The Syrian cabinet held its weekly session on Sunday in the city of Aleppo headed by Prime Minister Imad Khamis and 30 ministers. The regime’s government made a large number of promises to the residents of Aleppo to develop the city’s commercial, residential and tourist center, and to fight crime and to provide services. The ministers carried out tours in the city and the Aleppo countryside. However, residents ridiculed the government promises and accused them of lying and trickery and of being unable to actually do anything in light of the total control of regime militias and security branches, according to Al-Modon’s correspondent Khalid al-Khateeb.
Imad Khamis and members of his government arrived at the Aleppo International Airport on Friday/Saturday night. They were received by the Aleppo governor, Hussein Diyab, and the secretary of the Baath Party branch, Fadel al-Najjar. This was the first time in which loyalist militias supported by Iran allowed the airport to be used by civilian authorities after they turned it, since the start of 2013, into a military barracks and a command quarters for their operations led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Khamis visited Aleppo at the head of a delegation of 15 ministers in January 2017, a short time after the regime’s militias had taken control of the eastern districts and the armed opposition had left the area in the end of 2016. Khamis’s second visit was accompanied by 16 ministers at the start of 2018.
Residents ridiculed the government’s visit and the visits planned by ministers in advance, as the city council was put on alert, the streets were cleaned and pictures of Bashar al-Assad and flags were hung in squares and streets which would be used by the ministers. The electricity supply was not cut on Saturday for 24 straight hours for the first time in years.
The government ministers carried out most of their tours individually in the city and the eastern countryside. The interior minister, Mohammad al-Shaar, visited the child Haytham Hamami in the Al-Jamaa Hospital. The child had been subject to a murder attempt by kidnappers from members of a militia days earlier on Al-Hariri Street in the city center. Shaar focused on the need to hold to account Ahmed Maznara, who was accused with the operation according to the account of the city’s police command, in order to absorb residents’ anger. The police stuck all the charges of kindapping and attacking children in the city to Maznara, who is a commander in the National Defense militias. Aleppo residents ridiculed the Interior Ministry’s account, which held one militia commander responsible for the entire security situation in Aleppo when there were hundreds like him.
Health Minister Nizar Yazigi opened the Al-Hamdaniyeh Health Center in the al-Hamdaniyeh district, in western Aleppo. Residents said that the opening was false, however, as the center had previously existed, and that it had not been damaged over the past few years. The promises to renovate the Eyes Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in the eastern district have been repeated three times, and these buildings near the Qazi Askar Square have been taken regime militias to use as military barracks.
The eastern district did not receive a share of the Khamis government’s visit, except for a short visit by the Education Ministry Hazwan al-Wizz, during which he visited the Industrial Academy and schools which were not destroyed by regime warplanes — which were few in number in the eastern districts, and could be counted on one hand. Al-Wizz said that schools could return to service in the eastern districts, but residents denied that, as the destroyed schools in the area have not been repaired.
The Water Resources Minister Nabil al-Hassan told regime media: “We finished restoring four irrigation stations in the eastern Aleppo countryside, and likewise closed all Maskanah projects and work is underway to repair all irrigation stations in the eastern countryside in accordance with a project with a specified timeline.” But residents of Maskanah and the eastern Aleppo countryside denied Hassan’s claim, saying his ministry had not repaired any irrigation or pumping station. The station visited by Hassan was not damaged during the war, and could have gone back to work without any repair. The other pumping and irrigation stations on the Euphrates were out of order and the ministry did not pay attention to them despite the pleas of farmers in the area. The farmers and residents of the eastern Aleppo countryside already lack the drinking water which they buy from the members of the Al-Baqr Brigade which has claimed most of the water and agricultural resources in the eastern Aleppo countryside.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.