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Conversations: A Pharmacist in Qamishli

As part of our effort to highlight civilian stories, below is a conversation between Syria Deeply and Midya, a trained pharmacist who belongs to Syria’s largest ethnic minority, the Kurds. She lives and works in Qamishli, the unofficial capital city of Syria’s Kurdish region. Midya is known locally for the active role she has played in street demonstrations since the start of the Syrian Revolution. The following interview was conducted with repeated interruptions due to the poor state of communications in Qamishli at present.

Written by Syria Deeply Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes

SD: Some places in Syria are experiencing a lack of medication. What is the situation in Qamishli at the moment?

There is a general shortage of medication here. Periodically, the factories simply stop producing. They re-start only to stop again. For example, production at the Mediotics  factory has been frozen for almost seven months. There are currently about five large factories that have stopped producing. Of course there are sometimes alternatives from other factories, but if people are used to medicine from a certain factory, they may not be persuaded by the alternative because they cannot trust it. So, they search all the pharmacies in the town for a specific brand that is unavailable. For some other kinds of medicine, such as insulin, we do not even have access to alternative brands.

SD: What is the economic situation like more generally?

Some essentials, such as baby food, are completely absent. The price of milk has increased a lot. For example, before the revolution NAN milk [a well-known brand] was at 175 lira. Now, it costs 380 lira. Some workers earn as little as 200 lira a day. So imagine how they are supposed to provide milk for their children. Fuel is also a great problem. Petrol is not sold in the stations. It is being stolen. In the stations it should cost 50 lira per liter. Once I filled my car with 750 lira worth of petrol but it was all fake and diluted. The needle on the meter didn’t even move from its position, still showing an empty tank. In the streets, people put it in one and two-liter coke bottles. They sell one liter for 150 lira and more than half of it is fake. At the moment, there is little mazot [diesel]. It is administered by the [PKK-Associated] Democratic Union Party [PYD]. Previously, people were queuing for a trickle from the gas stations. Now, even this is not available.

SD: So what is the impact of this upon people’s lives?

A few days ago there was a ‘petrol war’. There was shooting in the gas stations in order to scare people away. People are also wrestling at street stalls where they sell it.This situation is very bad and winter is coming. Last winter we were without electricity and fuel. We would wait until evening for electricity. This year will certainly be worse. There is not enough power to run the electric heater. If this continues our children will die.

SD: Who is administering the city these days?

In theory the Supreme Kurdish Body [a union between the two main Kurdish forces in Syria] is administering, but control is in the hands of PYD. Today I saw their jeeps with the word ‘police’ written on the sides. How can they have authority without providing services, and keeping resources for themselves while we have no bread, fuel and communications? For each of the last three days, we have only had half an hour of electrity. We don’t know where to complain anymore.

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SD: What is the feeling in the streets?

They have become a very negative place. There were real demonstrations supporting the revolution before the foundation of the Kurdish National Council [in October 2011]. After that, they were more like masirat [a term used to refer to the regime’s propagandistic parades]. Following the foundation of the Supreme Body [in July 2012], independent demonstrations have almost completely ended. The other day there was a women’s march, but I no longer go out because our protests have been corrupted and are now distant from the spirit of the revolution. Due to the  [Kurdish political] parties, the coordination groups do not demonstrate as we would like. At the same time, fear of PYD has decreased the pulse of the street to the lowest levels since the revolution began. We are living in very difficult times.

SD: How would you describe the position of Kurdish women?

Some Kurdish women are afraid for their children, and none of us wants to see everything destroyed. We don’t want to become refugees. Unfortunately, Kurdish women have not been as active as they were in March 2004 [when Kurds rose up against the Syrian government]. Women are very afraid of prison–[they want to] preserve their honour and that of their daughters. We don’t want war to come to the peaceful Kurdish areas. We want peace, but we also need revolution.

There’s no electricity again and my battery is about to cut…

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