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 Syrian Kurds' plight grown after collapse of economy, lack social services

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Syrian Kurds' plight grown after collapse of economy, lack social services  3.8.2012  

People waiting in line to buy bread in the Kurdish city of Amude, Syrian Kurdistan region (Western Kurdistan). Photo: Rudaw.  See Related Links 
August 3, 2012

AMUDE, Syrian Kurdistan,— High prices and unemployment, compounded by the current situation in Syria, have added to the suffering in the country and forced young Syrian Kurds to Iraqi Kurdistan to find a job.

Despite the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Kurdish cities, the regime is still paying the salaries of government employees in these cities. Kurdish political leaders are preparing for when financial aid from the Syrian government stops.

The Kurdish cities in Syria have weak economies due to lack of investments and the chauvinistic policies of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. With the beginning of the Syrian uprising 17 months ago, the agricultural economy of Kurdish cities plummeted and the price of gas and oil quadrupled.

Sixty percent of agricultural lands in the Kurdish regions of Syria have not been planted due to the lack of gasoline.

Before the revolution began in Syria, the price of one barrel of kerosene was $45. Now, one barrel is $170 and one canister of liquid gas is $25 instead of $4.

Fawaz Muslim, a resident of the Kurdish city Kobane in Syria, has fled to Iraqi Kurdistan. He said, "Those who planted grains could not water their fields due to the high price of gas and lost their crops."

Muslim also noted an increase in the price of food, saying that a sack of sugar that used to cost $23 is now $55.

"It is even more difficult to find a job at the moment, and many young people are heading towards the Kurdistan Region to find jobs," he said, adding that the daily pay of a construction worker in Syria is $3.50, but even that is hard to come by.

Abdo Ali, 46, is from a village outside Kobane and has four children. He has been staying for several months in the Kurdistan Region in order to provide for his family. "We have many acres of agricultural land but cannot plant anything due to the bad situation,” he said.

Ali added, “Every month I send around $400 to my wife to cover the daily necessities for our family."

Besides the Kurdish areas of Syria, many Kurds reside in Aleppo – around 700,000, according to unofficial statistics. Many Kurds adopted handicrafts such as embroidery, shoemaking and construction to make a living here, but now find themselves without a job.

Wijdat Ghani Osman, 28, left Aleppo 10 days ago for Kurdistan. He said, "The majority of the Kurds in Aleppo are not government employees. Their lives depend on what they make on a daily basis and most of them are now left without a job."

Young Kurds who used to live in the Aleppo neighborhoods of Ashrafiya and Sheikh Maqsud have left the country for Lebanon, Turkey and the Kurdistan Region.

Ali said that an unknown group is using the name of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to kidnap Kurds in Aleppo, releasing them after demanding a ransom from their families.

"One of my cousins was returning to Aleppo from Damascus. He was abducted by a group of gunmen who claimed to be members of FSA. They released him after extracting $5,000 from his family," said Ali.

Nasrin Ibrahim, a member of the Kurdish Supreme Committee and Democratic Union Party (PYD), believes the situation in the Kurdish regions is much better than in the rest of Syria.

However, he says, "We cannot form our own administration without a security and administrative vacuum … We cannot take the place of the government while Assad is still paying the salaries.”

“We will make preparations for a complete withdrawal of the government," Ibrahim says, adding that the new Kurdish administration will form committees for social services, defense, security and the economy.

Another problem facing the Kurdish regions in Syria is the influx of Kurds from Damascus and other cities.

Ibrahim says, "The committee that helps Kurdish refugees is in charge. The Red Crescent is also helping them but most of the refugees are coming from outside the Kurdish regions.”

By Hemin Khoshnaw

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