of ARA News.
Q: How do civilians get flour? Are there traders or it is only IS?
Civilians have no way to buy flour even if we had it in the city, because people are unemployed and have few financial resources to buy it.
People used to depend on their free ration of flour from aid organizations through different bakeries. Until now, IS has not sold flour in the city.
Q: Why do you think IS prevent the flour to be distributed for people?
We still don’t know the policy of this abnormal organization. They stopped the aid organizations and provided no alternative.
Q: Did IS stop the aid for specific bakeries or all of them in Deir e-Zor?
The aid organizations have been prevented from working in all areas under the control of the Islamic State. The bakeries stopped in the city only as they were only supported by aid organizations.
Q: How does this campaign affect people in Deir e-Zor?
People have no power to confront IS and what it’s doing. Many people are thinking of leaving Deir e-Zor because of the bad services and treatment by IS.
The Islamic State treats people here like prisoners.
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