Syria: Prices soar in besieged suburbs of Damascus

Syria: Prices soar in besieged suburbs of Damascus
Feature: People in the east of Syria's capital are struggling to cope with scarcity and rising prices of basic goods, as the regime tightens its 800-day siege.
3 min read
16 February, 2015
Civilians search for survivors after a regime airstrike in Douma [AFP]
The Syrian regime's crippling two-year blockade of opposition-controlled areas in the eastern Ghouta region of Damascus' eastern suburbs has become even harsher after the regime closed military checkpoints in al-Maliha and al-Wafdien camps.

Pro-regime militias have been preventing residents from leaving the cities, and stopping food or medical supplies from entering for around 800 days.

The regime's warplanes and rockets totally destroyed medical centres and field hospitals in recent days, in an offensive activists have called a "revenge attack" for the opposition shelling of central Damascus.

More than 200 civilians, including 38 children and 27 women, have died in the government's assault.

Douma: 'Even the corpses cannot rest in this city'. Read more

Food and basic goods have become scarce and prices have reached unprecedented highs because of the shelling and the snowstorm accompanying a wave of cold weather that has swept through the area.

This the hardest time yet faced by the people trapped in besieged areas. The Assad regime has tried use starvation as a means of punishing populations that rebelled against it.

Douma-based humanitarian relief activist Zain al-Khatib, said basic commodities had sold out in the markets - and vegetables, fruit, sugar and rice were only available in very limited quantities and at unaffordable prices.

Khatib added that people were now resorting to barley flour because of the lack of wheat flour and were cooking whatever plants they could grow or scavenge.

Sky-high prices

The head of the Free Syrian Lawyers Association‎, Ghazwan Koronful, described the Assad regime's siege on eastern Ghouta as a war crime.

Khatib said prices differed between cities under siege, but the prices of goods in Douma were the highest, in comparison with prices in Damascus and other besieged areas in the region such as Yarmouk camp, Erbeen and Zamalka.

A kilogram of sugar costs $31.70 and a kilogram of tea is $74, said Khatib.

A spokesperson for the Syrian Revolution Coordinators' Union in Damascus, Youssef al-Bustani, said greedy merchants exploiting fears of further shelling were one reason for soaring prices.

But the Assad regime's siege on Douma remains the main driver of price hikes, Bustani told al-Araby. These prices reflect the shortages after more than 800 days under siege.

"The prices have gone up because the regime has brought to an end the smuggling of goods through the al-Maliha and al-Wafdien military checkpoints," said Bustani.

Ghazwan Koronful is head of the Free Syrian Lawyers Association‎. He described the siege on eastern Ghouta as a war crime under international law, as the regime continues to starve residents, even though a UN Security Council decree that came into force in July authorised international aid agencies to use the most direct lines for delivery - with or without the approval of the regime.

Koronful called on the international community and humanitarian organisations to intervene to save Syrians living under siege, cut off from supplies of food and medicine.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.