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In Damascus People Are Freezing to Death, Going Hungry

In Damascus People Are Freezing to Death, Going Hungry

Monday, 20 January, 2020 - 13:00
An internally-displaced woman sits outside a tent in Syria, July 30, 2018. (Reuters)
Damascus - Asharq Al-Awsat

“Today, a boy froze to death in our building”, Abou Mohammed whispered into his neighbor’s ear as he tried to distract his young son. He went on, “I don’t want my son to know because I don’t want to frighten him”.

You can see it on his face, gripped by the horror of a worst future after his neighbor replied: “May God protect us, what's coming is worse." Meanwhile, the National Defense militia patrolled their small village in rural Damascus. The regime’s security apparatuses have been on high alert for days, with forces deployed to prevent the eruption of protests around mosques, gas distribution centers, bakeries, and consumer associations, where residents whose hearts ache and blood boils in queues to receive their basic needs.

Local sources from rural Damascus told Asharq Al-Awsat that National defense forces have received orders to deploy everywhere with large numbers of people, especially mosques. As the protests over poor living conditions are expected to spread from Sweida to rural and urban Damascus.

“The anger and destituteness of most people over living conditions have been growing over the past few days, and it is close to exploding as temperatures drop close to zero degrees while heating is absent. There is no electricity, gas or petrol and inflation is insane. People are cold and hungry. This winter is the harshest one Syrians have witnessed since the start of the war”.

At one of the consumer association branches for in the neighborhood of Kassaa, a man in his fifties searches his pockets looking for the family coupon tickets that would allow him to buy a kilo of sugar for the subsidized price of 350 Syrian Liras. However, he discovers that he had forgotten the coupons at home. The employee suggested that he buys it from the market at a price of 1000 Liras, but he refused. He only has 500 Liras in his pocket, and if he were to buy half a kilo of sugar with it, he would not have any money left to buy bread. Thus, he left the store empty-handed after waiting an hour for his turn.

The Prime Minister, Imad Khamis, confirmed his government’s inability to keep prices under control. Speaking to the People's Assembly during its penultimate session, which the government team attended, he said: “We cannot reduce prices because some products are imported and their price is tied to the dollar, the price of which has doubled, going from 500 Liras to 1000. He said that this increase was down to the economic war that started in 2019 but promised to “take necessary measures to stabilize the currency’s value”.

He announced that the central bank was studying different options to deal with the devaluation.

The Prime Minister's speech came after the legislation of two decrees: the first prohibits purchases in currency but the Syrian pound, and the second punishes anyone who spreads false or fake information meant to the decline and instability of the national currency.

During the debate on the two decrees in the People's Assembly, Khamis stressed that "there will not be an inch of, in any ministry, of noncompliance with the two decrees that strengthen the punishment of those who deal in any currency other than the Syrian pound."

Imad Khamis' government is heavily criticized by those loyal to the regime, who accuse it of corruption and hold it fully responsible for the unprecedented deterioration of Syrians’ living conditions. The president's cousin, Duraid al-Assad, son Rifaat al-Assad launched a scathing attack on the government in Damascus, accusing it of treason, claiming that it achieved what Syria's enemies could not achieve, " humiliating the Syrian people," as per a post on his Facebook account.

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