The town of al-Tall is located in the Damascus countryside province and lies to the north of Damascus city. The town is also the centre of the al-Tall district in Damascus countryside province. It returned to Syrian government control at the end of 2016.
What is life like in al-Tall at the moment? To learn more, I conducted an interview with Rami Hijazi, media official for the al-Tall branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party.
This interview was conducted on 10 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-Tall currently? And the biggest families? And what is the number of martyrs from al-Tall in defence of the Syrian homeland?
A: Around 400,000 inhabitants [in the entire district], and around 20,000 families. The biggest families of al-Tall: al-Sawadi, Hijazi, al-Arnous. The town of al-Tall has offered a large group of martyrs in defence of the homeland: around 250 martyrs from the Syrian Arab Army and the armed forces.
Q: How is the current situation in the town from the aspect of services generally?
A: The services situation is excellent.
Q: For example the national grid electricity. For how many hours does it come currently? And the water is always available from the state network?
A: The electricity is normal rationing. And there was a problem regarding the water but it has been resolved as new wells have been dug and the old wells have been decommissioned. And so there has been an improvement.
Q: Praise be to God. The rationing currently is two hours cut off while it comes for four hours?
A: Now for example except for two days it [the electricity] is not cut off a lot. Like today during 24 hours it has been cut off for only four hours. Also the preceding days. It used to be as such [i.e. two hours cut off while it comes for four hours] or three hours by three hours sometimes, according to the overloads and rise in the temperature.
Q: What are the biggest accomplishments and projects of the al-Tall town council recently?
A: Renovating the old municipal office in the saraya and turning it into a citizen service centre at a cost of 50,000,000 Syrian pounds. Work is ongoing to prepare it, in order to offer to the citizen most of the official documents with great speed and condense the routine, time and effort.
Laying asphalt on a large number of the streets of the town with a layer of asphalt.
Renovating the curbstones entirely.
Beautifying and organizing the entrances of the town.
Carrying out a cleaning campaign and campaigns to remove dry vegetation in the town in cooperation with popular aid organizations and civil associations.
The project of digging new water wells.
The project of lighting the main streets with solar power.
Signing of a cleaning contract.
Q: Many accomplishments by God.
A: Yes. Our comrades do not fall short.
Q: What are the main challenges that the locality faces from the aspect of services and the humanitarian situation currently?
A: The humanitarian situation is excellent and there are no challenges. And the services situation is more or less very good. You know we are until today in a state of war in Syria. And there are priorities regarding the state. But in general [the situation is] excellent.
Q: Yes. So for example the gas and gasoline crisis did not impact life in the town of al-Tall?
A: The crisis was over the entire sector [country] because of the economic siege that the U.S. has engaged in. The gas crisis was resolved through the branch of the party as it organized a distribution operation and barred hoarders from selling. And the distribution became exclusively in the hands of the party branches in the town of al-Tall. So more or less the crisis did not have a great impact.
I will add that the gas crisis came to an end entirely after its distribution on the smart card. The council has prepared two centres to issue the smart card, and the second centre was prepared with support from a civil association and some charitable people. Note that the cost of the centre is around 1,000,000 Syrian pounds.
Q: And of course the people of the town of al-Tall have helped the council in restoring services and the projects right?
A: Certainly. The civil society has had a great role in the speed of the restoration of services.
Q: For example through donations for some projects?
A: Yes, the protect of digging the water wells: millions of Syrian pounds were donated to cover the cost of the project.