AMMAN: Furniture and household items looted from residences in Darayya days after the town surrendered to the regime are now being sold at low prices in a market in a neighboring town, two displaced former residents told Syria Direct, one of whom says she found her own furniture for sale.
The goods currently for sale belong not only to the fighters and civilians who left Darayya for Idlib and Outer Damascus over the weekend, but also to displaced residents who left as long ago as 2012. Many of them live in Sahnaya, a town immediately south of Darayya, where the furniture from their town is currently being sold.
“It was wooden furniture that my mother inherited from her grandmother,” said Fatima, who fled from Darayya to Sahnaya in late 2012. “The last thing I expected was to find it thrown onto one of the sidewalks we lay upon for months when we were displaced.”
Fatima chanced upon her wardrobe, table, mirror and couch for sale next to the al-Wahhab mosque in Sahnaya earlier this week. She recognized it, she says, because of its mother-of-pearl inlays.
Many households in Darayya—once famous for its woodworking industry—had a set of wooden furniture in the traditional, labor-intensive style, each with their own pattern. Women inherited the pieces from their mothers.
“This kind of furniture has become rare,” Fatima told Syria Direct. “The people who have it inherited it.”
“Furniture-looters spoil the joy of victory in Darayya.” Photo courtesy of Darayya and Nahr Isha News.
Grainy images and videos purporting to show trucks carrying furniture stolen from Darayya circulated on both pro-regime and pro-opposition news sites on social media this week.
Exactly who stole the goods was not immediately clear. Pro-regime news pages on Facebook, criticizing the ta’afish, or furniture-looting, point only to “opportunists.” Pro-opposition sites accuse the shabiha, or localized, pro-regime paramilitary groups.
Individuals “wearing military dress and carrying weapons” entered Darayya after the evacuation and stole the contents of the houses, pro-regime news page Damascus Now wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“The blood of our martyrs is rewarded by public robbery,” read the post. “Why do the state apparatuses stand incapable of holding these thugs accountable?”
One woman who left Darayya over the weekend as part of the evacuation deal told Syria Direct that she and a number of her neighbors burned their furniture before leaving “so that the regime won’t steal and sell it.”
Civilians are not currently able to enter Darayya. The Syrian Council of Ministers formed a committee on Tuesday for the “rehabilitation of the infrastructure and services in Darayya, to pave the way for the return of residents,” state media agency SANA reported.
Furniture reportedly from Darayya is unloaded from a truck. Photo courtesy of Syria98861566.
Manal, who fled to Sahnaya in 2012 during the Darayya massacre, in which hundreds of residents were killed over the course of five days, is currently searching for her mother’s furniture among the looted goods for sale at roadside stands next to the al-Wahhab mosque.
“We didn’t take anything with us when we fled, believing we’d return in a month or two” she told Syria Direct. “The most important thing was to get out alive.”
Four years later, Manal and her elderly mother are scouring roadside stands in Sahnaya for their belongings. “It’s not for the monetary value, but for the memories,” she told Syria Direct. “My mother inherited some of it, and others she bought decades ago.”
“We haven’t found anything so far,” said Manal. “We hope nobody else gets to it first.”
Some of those who do find their belongings, such as Fatima, can’t afford to buy it back.
“The seller wanted a cheap price, but it was more than I could afford,” she told Syria Direct. “I told him it was worth several times what he was asking, just so he would respect its value.”
“These things were very close to my heart,” she added. “I always wanted to return, to sit on my couch, rather than the foam mattress that reminds me every evening that we are displaced.”
“The most somebody who can’t afford to buy back their property can do is visit the market, renew the memories, and hold back the tears until getting home again,” added Fatima.
“In order to cry without anybody asking why.”