Ras al-Ayn is a town in Hasakah province that was captured by the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) from the Syrian Democratic Forces as part of the 'Peace Spring' operations launched east of the Euphrates last year. To learn more about the present situation in Ras al-Ayn I conducted an interview on 24-25 March 2020 with a military commander in the al-Hamza Division, one of the SNA formations present in the area. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: What is the number of inhabitants in Ras al-Ayn? What is the proportion of inhabitants who have returned to the town after its liberation from the PKK [i.e. SDF]? How are the services of electricity and water in the town?
A: Brother the security situation praise be to God is very good. And the situation of the people praise be to God there is a very good proportion returning to the town. Water is present, Internet is present. Only electricity in the town of Ras al-Ayn is not present, but in the Ras al-Ayn countryside there is electricity. And in the coming days if God wills the situation will be better.
Q: How will you convey electricity to the town?
A: The Turkish brothers are preparing electricity systems for electricity to reach the town if God wills.
Q: So the electricity will come from Turkey?
A: No brother. The Russians are negotiating with the Turkish brothers: water for electricity. We have a huge water station that pumps to Hasakah province.
Q: So Ras al-Ayn is supposed to be connected to the national grid electricity network?
A: Yes brother. But the relief is very weak regarding the town.
Q: Can you talk a little about the accomplishments of the local council since the liberation of the town?
A: Brother the council is moving garbage and cleaning the streets, and preparing the roads. Praise be to God there is no destruction in the area: only cleaning. And the council has restored the water line to the town.
Q: How many times does water come each week?
A: One day it comes, another it is cut off. Day by day. Praise be to God.
Q: In view of the absence of national grid electricity how is electricity conveyed to the houses currently?
A: Brother there are some generators, belonging to the civilians. And they take a good price for the citizens.
Q: Some supporters of the PYD party speak about 'demographic change' and 'ethnic cleansing'. What is your response to this talk?
A: Brother there are Kurdish brothers, Christian brothers, Assyrian brothers, Chechen brothers. Praise be to God there is no distinction between us. We are only against the separatists: the PKK party.
Q: In sum what are the most important challenges from the realm of the services and humanitarian situation currently?
A: Brother the relief is very weak, and matters of fuel are weak: the substance of mazout [heavy fuel].
Q: Is there any mazout coming from Turkey?
A: Brother mazout from Turkey has not yet entered Ras al-Ayn.
Q: Is the mazout coming from the SDF areas?
A: Brother it has not come from the SDF areas. It was present in the area.
Q: Finally what are the measures taken in light of the spread of the coronavirus?
A: Brother the measures are very good. They are spraying disinfectant in the area. The measures are very good regarding disinfecting praise be to God.
Q: Have they closed the schools and mosques?
A: Brother we in Syria: in the liberated areas the mosques and schools have been closed.