Downtown Salamiya last week. Photo courtesy of Salamieh Live.
July 21, 2016. Ismaili villagers in the regime-held east Hama countryside bordering Islamic State (IS) territory are used to hearing the sound of clashes outside of their villages since IS started attacking the area in 2015, but July 17 was different.
In the village of Tal Atout, 22-year-old university student Talab Salamuni was sitting in the dark with his father, mother and younger siblings, waiting for his father to decide whether they were to grab their already packed belongings and flee 15km west to Salamiya city.
The house had no electricity because of a power outage, and, “as the darkness increased, so did our fear,” Salamuni, also a student at a local university, tells Syria Direct’s Shady al-Jundy from Salamiya city.
Salamiya, located 33km southeast of Hama city and 45km northeast of Homs, is home to the largest population of Ismaili Shiites in Syria. Most Ismaili Shiites, who recognize the Aga Khan as their spiritual leader, live in regime-controlled territory.
Earlier that same evening of July 17, a local NDF leader sent a member to warn residents of Tal Atout and neighboring Mafkar a-Sharqi that the National Defense Forces had to withdraw from the villages after two days of heavy IS attacks because “the situation was out of control.”
Q: Why do you think that the regime doesn’t bring reinforcements Salamiya and its countryside?
It’s obvious that the government doesn’t want to reinforce Salamiya because even though the city itself is facing an imminent threat, regime forces are neglecting it. The regime made Salamiya a mobilization area for its soldiers to gather before heading towards A-Raqqa. This makes al-Assad seem more powerful in the media since A-Raqqa is a well-known terrorist capital.
Also, the regime benefits from these continual threats because they’re a way to silence complaints about kidnappings and the lack of water and electricity in Salamiya.
[Ed.: Salamiya is facing a water shortage because rebel groups to the east in Homs control al-Rustan Dam, Salamiya’s main source of water.]
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