The city of Aleppo, recaptured by the Syrian regime in December, is now a playground for Iran-backed militias whose control over the city's districts has led to infighting and even attacks against Syrian forces, local activists told Diyaruna.
Aleppo-based media activist Faisal al-Ahmad said that tensions are still high in the wake of the clashes that broke out on Saturday (July 8th) between militias in the Sheikh Taha district in the city's centre.
A local militia known as al-Mardal exchanged gunfire with the National Defense Forces (NDF) pro-government militia following a verbal spat between their members near a school in Sheikh Taha.
Syrian security and air force intelligence forces came under sniper fire when they tried to storm the school to arrest a number of al-Mardal militia members, which evolved into direct clashes that lasted a few hours.
Security forces then had to withdraw from the area.
Al-Ahmad told Diyaruna the security situation in the city is not as stable as the regime tries to paint it.
The Syrian regime forces formally captured the city but actual control was exercised by armed Iran-backed militias, who operate under the NDF, he said.
"Each militia claimed control over a certain area, which then became a security island where only the laws of that militia’s commander apply," he said.
Al-Ahmad said the situation has worsened to the point that clashes erupt on an almost daily basis between regime forces and militia members.
Poor living conditions
"Merchants in the city of Aleppo and surrounding areas are forced to pay tributes imposed on them by the armed groups and security forces," he said.
They are constantly blackmailed into paying protection money, he added.
"Tributes are also imposed on trucks that transport goods from and into the city, which has led to a steep increase in prices as merchants try to offset the amounts they have to pay," al-Ahmad said.
At least five people were injured after residents held a protest to object to these conditions, he said.
"They were attacked by both the militias and security forces to disperse them," he said.
Ghaleb al-Tahan, a retired government employee from the city of Aleppo, said that in addition to the security situation, Aleppo residents are suffering from a lack of basic services.
There is a severe water shortage, while electricity has become a luxury, he told Diyaruna.
Meanwhile, "some areas inhabited by government and security officials and militia leaders enjoy these services round the clock", he added.
Al-Tahan said that most of the city’s streets are filled with garbage and debris.
"The regime’s media [platforms] are trying to portray a false image of the situation by filming and reporting news solely from the areas inhabited by influential figures," he said.
"The city’s residents do not feel safe and girls and women cannot walk around freely because they have been repeatedly attacked by militants, and even kidnapped in some cases," he said.
Residents constantly appeal to the government to remedy the security situation, he said, "but all they receive are promises".