The province of al-Suwayda' in southern Syria has mostly remained under government control throughout the conflict, but many internal problems exist such as kidnappings and murders. A more overlooked question regarding al-Suwayda' province is the state of public services. This issue is the main focus of an interview I conducted with 'Meqdad al-Jabal', a media activist who identifies with the 'third-way' trend in the province but wishes to make clear that this interview (carried out on 13th August 2019) represents his opinions alone and not those of any other individuals or parties. As such, the interview answers are not to be considered as statements on behalf of anyone else.
Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: How is the services and humanitarian situation in al-Suwayda' province generally?
A: Regarding the services, they are almost non-existent. Even the streets in some areas have piles of garbage in them. Poverty is widespread and the people by God's contentment live off of paucity.
Q: How is the national grid electricity situation in the province?
A: Electricity is via the main transformers in the state. The issue of rationing has been reduced in the present time and when the electricity is cut off the people rely on generators or personally owned batteries.
Q: The water is from what sources and always available from the state network?
A: Regarding the water situation in the province, it [the province] is rich in water and it must be available. But there is shortcoming from the authorities responsible for delivering water to the homes, so the people are buying from private wells or state wells through tankers and this thing costs people a lot and is an excessive burden.
Q: How are the services of the municipal offices and town councils generally? Are there any projects or developments recently? Do the peoples of the localities help the municipal offices and town councils in implementing projects (e.g. through donations)?
A: It depends on the employees in the municipal offices: you may find municipal offices that function because the employees who are in them are clean. As for the majority, they are not offering what is necessary for the people. Cooperation happens among the people without recourse to the municipal offices and the donations are voluntary to fix some of the impediments in the villages. For example in the village of al-Mashquq the sons of the village fixed the public lighting and it was collective work that brought together the people in affection.
Q: How do U.S. and international sanctions impact economic life and the humanitarian situation in the province? Are these sanctions a bigger problem than corruption for example?
A: The province has been marginalized since before the war and international sanctions and nothing has been offered for it. And corruption remains the foundational reason and the province has relied from the beginning on the exiles from its sons. And corruption has been and remains the main reason for harm to the people.
Q: How would you describe the security in al-Suwayda' currently?
A: The security situation is considered bad now. There has been improvement from before: cases of kidnapping have become less than before. As for the situation, it is bad. There is no law and the ones who protect the province now are the noble ones from its sons.
Q: So you mean cases of kidnapping have become less than before but the situation is still bad?
A: Yes of course.
Q: Can we say that the main problem is the multiplicity of factions in the province?
A: No of course the foundational problem is the absence of the state and presence of corrupt people in it helping the kidnapping gangs and they have a hand in the matter. The factions that are in the province are the ones who fought Da'esh [Islamic State] and have protected al-Suwayda' regardless of the political affiliation. Also there are corrupt people in the factions: in every place there are bad and human flaw.