A logistics worker, a day laborer and a housewife from Hemo village, near Qamishlo, talk about the economic hardship they have been facing since the Corona outbreak. They were interviewed 25 May 2020.

Main market in Qamishlo

Suleiman Hussein Suleiman, logistics worker

My name is Suleiman Hussein Suleiman, and I am aged 22 and work in logistics in Hemo village. I am an Arab. My father was killed in the war, and I and my brother work to care for our family. We are four brothers, three sisters and our mother.

“The influence this sickness has created on us is that everything has become more expensive, and so the money we make is not enough to meet our monthly needs.”

The influence this sickness has created on us is that everything has become more expensive, and so the money we make is not enough to meet our monthly needs. Because everything has become more expensive, so we are being squeezed economically speaking. Our wages don’t allow us to purchase what we need, and it will be worse again before we get out of this situation. Everyone knows what our situation is like in Syria, how many difficulties we experience, with the war, displacement and hunger.

Whether we like it or not, this is our reality. The businesspeople are bloodsuckers, they don’t give a damn about the people. This quarantine is very difficult for us to cope with, because we lived in hardship before and now it’s even harder. Especially now, because my brother worked as a day labourer and now there is no work available, and so he is just stuck in the house all day. It’s hard for us to find food every day.

“When we went to the souk to purchase things, they would tell us that the dollar had become more expensive and so all their products were more expensive too.”

Things were already tough before the quarantine. When we went to the souk to purchase things, they would tell us that the dollar had become more expensive and so all their products were more expensive too. Imagine how we live, with this useless Syrian money! Everything has become expensive, and so our wages don’t suffice to buy the necessities. We can afford cooking oil, sugar and tea, nothing else, because everything has become so expensive. Even if we just prepare something simple, like eggs and tomatoes cooked together, it costs us 8000SYP ($8 – average daily wage is $3 for an Autonomous Administration employee/office worker/security services member, $1-2 for a day labourer). How are we supposed to live like this?

“If things go on like this, the people will erupt like a volcano – they will say, ‘better that we go back to work and die of Coronavirus than that our children starve to death!'”.

Quarantine has made a big impact on the economy. If things go on like this, the people will erupt like a volcano – they will say, “better that we go back to work and die of Coronavirus than that our children starve to death!” These businesspeople are a virus themselves, they suck our blood.

“We can’t afford food, how can we afford masks, gloves, cleaning products, and everything we need?”

Houses with children have many necessities, and we have experienced many hardships which have only been made worse by Coronavirus. Our burden is heavier than ever. Now, we don’t know what to do to protect ourselves from Coronavirus – we can’t afford food, how can we afford masks, gloves, cleaning products, and everything we need? There are a lot of people in our family, we can only find food for the children, that’s it. We want the businesspeople to take a bit of responsibility towards their people, and lower their prices.

Hussein Kindo, day labourer

My name is Hussein Kindo, I am 36 years old. I am an Arab, from Til Berak, but I live in Hemo [village west of Qamishlo]. I am a day labourer, meaning I work when there is work available and not when there isn’t. The last period of time has been very difficult. I have five children, and the coronavirus has made a big impact on our life. We can’t afford all that we need to eat. All work has been stopped. We can’t afford the daily necessities. We need to work in order to live, but all work has been stopped, the shops have been closed and it is forbidden to move around.

“We struggle to afford daily necessities like vegetables, sugar and other food products.”

There are a lot of expenses and products have become more expensive. We struggle to afford daily necessities like vegetables, sugar and other food products. There are some shops here which are permitted to open for certain hours of the day, and they still have some products, but how can we afford them? This is the problem. There’s no work now, our economic situation is weak, the dollar has become expensive and so everything has become expensive.

Before, we had a box in the house where we put away money to one side with the aim of one day building a house of our own, because this house is rented. But now, we have had to put a stop to this, and use this money for our expenses. We are losing everything because of Coronavirus. If it goes on like this, it will be a big problem, our economic situation will get worse, and our life will be harder.

“The Autonomous Administration came and distributed food aid, but this only sufficed for ten days, and has run out. It’s clear that the Autonomous Administration is not able to handle this situation with its own resources. Until now no large NGO has come to help, and this must happen.”

Until now, nobody has helped us out, and so our future remains unclear. The Autonomous Administration came and distributed food aid, but this only sufficed for ten days, and has run out. It’s clear that the Autonomous Administration is not able to handle this situation with its own resources [note: AANES budget is 90% based on oil sales and so they will soon be lifting quarantine as they can’t afford to keep distributing food aid given the price crash].

Until now no large NGO has come to help, and this must happen. As a family, we have taken some steps to protect us from Coronavirus. We have reduced our comings and goings as much as possible, and we don’t pay social visits any more or speak with people from outside our local area. Our life is going on like this. We hope that there will be a solution found so that day laborers like me can go back to their work, because we cannot afford our daily bread. We are not like those who work in civil society institutions, who receive a monthly wage. It is good that the Autonomous Administration provides hospitals and that if one of us falls sick, they will take care of them.

Ahin Ali, housewife

My name is Ahin Ali. I am 37 years old, and I am from the village of Hemo, west of Qamishlo. I don’t have any employment, just housework. I am married and I have one son and two daughters. 

“Coronavirus is a global problem, it’s not just a problem for Rojava or North and East Syria. It is because of this [capitalist] system that the virus has spread all over the world, and that our life has been brought to a halt here.”

Coronavirus is a global problem, it’s not just a problem for Rojava or North and East Syria. This sickness which has emerged is a product of the capitalist system, just like that sickness which emerged 100 years ago [Spanish flu] and was spread among the people at that time. It is because of this system that the virus has spread all over the world, and that our life has been brought to a halt here. In many ways, our life has been affected and cut short by this disease.

“On the economic side, everybody is struggling at the moment, and this creates psychological problems for people.”

On the economic side, everybody is struggling at the moment, and this creates psychological problems for people. In our house we are always thinking about how we can protect ourselves. Now, when someone comes to see us we are scared, and don’t want to shake their hand. We don’t know who is sick and who isn’t. Everyone doesn’t see it like this, however. People don’t understand this illness and there need to be programs to explain what it is and how they can protect themselves. As we know, there is a politics behind Coronavirus. It’s like a form of warfare. Here, we don’t just face attacks with guns, but also this disease being spread among our society [see here and here].

“Many of our people work day-by-day [for a daily wage], and so if they don’t work one day, there is no food in their house the next.”

As to the virus’ impact on our daily life, it is hard for us to meet our daily needs. Many of our people work day-by-day [for a daily wage], and so if they don’t work one day, there is no food in their house the next. They can’t give their children what they need. It’s dangerous. Our family suffers the same difficulties as all the families in Rojava. My husband is a member of the Asayish [internal security forces], and his work goes on, but my son cannot work at the moment due to coronavirus.

“Products are already expensive in the city and by the time they arrive to the village they are more expensive again. Even soap and the things we need to keep ourselves protected from coronavirus, we can’t afford.”

Because we live in a village, the shops have stayed open, but products have become expensive. They are already expensive in the city and by the time they arrive to the village they are more expensive again. So we only buy the essentials, we can’t just buy whatever we want. Because everything has become expensive – sugar, tea, everything. Even soap and the things we need to keep ourselves protected from coronavirus, we can’t afford. There are not shortages, but everything is really expensive. For as long as this crisis goes on, our situation will get worse, because everything is getting more expensive day by day. The dollar has become really expensive, and prices are set according to this.