Under Islamic State rule, Deir e-Zor residents live in ‘anxiety’

September 30, 2014

While the city of A-Raqqa is the Islamic State's (IS) primary stronghold in Syria, the provincial capital of Deir e-Zor also fell to IS two months ago, with just two remaining outer districts still under regime control.

The State’s imposition of strict social laws was rapid, and enforcement efficient.

Those who are caught smoking are hung from a cross and lashed 70 times before they are let down. Meanwhile, shop owners are forced to close up during prayer times.

The city's main lifeline, the Siyasiya Bridge, was blown up by the regime two weeks ago.

Cut off from the world and now enduring air strikes from both the Syrian regime and the US-led coalition, Deir e-Zor esidents have little choice but to comply with the Islamic State.

Here, a glimpse of daily life in Deir e-Zor, as told by Salam al-Furati, a media activist living in Deir e-Zor city, to Syria Direct's Mohammed al-Haj Ali.

Q: How are the people of Deir e-Zor city living under the Islamic State (IS)? What sorts of restrictions have IS imposed on them?

To be honest, the people of Deir e-Zor city are living now in a state of anxiety.

IS instituted the following restrictions: the closing of all shops in Deir e-Zor and its outskirts during prayer times (and those who don't abide by this rule have their shops closed for five days); the prohibition of smoking in public, and those who are caught are crucified [non-lethally, i.e. suspended from a cross] and flogged 70 times in front of others.

These are but a few examples of IS's prohibitions.

Deir-Zor SyasiyehBridge Deir e-Zor city, Siyasiya Bridge. Photo courtesy of SNN.

Q: How do people pay their daily expenses? Is there any work?

People depend on trade, those who own shops can afford to pay their daily expenses. Also, some locals from Deir e-Zor and its outskirts volunteered with IS for the sake of securing their daily expenses, for example by guarding oil refineries and pipelines controlled by IS, or working in the fields of repair or cleaning.

Q: Are there any international or local groups that are providing aid to the people of Deir e-Zor? 

Not at all, there aren't any international organizations—IS considers these organizations as supported by foreign states.

There are some [local] organizations that provide a little bit of aid. These organizations are funded and overseen by IS.

Q: What about water and electricity?

Water is relatively plentiful, it is turned on in the city every day for three hours. As for electricity, it also arrives daily, in an intermittent fashion.

Electricity is secured from water [powered electricity generation] stations near the Euphrates River, which supply the city of Deir e-Zor.

As for the countryside, water arrives on a daily basis—every village in the countryside has a water station that supplies the village.

The eastern countryside gets its electricity from the al-Omar and Conoco oil fields.

Q: What measures have civilians taken after the announcement of impending attacks against IS in Syria?

A number of civilians evacuated their homes that were close to IS headquarters. Also, they've stopped walking in the streets, particularly in the early morning.

Q: What do civilians do during bombings?             

Civilians in the city of Deir e-Zor dig ditches, and when the bombing begins they enter them.

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