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Life Under Besiegement in Eastern al-Ghouta

Photographer: Mohammed Badra

 

Rebel-held eastern al-Ghouta, located 15km outside of Damascus, Syria and home to more than 400,000 people, has been under siege by forces loyal to the Syrian government for four years.

 

In the spring of 2015, smuggling tunnels were dug to nearby areas, like al-Qaboun, held by rebels who signed truce deals with the Syrian government which helped the besieged region's economic stability. Fuel prices were as low as one US dollar per liter and other basic consumer goods were still available.

 

However, in February 2017 the Syrian regime started a military operation in areas under rebel control around Damascus. Smuggling tunnels in al-Qaboun - the main supplier of goods for eastern al-Ghouta - were bombed and destroyed, leaving the region with a limited supply line of consumer goods.

 

This in turn led to a massive increase in prices that reached an all-time high in September 2017. The price for fuel went up to 15 US dollars per liter, sugar now costs 12 US dollars per kilogram, electrical power is at three US dollars per kilowatt, salt at 10 US dollars per kilo, and the supply of medical equipment became scarce.

 

With many local residents either unemployed or working in professions other than their original jobs, Ghoutans started to look for workarounds in order to survive the besiegement. They started using waste paper for cooking fires, drying and storing summer food for winter, using old water wells for water supplies, reusing some basic medical equipment after sterilizing them and manufacturing local alternatives of essential medical care supplies.

 

Nine months have passed since the beginning of the intense siege. And with winter getting closer, Ghoutans are wondering for how long will they be able to keep on going with these temporary solutions.