Every evening, at 6:00 pm, the surrounding hum of machines in the industrial districts of Aleppo, Syria, was suddenly replaced by an inaudible silence. The electricity is now disconnected.
Entrepreneurs and workers then closed their workshops, which were open day and night before the outbreak of war in 2011.
The guns may have been quiet five years ago in this former economic capital, Syria, which was destroyed by fighting between soldiers and rebels, but the fall is still felt.
“I can not say the war is over until my machines work 24 hours a day,” said Mahmoud Majkini, 31, who specializes in making medical cloth in the neighborhood of AFP in his factory.
Conflict has turned the energy sector upside down; The country’s most important oil and gas fields, located in the Kurdish Autonomous Region (north), are still beyond the control of the Syrian regime and many power plants and gas pipelines have been violently damaged.
Moreover, US and European sanctions imposed on Syria complicate the import of petroleum derivatives.
Outcome: Over the years, areas under the control of the regime have been subject to strict rationale, reaching twenty hours a day in some areas in recent months.
Mahmoud Majkini’s factory operates out of a shortage of only eight of the eight sewing machines, located on the 3rd floor of a building that bore the scars of war.
The exterior facade is still being destroyed, leaving employees at risk of a catastrophic fall.
“If we had more electricity, we could have rebuilt the wall,” the young entrepreneur laments. “We work near death today (as we are).”
– “from zero” –
In the industrial areas of Aleppo (north), electricity is provided 12 hours a day, four days a week, but it is often cut off. In the remaining days, when it is delivered for a few hours, manufacturers are forced to resort to diesel-powered generators, which have become expensive and in short supply or have to stop their operation.
In residential areas, residents rely on private generators due to long ration periods.
Before the war, the city of Aleppo was full of industrial zones, which were the scene of fierce wars from 2012 until the seizure of power in 2016.
The strike condemned the closure of hundreds of factories and workshops. Some have resumed their activities without reaching their speed of travel due to lack of sufficient electricity.
“In 2017, we began work to restructure the electricity network,” Mohammed al-Saleh, director of the local electricity company, told AFP. But due to the devastation “we did not find any connectors, poles or power stations in the eastern quarters. We are starting anew.”
– “Every minute” –
In February, the public agency announced plans to restructure a thermal power plant in Aleppo province, one of the country’s main stations, with the support of Iran, an ally of the Syrian regime.
Damascus and Tehran signed an energy cooperation agreement in 2017, which included the renovation of the plant and the setting up of a plant in Latakia (west), and the maintenance and rehabilitation of electrical installations elsewhere in the country.
Abdel Salam Masyek, 52, in the Karm al-Katarji district, reopened his small factory three years ago.
“Before, we worked tirelessly,” says this textile manufacturer. But today, he employs only two workers four days a week, using “every minute of power”.
According to Mustafa Gavaya, deputy director of the Aleppo Chamber of Industry, there were 35,000 factories in the city before the conflict.
Since the recovery of Aleppo, about 19,000 factories and workshops have been reopened, but overall production is 50% lower than it was before 2011, he says.
From the balcony of his studio not noticing the devastation, Abdel Salam Masyek hopes to return to “total” stability.
“The Aleppo businessman is known for his love of work”, but “what we don’t have today is electricity”.