Enab Baladi – Homs
A long line of cars and motorbikes wait on the Homs-Hama highway for tanks of cost-priced gasoline to arrive at the gas station.
The cars are parked on both sides of the agricultural road parallel to the highway for more than six kilometers. Abu Khaled, 53, sits in the trunk of his van with a group of car owners, waiting for the gas tank to arrive.
“I have been waiting here for three days, as we take turns sleeping in the car, my three children and I, so that we can fill up the gas for our car which we need in our work at the farm. Without gasoline, we cannot work and we would lose our source of income. Gasoline costs 7,000 Syrian pounds (about US$2) on the open market, and we need 3 liters a day,” Abu Khaled said.
A military security patrol arrives to clear the road to enter the reservoir, which arrives accompanied by military and civilian police patrols to begin unloading its cargo into the station’s reservoir.
The gasoline crisis began last March in areas controlled by the Syrian regime after the government extended the deadline for receiving notifications of subsidized gasoline through “smart card” messages from seven to ten days. of the Takamol company. This prevented all car owners from getting more than 50 liters of subsidized gasoline over the original 200 liters.
This was due to the demand from each station of the Syrian Petroleum Products Storage and Distribution Company (SADCOP) being delayed for two or three days, which caused most car owners to want to refuel. at a cost price of 2,500 Syrian pounds after the price per liter on the open market reached 7,000 Syrian pounds.
The exchange rate of the US dollar against the Syrian pound reached 3,905 pounds last week, according to the Syrian Pound Today website, which specializes in exchange rates and foreign currencies.
Civilian and military police, and intelligence, to control queues
Three patrols escort each tanker to designated gas stations to supply gasoline at cost; one of them is a military police patrol, the second is a civilian police patrol, while the third is a military security patrol.
Patrollers stand at the entrances and exits of the station to organize the fueling process and avoid altercations between car and motorcycle owners while they queue, depending on what Enab Baladi monitored.
Majed, 34, a resident of al-Bayada neighborhood in Homs, said Enab Baladi that although there are three police and security patrols, the problems do not stop along the queue, as people have been waiting for two days. “On some occasions the cops are part of the problem instead of the ones solving it.”
“Once, months ago, I couldn’t get gas quotas because there were no more when I arrived at the gas station after three days of waiting,” Majed said. . This prompted him to leave his car at the station entrance until the second batch arrived.
The governorate of Homs has not designated stations for car owners affiliated with the military, security or allied forces, as in past crises. Instead, he let them stand at the gates of gas stations with civilians and sent in police and security patrols to stop them causing trouble.
Each car is allocated 80 liters of petrol via the smart card and 20 liters per week at a price of £2,500 per litre. Meanwhile, stations that sell gasoline at cost are very crowded because quantities are not tied to the courier system, as is the case with subsidized gasoline.
Corrupt patrol staff and station employees
Despite the task of the three patrols to control the distribution of gasoline, their personnel play a key role in creating chaos by bringing cars and motorcycles through the stations’ backdoors in exchange for money.
Ismail, 44, from the city of Talbiseh, said Enab Baladi that “patrol staff are the ones who create chaos at the gate of the station by bringing cars and motorcycles into the station through back doors, in return for receiving £3,000 for each bicycle entry, and £7,000 in exchange for the entry of a car”.
Ismail, whose full name Enab Baladi did not disclose for security reasons, added that many people pay these amounts in exchange for entering the station directly and not having to wait in line for days. This sometimes causes chaos and brutality among those who have been in line for three days.
Station owners sell half the amount for cars entering through the back door, and the other half is recorded as sold. This reduces the number of cars queuing, as many people from rural areas go to city gas stations due to the possibility of queuing at poorly guarded stations.