The town of Sarmin in Idlib province currently lies on the frontlines between the forces of the Syrian government and the insurgency and has been subject to intensive aerial bombardment and destruction, resulting in the displacement of the entire population that was residing in it. To discuss this situation more, I interviewed the head of the local council of Sarmin. The interview- conducted on 3 February 2020- is edited and condensed for clarity.
Screenshot via Youtube.
Q: What has happened in Sarmin in the recent days? Have all the people of Sarmin fled from the town because of the bombing these days?
A: Regarding Sarmin, approximately four days ago a proportion of displacement began. The biggest displacement occurred yesterday. Today in Sarmin not one family is present. The displacement began 4-5 days ago and now its proportion is 100% currently. I have contact with the youth on the ground: not one family is present. Sarmin is virtually deserted currently. With regards to the displacement, most of the people who were in Sarmin have become displaced persons without things and without things to meet their needs because of the sudden escalation that occurred two days ago: a huge and crazy and very big escalation, so all have left. Regrettably, most of the families present in Sarmin and residing there as well- for in Sarmin there were around 4000 displaced families (3800 families exactly) and around 4800 residing families- have become displaced without things. A proportion of more than 70% without things.
Q: To which areas have most of the families displaced from the town of Sarmin gone? Have they gone for example to the camps of Atmeh, the city of Idlib, to which areas have they gone? How was life in Sarmin before the current campaign, in terms of electricity, water, the sufferings of the people in light of the rise of the price of the dollar?
A: Regarding the displaced persons: most of the displaced persons have gone to areas near Sarmin, because the displacement occurred during a short time and they have become displaced without things. So all of them have become displaced to nearby areas: Binnish, Idlib, Ma'arat Misreen, these areas. Also areas of Ma'arat Misreen countryside: Kafr Yahmoul; Sarmada, Hazano. There are people to the west of Idlib, you have around 20% of the families in Harem, Salqin, these areas, Armanaz. Regarding the services, they were excellent in the most recent time. The water was secured for all, there was electricity- subscriptions and solar power. Regarding food goods, they were available and in abundance and at cheap prices. Regarding the foundational services, they were present. As I told you, Sarmin did not have more than 3800 displaced families, so the necessities were secured for the displaced persons. Everything appropriate for life was present in Sarmin.
Regarding the economic situation, Sarmin in a general sense is a poor land: more than 80% of the people below the poverty line. It is very poor. And the rise of the price of the dollar caused a crisis. It impacted the provision of relief for some people, it impacted the income of the poor. They preserved themselves so they limited themselves to the basic things of life mostly.
Q: According to your information what is the proportion of destruction in the town of Sarmin because of the recent bombing on the town? What has been the number of martyrs in the recent raids on the town?
A: The raids are continuing until now. As I speak to you, there are raids. News has come to me of a raid that hit Sarmin that led to the burning of six or seven houses connected to each other and rendered them to rubble in the western area of Sarmin. The destruction is continuing. Regarding four days ago, the proportion of destruction became more than 20%. The strike was very strong: barrel bombs from the sky. Regarding the martyrs and the wounded, we have had an entire family killed by barrel bombs or burnt by the contents of the barrel bombs, because the destruction impact was strong and led to the destruction of five houses connected to each other in which there were more than 10 people all of them women and children only and more than 20 wounded. As I told you, because of the entire abandonment of Sarmin, this is the proportion of deaths that have occurred. There are no other cases of death besides this. As for the destruction, it continues to increase until now. Currently Sarmin is a direct frontline with the regime. Currently there are strikes and counter-strikes between the opposition and the regime: the rocket launchers are at work and the aircraft are at work. In all likelihood until this moment the proportion of destruction is more than 50% destruction. Approximately in the southern, western and southeastern neighbourhoods, the proportion of destruction is huge. As for the northern neighbourhood and the centre of the town, the proportion of destruction there is around 20%.
Q: Do you expect it will be possible for the people to return to the town in the near future or not?
A: The recent news that has reached us is that there is an advance towards Sarmin: there is not at all a true will to fight. There is a great weakness [/inaction], I don't know of course about this matter. There are conspiracies. Regrettably those who suffer are the civilian people. Today only the people of the land who are concerned for their land remained in it: only them and no one else. There is no fighting faction or fighting opposition or anyone. I expect it will fall and the people will never return to it.
Q: Do you have a message to the outside world regarding this matter?
A: I do not call on anyone and we don't want anything from anyone. Enough. We have complained and our matter belongs to God. We don't call on anyone and we don't want to call on anyone because we called a lot previously and on the contrary, they work against our calls. Today- every civilian person, the children, the women, the elderly: no one has come to help them in the painful air.