When the conflict in Syria started to move towards an armed conflict between the regime and the kernel of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) just a few months into the revolution, Syrian citizens whose cities and towns were exposed to indiscriminate military attacks and shelling began to migrate.
In the beginning they moved to safe zones inside Syria, to cities untouched by the military campaign, like any society subjected to forced systematic displacement because of war. But as most of the Syrian people began to perish and experience the horrors of war, they split into two parts, and as the war intensified and expanded, one part preferred the displacement inside homeland, or did not have the opportunity to go abroad, while the other part left Syria to neighboring countries.
Inside Syria, displaced people were distributed among several areas. The areas that saw the largest numbers of displaced persons were the capital Damascus and some of its countryside, which is still under the control of the Syrian regime and which is safe and yet to have experienced direct conflict. Nonetheless, those areas were not spared the bombings, rocket-propelled grenades and security problems, but they were considered heaven in comparison to other inflamed areas.
Some areas of Damascus, on the periphery of the city, are best suited for the displaced people because of the low cost of living and because they are close to the city center, which remains a dream for them to live in. The rental prices for houses within the capital equate to some four times that of houses in the countryside or the outskirts of the city.
According to statistics and social studies looking at the humanitarian situation inside Syria, particularly in Damascus and its countryside, it became clear that most of the displaced people in small towns are living below the poverty line, even though they were safe in their homes and were still able to work. Many of them switched to new trades or work long hours in hard conditions, with low wages, in order to be able to cover basic living costs, most importantly rent.
A crisis among the displaced in these areas that has gone unaddressed by the media and human rights organizations is the the greed of the owners of the houses.
Jaramana provides the clearest example.
Jaramana is located about five kilometers south east of Damascus, separating the capital and the eastern Ghouta region as an extension of the countryside and bordering with several towns that are close to the capital, inclusing Mleiha, Beit Sahm, Dokhaniya, Ain Tarma, Wadi Ain Tarma, Jisreen, Jobar and others.
Jaramana has a mostly rustic character, but after the year 2000, regulated construction started to sweep in, turning most of the streets and neighborhoods into highrise apartments exceeding five floors.
Most of the population in Jaramana originate from Jabal al-Arab. There is a large Christian population also, and a few different Muslim sects, as well as a large number of Iraqis who flocked to Syria during the 2003 Iraqi war; some of them have since traveled to foreign countries after registration in the United Nations, and some of them have stayed until now.
Two years ago, Jaramana witnessed a large wave of displacement from neighboring towns and provinces because of the security situation and the increasing ferocity of the battles. The displaced people were entering Jaramana in droves daily due to the fall of their areas.
The displaced people meet several difficulties, the first being the prohibitively high prices and security situation that frames them by ideology and sectarian affiliation and class. There is also a difficulty in satisfying state employees, who register the newcomers and want documents and contracts for rent, treating them as marginal people, delaying their transactions and interrogating them as members of the security branches.
A house consisting of one room, a salon, kitchen and a bathroom, unfurnished, which was not more than 4,000 Syrian Pounds with water and electricity included, has now doubled in value to between 12,000 and 15,000, depending on the area and its aesthetics. Electricity is extra, at 7 SP per kilowatt and water bills have doubled on consumption. Realtor's tax should not be forgotten, while food prices and other daily needs are more expensive in the safe areas such as Jaramana.
Many displaced people suffered from racist and sectarian persecution in Jaramana at the hands of the so-called "shabeeha". Random arrests, beatings, robbery, sexual harassment, extortion and threats of eviction, kidnapping for demands for ransom of large amounts of money are among some of the uglier methods of oppression.
The Popular Committees in Jaramana operate as its keepers. Many of them are men with previous criminal convictions and were allowed under the new Syrian laws to commit public theft aganist the displaced people, under the pretext of the general amnesty, returning to the homeland, and daily transporting stolen goods from the liberated areas, to sell them cheaply in the government held areas.
The population living outside of Jaramana are treated with hostility when they enter and exit through the checkpoints to the city, dependent on their places of birth written on their identification cards.
In Jaramana also there are local people who opened their homes to the displaced for free at the beginning and shared their food with them, although later, quietly took some materials of value from them.
As for the monthly aid that comes from Arab, international and local relief organizations, the displaced in these areas get the most basic. Most aid is looted and redistributed and sold before it arrives in the region by those who are responsible for the distribution, of course, to be distributed to their relatives after they take what they want or sell it at a lower price to the shops and houses.
Child labour is rampant in Jaramana and is also increasing day by day, exposing children to all kinds of incidents, including sexual harassment and physical oppression. A large percentage of the displaced children work from morning until late at night on the sidewalks, in streets and faraway neighborhoods in order to help their families. Their work is limited to the sale of bread, biscuits and confectionery, and yields little if any money.
The displaced reputation has been discredited by the shabeeha, who work, after completing their work at war with their countrymen, to prostitute the girls in the discos and crowded streets of Jaramana. The flesh trade in war has become public, as the prostitute and her pimp believe it provides a lot of money within a small time frame.
This phenomenon exists in every society and in every place but it was hidden. The audacity of the war increased the crassness of some people, and the industry has its own politicians and masters, most of whom are protected by senior officers in the state with their own financial share.
Jaramana has truly become a microcosm of the war in Syria.