Electricity, water, fuel—all things that are no longer familiar to the inhabitants of Wadi al-Nasara [Valley of Christians] west of Homs; a region whose inhabitants believe that the regime is currently targeting them.
In the town of Mazyaneh, as soon as it started raining, Siham started distributing her various pots and pans on her porch, two under each raingutter. She says: "Rain is about the only grace we receive now. Electricity has been cut off for 45 hours; we hadn't any water for ten days; landlines and mobile phone are also out. I now use firewood to cook for my children."
She sarcastically adds: "My suggestion for the regime is to bombard us with chemical weapons—rather than only killing us slowly."
Hossam, from the village of Habnimreh, describes drinking water arriving to his village as a feast. Drinking water, according to him, only comes back during the holidays. He says, in his distinctive local dialect: "The last time we had water was on the Festival of the Cross on September 14. Every week we have to cough up 1,500 Syrian Pounds to fill up the water tank. A full week to ten days may pass without us having a bath; there is no diesel for the well pumps."
Out of Favour!
Most Wadi al-Nasara residents believed that they have fallen out favour with the regime, which has cut them off of all forms of modern life in favour of neighboring Tartous, as they say.
Andre, owner of a fast food restaurant—most of which had to close down, due to gas outages in the region—speaks to Rozana: "I just cannot understand: Why all this discrimination? My colleagues in Tartous and Safita tell me how everything is available to them—gas, fuel oil, electricity... Why all this anger towards us? Yesterday, I had to pay six thousand pounds for a gas canister!!"
"Pay attention; do not forget the gas on; do not leave the water boiling; run to switch the gas off!" These are phrases Gaby has tired of hearing as his mother has recently embarked on a rationing exercise, even worse than that forced upon them by the regime, he says.
These sentences are no longer of use, anyway, Gaby's mother says. The gas canister is empty, according to her. She adds: "I had never imagined I would have to deal this way with my children. Everyday, we see gas canisters Westward bound (in a signal to the coastal region), while we receive sweet nothing. Everyday I light a fire to cook upon, and when it rains, I borrow my neighbor's small little bunzen cooker. This is how low we sank, now."
A Protest Petition
In reaction to the unpleasant reality of the services they are receiving, a group of residents of the towns of the Wadi al-Nasara—or al-Nadara [Freshness], as the regime recently started to call it—signed a petition to the regime's Council of Ministers, calling for the development of a solution to the problem their towns are facing.
The regime government's response came swiftly, in a declaration of Minister of Electricity Imad Khamis in a television interview on the [semi-official] "Sama" channel, in which he promised that "the situation will improve, and the problem will be resolved. Soon."
Radio "Ninar FM" close to the regime, has also hosted the governor of Homs Talal Barazi, who spoke about the improvement of living conditions in the Wadi.
These promises provoked Hossam's ridicule. He says: "After hearing the words of the minister and the governor, we became optimistic and thanked God that the problem would be resolved. Next day, the power went out for two continuous days!! Where are these improvements, Mr. Governor?"
"A Remarkable Development" in Rationing
The regime-affiliated media spoke about what they called a "remarkable development" in the services of Wadi al-Nasara. Perhaps they were referring to a different type of "development!!"
"Every family in the Wadi had originally been promised 100 liters of fuel oil for heating this winter—already a paltry number for Syrian families. Now, families in the Wadi actually have to manage with 50 liters only!" Says Bassam, head of a family of five.
He continues: "This is a farce! We appreciate the current situation in the country... But it is disgraceful when others receive 200 and 300 liters, while it is only fifty for us! Why the discrimination!?" Bassam now says he prefers never to buy diesel fuel from the regime's government. "We prefer our firewood stoves," as he puts it.
Christine from Marmarita, sees that "the regime is trying to humiliate the Wadi through reducing services. It also tries to stifle its breath through its Shabeeha [militia of thugs], who loot, pillage, kidnap, and attack as they please."
She also says: "We used to say that the regime is trying to keep the areas supporting it well served. It seems, however, that it is doing the complete opposite. I think it is trying to repeat the scenario of humiliating the Wadi—the same as it did when it kept the threat of [Islamic] militants in the Krak des Chevaliers, menacing the region's inhabitants."