Hasakah’s Qamishli International Airport now closed to civilians

The Qamishli International Airport stopped operating civilian flights last Friday, according to reports from local opposition media quoting eyewitness accounts of hundreds of passengers reportedly sitting in the gardens outside the airport waiting to travel. 

The first regime comment on the closure came from a pro-Syrian regime news website on Tuesday quoting government officials as saying the airport would reopen “within the next two days.” The airport is currently closed while planes are being repaired, the report continued.

Seraj al-Hasakawi, an activist in Al-Hasakah province, confirmed to Syria Direct’s Noura al-Hourani that flights are mostly grounded, but says the closure is because“the airport has been used as a military airbase.”

Q: Why aren’t civilians able to get flights from the Qamishli airport now?

Civilian flights have become extremely rare since the Russian intervention began, because the airport has been used as a military airbase by the regime. The regime is flying a lot of missions, including moving military equipment and injured. The situation has also gotten more hectic because all the different planes flying in Syrian airspace now are preventing civilian flights.

Q: What impact does this have on civilians’ lives?

The closure of the airport has greatly increased people’s hardship, as they used to depend on it to move from eastern areas of the country under Islamic State control to the western provinces like Damascus, Homs, and Hama, to do things like visit their relatives or people they know who were arrested, or to deal with government bureaucracies. Most people are afraid to go overland.

Q: You mentioned that there are some exceptions—people who can get plane tickets. Who are they, and how do they get them?

There are exceptions for people who have acquaintances or relatives who work in the regime, especially people who know someone who works in the Air Force Intelligence. These people are able to make sure they get a ticket, or get transported in a cargo plane. The official price for a ticket used to be SP7,150 [$38], or between SP15,000 and SP17,000 [$80-$90] through a private company. But now tickets have to be gotten through middleman, who buy and sell tickets for much more, up to 30,000 SP [$159].

Noura Hourani

Noura Hourani is from Latakia province. She studied English Literature at Tishreen University and previously worked as a private English tutor in Syria. She has worked at Syria Direct since 2015 and was named the 2018 Middle East and North Africa Laureate for the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers' (WAN-IFRA) Women in News Editorial Leadership Award. Follow Noura on Twitter: @nanozain81

James Bowker

James Bowker graduated from Tufts University in 2013 with a double major in Arabic Language & Middle Eastern Studies. He has previously worked with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) study-abroad program and as a remote translator for the Article 25 Right to Health campaign.