The current military campaign being waged in the northwest of Syria by the Syrian government with Russian and Iranian backing has led to large-scale displacements of people. It is important to convey the perspectives of these displaced people and not just those of members of the factions. Below is an interview I conducted with a displaced person currently residing in the north Idlib countryside village of al-Fu'a, which originally had a Shi'a population that has been replaced by displaced people from other parts of Syria following the evacuation of the remaining original inhabitants in summer 2018. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own. The interviewee requested I keep his identity anonymous.
Q: When did you come to al-Fu'a and for what reason did you come?
A: Around a month ago, because of the advance of the Rafidites [derogatory term for Shi'a] and the Nusayris [derogatory term for Alawites] on the area, and the barbaric bombing that is to be expected from these mercenary gangs.
Q: Is there a lot of bombing on it [al-Fu'a]? What is the number of people in the locality currently?
A: The number of people is very small. There is no bombing.
Q: But there was bombing on the locality and most of the people who were in it fled, right?
A: The main reason for the departure was fear of the bombing because of the advance of the regime, as for the actual bombing it was little in general.
Q: Yes. How is the situation of electricity and water in the locality?
A: There is none, but most of the people gather water from the roofs of the houses in winter and buy [water] in summer.
Q: There are no tankers to sell water?
A: There are none and praise be to God. And the electricity is present among most of the people through solar power.
Q: There are no generators in the village?
A: There were before, but because of the expensiveness of mazout [heavy fuel for generators], they have stopped working.
Q: How are the services of the local council? For example cleaning.
A: The service of the council is very bad, because of handing the council to bad persons who do not treat everyone among the people fairly. And I suspect theft of some of the services or employing them for personal interests. Those who are in charge of the council do not display the same interest as that displayed by some of [the councils of] the villages in their villages.
Q: When was the current council formed? I believe the seventh month of last year.
A: By God I do not know but I expect more than this time. I by God am not in meed and I do not speak about myself, but fairness is non-existent according to what I see and according to what I believe.
Q: Are there any NGOs in the village of al-Fu'a? I heard that the international NGOs keep distant from the village.
A: I don't know.
Q: But you don't receive any relief aid from the local council?
A: Correct, they [the international NGOs] keep very far away. By God nothing [of relief aid] has reached me, despite the fact I am an IDP and my family are with me. I do not know if there has been distribution.
Q: This thing is haram by God. Do the people complain to the Salvation Government against the failure of the local council?
A: Praise be to God in prosperity and adversity. The Salvation Government is the foundation of the failure. Oh brother, the Nusayris and Rafidites have only advanced because of the oppression of this sunken [i.e. wretched] government. The people have been dispersed and have died from hunger, and have been displaced and have no refuge. But still its administrative institutions [Arabic: hukumat] are only open for its interest and to take money from the people and not as though something is happening.
Q: Yes, by God. And there was no tadshim [digging and moving soil to build defences] and fortification despite the government's talk.
A: Besides these matters, there is space for these administrative institutions to accommodate the IDPs and displaced, but it is not as though they are living in the reality. By God the dogs are more merciful to their enemies than these people are to the people. Excuse me for this comparison.
Q: It's fine brother, the necessity is that we speak about these matters honestly. Currently what are the feelings of the people towards the factions?
A: Either [that they are] stupid, ignorant or collaborationist, and the result is one. Of course I work with the factions in repelling the aggressor, and I absolve two groups of collaborationism, and they are...and...[names omitted in original interview] but there is stupidity in every organization.
Q: Do you expect everything will fall? Will the Turks save the area? And do you trust their role in Idlib? Have they helped you in repelling the aggressor?
A: After hardships and difficulty there are only ease and victory. By God the Turks are the greatest reason in the fall of the region. I do not trust [them], and they have not helped us and they will not help us. They have only entered Idlib for their interests. And we ask God to make their interest as serving our interest. But these difficulties and tribulations have only come to be followed by recompense. The Messenger of God (SAWS) was asked: are we to be enabled? Or are we to be tested? He said: we are not enabled until we are tested. Yes, the tamkin [enabling of the believers] only comes after trial. And we ask God for this trial to be good for the Muslims.