Madaya is a town located in Damascus countryside near the border with Lebanon. Like the neighbouring town of al-Zabadani, there was speculation about a sectarian re-engineering of the Madaya through settling Shi'a in the town. Such claims are unfounded.
To learn more about the current situation in Madaya, I interviewed a resident of the town on 26 August 2019. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: How is the general situation in Madaya?
A: Praise be to God matters are improving.
Q: What is the number of inhabitants currently?
A: There have been no official surveys after the crisis. As in all wars people have died and people have left. Approximately there are 12,000 inhabitants. Not a confirmed number but something approximate. Most have returned but not all.
Q: How are electricity and water in the town?
A: The electricity among us is like the city of al-Sham [Damascus]: ordinary rationing. Water is available.
Q: The water is from state wells?
A: The water was scarce among us last year. This year the Lord had mercy on us and sent down rain, praise be to God.
Q: Yes but the drinking water is from state wells?
A: No in Madaya there are four natural springs.
Q: What are the biggest accomplishments of the municipal council recently?
A: The Madaya municipal office has repaired the roads and cleaned the locality of the debris of war. They have removed everything of the war from among us. They have cleaned the roads and lighted all the roads of Madaya. And until now they are working for the locality to return as it was.
Q: What are the biggest challenges regarding services and the humanitarian situation?
A: Currently there are still challenges in the situation but the people of Madaya are a people who love life. During a record time its market has been functioning.
Q: So economic life is very difficult.
A: No on the contrary, its market is functioning and people have returned rebuilding. All the shops of Madaya are open.
Q: Has the gas and oil crisis impacted life in Madaya?
A: The expense is on all people not just in Madaya. Like all of Syria of course life activity is slow but not cut off.
Q: Are there any organizations or associations operating in Madaya currently?
A: The UN's UNICEF has not left Madaya: mobile teams and centres for removing illiteracy and for education. Care centres under the supervision of the [Red] Cross.
You may be surprised because the situation of Madaya is different from the rest of the neighbouring villages: the reason is the people of Madaya love life. The district of Madaya is fine: the mukhtar, the leadership of the municipal office, all in their place.
Q: How is the security situation in Madaya?
A: There is a checkpoint for the Syrian army at the beginning of the locality and a checkpoint at its end in Baqin.
Q: The one who wants to return to Madaya needs security agreement from the Syrian state?
A: Of course: there are people who are the cause of the destruction of Syria. Of course we will not allow them to return like this without their being held to account. The one who has nothing against him can come to the borders and no one will shake his hair from his head.
Q: I also saw some of the people of Madaya have now joined the Syrian Arab Army and are now fighting on the Idlib fronts.
A: You mean military personnel.
A: Half of the youth of Madaya have joined the army, because what the opposition did in the time of the siege in Madaya cannot be forgiven.