Since early 2014, the Assad regime has been hailing a series of ceasefires near Damascus as proof of their strategy of “reconciliation”. In return for insurgents laying down their arms, the regime says it has lifted long sieges and begun reconstruction.
However, testimony from Yalda — provided by Syria Direct — paints a different picture of continuing pressure by the Syrian military.
The website quotes a Yalda resident, photographer Mohammad al-Halwani, “The regime controls how much, and what types of food enter Yalda….Water is [still] cut off and only reaches a few residential areas.”
The regime supposedly lifted a two-year siege on the town, south of Damascus, in February 2014 as part of a ceasefire agreement. It promised movement of food and water and unrestricted travel.
But the Yalda Local Coordination Coordination reports that, even when limited quantities of food reach the town, only 40% of residents have the money to purchase it. Electricity is on for only two hours a day. Transportation and fuel are more than twice as expensive than in surrounding areas — and even if they can be afforded, residents are prevented from going to work outside the village by regime checkpoints.
In Zabadani, northwest of Syria, a 31-month siege — and insurgent resistance — continues.
Writing for Al-Monitor, local journalist Mustafa al-Haj says the blockade has prevented the entry of basic materials for more than a month. Phone communication has been cut and electricity interrupted, and women have reportedly been arrested to put pressure on relatives to stop fighting.
Opposition fighters, newly-organized as the “United Army of Zabadani”, have tried to respond with attacks on several regime checkpoints, but they face a near-impossible task — there are more than 100 military barriers around the town, with mines deterring people from moving into and out of the area.
In nearby Bloudan, residents have rejected a “reconciliation” proposal from the regime, protesting at the continued use of barrel bombs to force a capitulation.
Meanwhile, in Yalda, a man pushing a cart with jugs of water tells a photographer, “Don’t take a picture of my face…everyone sees us but no one takes mercy on us except God.”
(Featured Photo: Yalda — @lensdimashqi)