Editor's introduction (Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi)
Previously Umm Elias of Koaiya in the Yarmouk Basin of west Deraa countryside wrote a post for my blog on her perspective on the impact of U.S. sanctions on Syria. In this post she discusses Eid al-Fitr in the Yarmouk Basin and how the atmosphere differs from the years prior to the war.
By Umm Elias
Eid al-Fitr is normally a time when families go out to public places like amusement parks and sites of natural beauty. Children receive gifts and play games in the streets and a joyful atmosphere can be felt all around. But in my area (the village of Koaiya in the Yarmouk Basin), Eid this year was not like that. Instead, relatives and friends visited each other in their homes and would say kul aam wa intum bi-khayr, but there was not much else to it. No games in the streets, no eating out in restaurants, no sahrat late into the night. Indeed, it felt much like an ordinary day.
The best years for the celebration of Eid al-Fitr were before the crisis in Syria, when Eid al-Fitr was a much happier occasion and people would take their families to sites like Muzayrib lake. Now though the war has taken much of that joy away.
It has been nearly a year since my village was liberated from the Islamic State by the Syrian army and military operations in southern Syria came to an end. The removal of the Islamic State did revive one notable custom on Eid al-Fitr: namely, the visiting of relatives' graves and reciting the fatiha over them after Eid prayers. Under the Islamic State (which also levelled graves that were raised above the ground), this practice was not allowed. So the revival of this practice shows that even though the people of Koaiya are religious, we have not been naturally disposed to the hardline Salafism that the group imposed on us. The locals who joined the group, as I argued before, mostly did so for financial reasons or on account of personnel and clan vendettas.
Despite the end of the military operations, we still feel the heavy impacts of the broader conflict on our livelihood. Much higher prices of goods, caused in part by the sanctions on Syria, prevent many families from being able to buy nice new clothes and other gifts for their children on Eid. We are also suffering from a deficiency in public services. Despite repeated claims and commitments, national grid electricity has not yet been restored to my village. Even the former head of the Deraa provincial council Hani al-Hamdan, who is from my village, felt compelled to comment on the ongoing lack of electricity.
In addition, in my area in particular we are living in a state of fear and tension on account of the reports and incidents of assassinations as well as other security problems. For instance, recently a local man from my village called Muhammad al-Ibrahim was found to have been killed and his body was mutilated. Some claim he was working with Hezbollah, but these are only rumours and they are very hard for us to verify even as we live in the area.