It has been more than a year since the province of Deraa fully returned to the official control of the Syrian government. However, there are many complaints, particularly about the lack of security in some areas, including the provincial capital of Deraa city. The city's southern neighbourhoods (Deraa al-Balad) were previously under rebel control.
To learn more about complaints regarding the situation in Deraa city, I interviewed a resident of Deraa city whose family originates from the Idlib Shi'i village of al-Fu'a.
This interview was conducted on 28 August 2019. It is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: When were you born? When did you come to Deraa city? And for what reasons did you come to Deraa city?
A: I was born in 1999. My father is a businessman and bought a house in Deraa city. I came after we were displaced from Sayyida Zaynab (peace be upon her) at the hands of the traitors and terrorists. They were slaughtering the sons of the Shi'a and shooting them.
Q: This was in 2012?
A: Yes in 2012. after the terrorists seized 60% of the area: bodies of victims were in every place. In my own experience, I walked over a body without a head, as I was fleeing from the terrorists. They used to see who had traces of latm on his body [marks on the body: i.e. a sign of being Shi'i] and slaughter him.
Q: This is in Sayyida Zaynab or Deraa city?
A: In Sayyida Zaynab.
Q: By God dangerous days.
A: Yes by God.
Q: How was life in Deraa city before the reconciliation?
A: Better than now. True, we were being bombed and every day they would bomb us, but we used to walk in the street without anyone shooting us if we prayed and our hands were let down [NB: the Shi'i style of praying]. The army dealt with us as brothers. We would walk in the street in safety.
Q: And how were the services in the town?
A: Fine. The electricity did not cut off. The gas was available. The water was always available. Even in the state's offices the affairs were easy.
Q: And now how is the services and security situation? Can you enter Deraa al-Balad for example?
A: No, impossible. Anyone who enters from Deraa and is known to be military personnel or Shi'i, they execute him. The services situation has declined a lot. The security situation has become non-existent. The terrorists have been entering with weapons from Deraa al-Balad to here. They shoot at the one who comes among them. I was exposed to an attempted attack before the eyes of the military police because I said Ya Ali [Oh Ali: a phrase associated with the Shi'a].
Q: How has the services situation deteriorated exactly and why?
A: First the youth of Deraa al-Balad have been stealing the electricity lines to sell them. All of the gas has been going to the terrorists. We have been buying gas that comes from Deraa al-Balad because in the security square we lack gas. My family and I lost the family register when the terrorists entered Sayyida Zaynab and we can only get gas by the smart card which requires a family register.
Q: The water is still available like before in the city?
A: It's been coming once a week.
Q: This is worse than before?
A: Yes, much [worse]. And it comes with weakness and does not come out to the storage tank. Also they [the terrorists] have been raping girls in the streets or kidnapping [them].
Q: So previously how many times did the water come each week?
A: Previously every day.
Q: The Syrian Arab Army is not present in Deraa al-Balad?
A: Only police stations are present and they are subjected every day to gunfire. And two days ago an officer was martyred with his daughter and wife.
Q: So the armed factions have remained as they are?
A: Yes. Just light arms have remained with them: for example rocket launcher, or machine gun of 12 mm calibre or Kalashnikov [rifle], hand grenades. And they possess a great storage of IEDs.
Q: I heard they are officially affiliated with the V Corps.
A: Yes, some of them have joined the 4th Division and some of them have remained without joining the army.
Q: But they are in truth gangs.
A: Even the military personnel and army do not wish to go out after 1 [a.m.]. Yes, [the armed factions are] gangs. For example if you get into a fight with a youth from the camp [Deraa camp for the Palestinians] or Deraa al-Balad, suddenly you will find grenades raining on your house. And if you complain to a security authority, they tell you: these people, [we are] not responsible for them.
Q: Why the state does not intervene decisively to impose the law?
A: The Russian military police has offered protection for all the terrorists, such that if the army arrests a person among them, the Russian police release him.
Q: The Russian military police is inside Deraa city?
A: Yes, present. But they bear light arms and they cannot protect the points in which they are present.
Q: They undertake regular patrols inside the city?
A: No. They appear suddenly and disappear suddenly. And after their appearance, the gangs begin their hegemony over the civilians.
Q: The friends [foreign allies] of the Iranian side and the Islamic Resistance [Hezbollah] have no influence in the city? I mean they are not present at all to help the people?
A: Not at all. Even the Hezbollah that is present in Deraa has disappeared. I hope they take hold of the city.
Q: So you mean they were present before and now they have disappeared.
A: The personnel of the Revolutionary Guard [IRGC] who were [affiliated] and left are chased by the gangs. And there is a youth whose head was cut off in Tafas city and his body was handed over without his head.* Yes, they [the Hezbollah] were present. And my brother used to be in the Revolutionary Guard.
Q: And he has been exposed to threats from the insurgents?
A: Yes, one time he was coming down for leave permit and they tried to bring him into the lands in which they are present but he got down at the last checkpoint for the army.
Q: And he is still facing threats and harassment from them?
A: Yes but now he is studying in Aleppo university.
Q: So in sum the situation now is worse than the situation before the reconciliation.
A: Yes. The one who does not have weapons in his house remains sleeping with an eye open.
Q: Finally do you have a message for the Syrian state and the Russians?
A: They should take away all the weapons from the terrorists and punish those who have killed. There are terrorists proud of the fact they have killed military personnel and have taken photos in which it is clear military personnel have been killed at their hands.
Q: So the most important thing is they must impose the law.
A: Yes, of course.
*(Note): The interviewee is referring to someone who previously worked with the IRGC and Hezbollah. That person was killed inside Tafas city in west Deraa countryside earlier this year.