Basic services are still lacking in parts of Deir Ezzor province controlled by the Syrian regime and militias affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), adding to a list of challenges local residents face.
Two years after the regime and its allies regained control over parts of the eastern province, the rubble of the battles still litters many of the main markets, Deir Ezzor activist Jamil al-Abed told Diyaruna.
High taxes, tributes imposed by the regime and various militias and the continuing lack of services make life in these areas very difficult for those who have returned to the region, he said.
Neglect is rampant in most areas that have been restored to regime control, he said, especially in main cities such as al-Mayadeen, Deir Ezzor and Albu Kamal.
The main markets in those cities are still closed because they are littered with rubble, which has not been removed to facilitate the return of merchants.
Dilapidated or damaged infrastructure has yet to be repaired, he added, and electricity is cut off for many hours as the power grid has not been fixed.
Despite these dire conditions, however, the regime is imposing taxes out of all proportion to the services provided, he said, while the militias are imposing tributes on the merchants who have returned to the region.
Financial and social insecurity
These living conditions have contributed to the deterioration of the local economy and to a drop in the financial situation of residents, al-Abed said.
"Now, for example, people are finding it necessary to gather firewood to use as an alternative to domestic gas, as the price of gas is very high," he said.
But the issue goes beyond the financial and social insecurity, he added, noting that there is no effective security amid the constant tension in the area.
IRGC-affiliated militias are on edge, he said, and have been known to "shoot without warning at any suspected provocation".
Tension also continues to simmer between IRGC-affiliated militias and the Syrian regime and its affiliates over control, influence and the imposition of tributes.
The Syrian regime has so far failed to address the issue of abducted or forcibly disappeared residents, he said, and has failed to resolve their situation.
The issue surfaced recently during a visit to the region by the Syrian regime's interior minister, who refused to discuss the issue at all during a meeting with local elders and tribesmen.