Video: Syrians go back to horses and mules for transportation amid unprecedented fuel crisis
The Syrian capital, Damascus, has seen regular shortages of fuel and electricity over the course of the conflict in the country but the fuel shortage has reached an unprecedented level over the past week.
Video shared by a pro-regime Twitter user showed several men travelling in a horse-driven carriage smiling and waving to cameras.
Other images shared by the same user showed people going to work riding mules in Baghdad Street, one of Damascus’s main commercial thoroughfares.
The pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan attributed the crisis to the ceasing of oil supplies from Iran, which took place last October. It quoted the regime’s Oil Ministry as saying that since that date, not a single oil tanker has arrived in Syria. Social media users have uploaded videos of cars queuing outside petrol stations, some of which are accompanied by sarcastic commentary. A widely circulated video includes a voiceover saying that “there is no crisis” and that all the cars in the street are “people returning from Germany or going out for a picnic”.
Domestic production is not enough to meet the country’s needs, according to Al-Watan. Syria is only producing 24,000 barrels of oil a day while the country needs 136,000 barrels a day. However, pro-regime Twitter users have also blamed US sanctions while pro-opposition activists have blamed government corruption.
The regime’s response to the crisis has been to ration petrol. Private cars are allowed 20 litres every five days while taxis can receive 20 litres every 48 hours.
The pro-opposition TV station Halab Today reported that the regime’s Ministry of Information and Culture has launched an initiative to distribute magazines and newspapers to waiting drivers while the Ministry of Religious Endowments has issued a directive to preachers at mosques to focus on the necessity of conserving fuel in their Friday sermons.
On the other hand, Syrians have been travelling to neighbouring Lebanon to buy fuel and there have been reports of abuse by regime border authorities as they return.
A pro-opposition Twitter user said that one of his relatives had brought three jerricans of petrol back with him from Lebanon, only to have them seized and poured on the ground by border security officials. One taxi driver was reported to have died of a heart attack as he queued for fuel in Aleppo.
The wait for fuel can sometimes last for more than ten hours. A Syrian identifying himself only as Nabil told The New Arab, “We are paying a heavy price because of this regime, which is prepared to empty Syria of all its inhabitants in order to stay in power".
"We’re now jealous of the millions of Syrians who have immigrated to neighbouring and European countries… if immigration was easy like it was before, no one would be left in Syria.”
Approximately five million Syrians have fled the country as a result of the conflict, with about six million more being internally displaced.
The Syria war began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to 2011 peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms.
According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.
The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.
Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab