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Residents in northeast Syria brace for winter as oil smugglers thrive

While Deir ez-Zor is shipping oil other places thanks in part to a man named Hyena, many of its residents are suffering from poverty and the cold.
IDLIB, SYRIA - DECEMBER 13: A drone photo shows an aerial view of the mud covered road and tents at a refugee camp, where Syrian refugees live, after heavy rain at winter season in northeastern Idlib, Syria on December 13, 2019. Syrian refugees, who have been living in the camp, face flooding, mud and puddles due to lack of infrastructure and sewerage network. (Photo by Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Over the weekend, residents of a town in Syria’s eastern desert took to the streets demanding that corrupt local officials be held to account, and that revenues garnered from nearby oil wells be used to develop their area. The Dec. 14 protest in Busayra was the latest in a series of demonstrations that began in April and swept across Deir ez-Zor province, the eastern half of which is under the control of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and remains mired in poverty despite being home to two of Syria’s largest oil fields.

Tankers filled with crude head north to Hasakah on a near-daily basis, said Mohammad al-Khalaf, the pseudonym of a journalist in Deir ez-Zor. “The tankers are still going” after Turkey’s latest incursion into northeast Syria, “from the Omar and Tanak fields to Hasakah province, and there’s an SDF force that guards the trucks,” Khalaf said Dec. 5.

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