Previously on this blog I have covered the humanitarian and services situation in the locality of Kafariya in north Idlib countryside. The locality was evacuated of its remaining original inhabitants (who were Shi'a) in 2018, and the properties left behind were taken over by armed rebel factions and Sunni internally displaced persons (IDPs) from other parts of Syria. The same events played out in the nearby village of al-Fu'a.
While a local council is supposed to manage services in Kafariya, the humanitarian and services situation in the village remains very poor. The only main attraction for many IDPs to reside in Kafariya appears to have been de facto reduction in rent rates or exemption from rent rates entirely. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are largely keeping away from Kafariya because of concerns about usurpation of land and property right violations.
The following is an interview regarding the current situation in Kafariya, conducted with a source involved in the current iteration of the Kafariya local council. The source requested anonymity as regards his exact identity. The interview, conducted yesterday, is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What is the number of inhabitants in the locality currently? From which areas they are originally? And has the services and humanitarian situation in the locality improved during the past year?
A: The number of inhabitants is 1285 families in the last survey, from all the provinces approximately. With regards to the services situation, it is confined to collecting garbage only, and some of the works of removing accumulations and cleaning the streets with the help of the civil defence. As for the humanitarian situation, currently the Administration of Development and Humanitarian Affairs has received the relief portfolio and it has not brought anything to the locality until now.
As regards the support for services, it relies on taxing a small proportion of the people because of the lack of commitment of the people to paying, and there is no NGO pledging services projects in the locality. The sewage network needs maintenance and there is no water project in the locality. Frankly the matters with regards to services are not good.
Q: So currently there is no electricity or water in the locality?
Q: From where do people bring electricity and water?
A: There is no subscription to electricity services. The people rely on solar power and the water is supplied by tankers: 1000 litres for 10 Turkish liras.
Q: This price is expensive right?
A: Of course, and as you know, here all of them are IDPs. And there are people who cannot secure the nourishment of their day such as to be able to pay for water and services. And the council lacks the most basic types of support whether from services NGOs or the local administration. Even our work as council members is voluntary currently.
Q: Yes. Currently there are no NGOs working with you?
A: No brother. Note that we have contacted some NGOs and we have gone to them but there is no result.
Q: And are these NGOs keeping away from the locality because they consider the locality usurped land?
A: Of course and they have said as such to us, even though the majority are IDPs and the regime has usurped their lands.
Q: I remember there were problems from dividing the houses among some of the factions. Has this problem been resolved?
A: Currently a real estate office has become the one responsible for the houses and renting them out.
Q: Yes, affiliated with the Salvation Government. In the past I remember that the factions divided the locality into sectors, and there arose problems.
A: [The office is affiliated] with the Hay'a [Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham] I think. The Turkistanis [Uyghurs] have a sector, and the Uzbeks have a sector. And each sector hires out and the proceeds of rent go back to them.
Q: Frankly I expect that this also is among the reasons why the NGOs keep away.
A: Possibly, although their number is small and the rest of the inhabitants are civilians.
Q: So these Turkistanis and Uzbeks in Kafariya: have you told them to leave the homes?
A: They have sectors and they have offices for renting out homes.
Q: Yes right. So also among the challenges of the locality is uniting the administration.
A: Of course. And we as a council do not possess any real estate or land to rent out and bring back its benefit to the interest of the council and developing services.