Continuing in the series on ordinary life in various localities in Syria, we turn to the case of al-Hirak. The town of al-Hirak is located in east Deraa countryside and returned to Syrian government control in summer 2018. To learn more about the present situation there, I conducted an interview with the media of the al-Hirak town council.
This interview was conducted on 9 August 2019. It is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What is the number of inhabitants in al-Hirak currently? And the biggest families?
A: Currently there are 4000 families of the inhabitants, with daily gradual increase because of the return from Jordan and Lebanon. The biggest families: al-Salamat, al-Qadah and al-Hariri. The number of inhabitants exactly: I do not have precise information, but it is around 15,000 or more. As for the number of inhabitants before the war, it was more than 30,000.
Q: How is the situation of electricity and water in the town?
A: The electricity was excellent. Currently it has been reduced, coming for four hours: two at night and two in the morning. We have been promised a new line that they will operate after Eid, so the electricity will come for 16 hours.
The water: approximately more than 80% of the town is covered with drinking water service according to an organized rotation.
The schools that are in operation: eight schools. Six primary schools, one secondary and one thanawiya [high school].
Q: What are the biggest projects of the town council during the past year?
A: The most important projects are the restoring five wells to service and pumping them into the network and paving the roads and renovating the council building. And currently we are in the process of implementing a project of storage and cooling with support from the state.
Q: Are the people of the town helping the council in implementing the projects?
A: The people's help is very great. The renovation of the third school that will open soon is at the expense of a donor and two wells will be dug at the expense of three donors and all of the mosques have been renovated at the expense of donors.
Q: Praise be to God. What are the main challenges that the locality is facing from the aspect of services and the humanitarian situation?
A: The situation of bread. There are currently three ovens [/bakeries] in the town, with designations of 2600 kg of flour for them. And the people are suffering from the crisis in the three ovens. And the problem of electricity is its weakness and paucity. There is also the problem of garbage, there is only one vehicle for garbage.
Q: What is the crisis regarding the ovens exactly?
A: For the ovens there is a great crisis because the designations [of flour] do not suffice because of the presence of guests in the town from other villages and the presence of some of the Bedouins around the town.
You also have the problem of the roads: most of them are in bad condition despite the fact the council has undertaken a mending operation for the roads. Nonetheless, a number of neighbourhoods have remained in which it [the council] has not undertaken the operation of laying asphalt because the designated quantity has been used up.
Q: How many members are on the council currently?
A: 25 members of the council. From it, the executive office has seven members. The head of the council is the lawyer Mr. Muhammad Sa'id al-Salamat.
Q: How is the security situation in the town currently?
A: The situation situation is very good generally. But there have been some incidents that have perturbed the situation as two people have been assassinated since the town was liberated until now.
Q: Are there any aid organizations assisting your efforts in restoring services to the sons of the locality?
A: Yes, there is the French civil aid organization that renovated the tenth al-Hirak school and furnished five wells and put them in service and now it will renovate the second al-Hirak school and the fourth one after Eid al-Adha. Also there is the Arab Red Crescent that has contributed humanitarian aid. And there is an Italian aid orgaanization that will establish a recreational course for the students currently in cooperation with the Red Crescent.
Q: Has the gas and gasoline crisis impacted life in the town?
A: Yes it has had an impact but with regards to gas its crisis has been reduced after following the smart card system as the council opened a centre in the council building to issue the smart card. As for gasoline, its crisis is still present as the people are compelled to buy it as the black market price as the substance is not always available at the state price.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: The upgraded health centre in al-Hirak has been put into operation. This secures vaccinations and all the health centres. And soon the cultural centre will be put into operation. And soon a thanawiya and two kindergartens and a languages institute for the private sector will be opened.