Piles of uncollected trash line the streets of the northeastern, rebel-controlled Damascus suburb of Barzeh.
“The stench of trash permeates the city,” local activist al-Moatasim Billah a-Damashqi, told Syria Direct’s Alaa Nasser on Wednesday.
In June 2014, the Barzeh Local Coordination Council negotiated a truce with the Syrian regime, whose forces first encircled the suburb a year prior.
Although residents of Barzeh claim that the regime breached the truce multiple times, they concede that the agreement eased the suburb’s suffocating blockade.
Garbage and sewage personnel were allowed to enter from outside the suburb and maintain a modicum of cleanliness.
But earlier this month, the council, which supervised the garbage collection, suspended its work due to a disagreement with the two small rebel factions that control the suburb.
The council claimed that the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) First Brigade and Liwaa Saif a-Deen a-Dimashqi failed to provide it support by maintaining law and order.
Since then, no garbage or sewage personnel have entered the suburb, and the city’s 150,000 residents are left with piles of trash on every street corner.
The residents of Barzeh are urging the council and the FSA to resolve their differences and resume their work, said a-Damashqi.
“They’re demanding that the brigades support the council and help facilitate the city’s affairs.”
A dumpster overflowing with trash in Barzeh. Photo courtesy of al-Moatasim Billah a-Dimashqi.
Q: What does the council do?
They manage the city’s legal affairs and minor civilian issues. They resolve disputes, handle marriage and divorce contracts and manage traffic between Barzeh and al-Qaboon.
They arrange for garbage collection and sewage maintenance. They keep gas prices low by distributing coupons to residents, who buy them from trucks that enter the city.
Q: Why did it stop?
The council suspended its work because of internal disputes between council members and the two factions of the Free Syrian Army, The First Brigade and Liwaa Saif al-Deen al-Damashqi.
Both brigades did not support the council in enforcing their work or controlling the security situation in the area, especially after the latest increase in civilian kidnappings.
Q: What is the situation in Barzeh now?
The stench of trash permeates the city. Garbage and sewage personnel have not come to collect trash.
Gas trucks, which sold gas at official prices because of coupons, can no longer enter. Now that the council isn’t involved, residents can only buy gas at regime checkpoints, which have almost tripled the price to SP8,000, knowing that 150,000 residents and displaced people live in the city.
Q: How are people responding? What do they want?
They’re calling for the council to resume its work as soon as possible. They’re demanding that the brigades support the council in their work and help facilitate the city’s affairs.