The previous post on the town of al-Zabadani that is located on the border with Lebanon stirred up many reactions. I am glad that this has been the case as debate is useful. Specifically, while no one disputed the point that al-Zabadani has not been resettled with Shi'a as many had previously speculated, there was criticism of the previous interviewee's testimony regarding the situation inside al-Zabadani, in that the testimony was seen as lacking detail and giving an overly rosy portrait.
In my view, the more testimony that can be gathered, the better. I was able to interview another resident of al-Zabadani on 14th 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 residents in al-Zabadani currently? And what is the proportion of residents who have returned to their houses?
A: The approximate proportion of residents who have returned to al-Zabadani is 40%. The number of inhabitants currently is around 13,000. You have a proportion of the people who are away: around 35%. And the remaining proportion of 25%: either their homes are destroyed entirely or they have died.
Q: How are electricity and water in al-Zabadani?
A: The electricity and water are excellent. Currently in the time of Eid [al-Adha], the electricity is constant night and day. In the previous time, sometimes the electricity comes for 3 hours and is cut off for an hour as rationing.
Q: People don't have to buy water from tankers?
A: No, never. The water is provided by the state and praise be to God and the springs are operating.
Q: What are the biggest accomplishments of the town council recently?
A: Removing ruins entirely from the roads and [supplying] electricity and water to most of the neighbourhoods.
Q: What are the main challenges that the locality is facing in terms of services and the humanitarian situation?
A: The biggest challenges the town council is facing: the homes destroyed entirely, the roads damaged by digging and the like, providing damage compensation for the people whose homes are damaged. And among the greatest challenges as well: there are three neighbourhoods only of all the neighbourhoods that are damaged and destroyed in a big sense and the resolution of this problem is considered to be a big challenge.
Q: The displaced people who have still not returned: most of them are in al-Sham [Damascus] and Lebanon?
A: No, most of them are in Lebanon and awaiting the decision of the UN and the Lebanese side to have them removed, while paying the fines upon them that result from breaches of residency permits.
Q: I see. And they need security agreement from the Syrian state to return?
A: Via the UN they take the order to move and return. Yes they are awaiting agreement from the Lebanese and Syrian sides. And they are a large group and their number is large.
Q: And there are some of the residents residing in the localities neighbouring al-Zabadani right? For example Ma'moura and Madaya.
A: No, most of these people have returned. A small proportion has remained in the neighbouring localities.
Q: How is the security situation in al-Zabadani? I saw that the National Defence is responsible for some of the points.
A: No, not at all.
Q: I see. So there are no checkpoints and the like.
A: The security situation is excellent and there is no National Defence or checkpoints, praise be to God. That is because there are security and safety and stability in the area. There is only one point at the entrance of al-Zabadani. It is like any other area in Syria. It is a point to protect the stability and safety for the town's interior. As for inside al-Zabadani, there are internal police, judiciary and law and matters are very normal.