After the Syrian government took over the southeastern countryside of Damascus and armed opposition fighters were displaced with their families to northern Syria, those left are forced to coexist with the regime under severe shortages in basic services while Russian patrols roam the area separated from the neighboring area under Iranian control.
The southeastern countryside of Damascus includes many towns and villages, most prominently Babbila and the villages of Yalda and Beit Sahm. All of these fall under the administration of the Damascus Countryside Governorate. They span an area of four square kilometers and are bordered in the north by the Yarmouk Camp for Palestinian refugees and the Tadamon neighborhood, in the northeast by the Sidi Mokdad and Qazaz neighborhoods, in the south by the Sayyidah Zaynab area controlled by Iranian militias, in the east by Eastern Ghouta and in the west by al-Hajar al-Aswad.
On the beginning of the road from Qazaz to Babbila, traffic seems regular and dense after most military and security checkpoints have been removed and are now limited to one checkpoint at the entrance of Sidi Mokdad south of Qazaz that were under the control of the Syrian government while checkpoint personnel conduct only formal inspections on citizens and cars before they proceed towards Babbila.
The scene does not look very different after entering Babbila as traffic and markets witness normal activity.
Youssef, a resident of the area, tells Asharq Al-Awsat that the area was not destroyed like neighboring regions that fell under the opposition’s control because its factions in the town and neighboring villages signed a reconciliation agreement with the government and no battles took place.
The density of the population in the area is a result of the original residents not leaving after the opposition factions took over. In addition, people from neighboring regions that witnessed intense battles moved in after their areas were destroyed.
Youssef also explained that residents are suffering from constant power cuts with rations reaching two hours a day.
In the center of Yalda, there was a large presence of Russian military police and many villagers told Asharq Al-Awsat that their patrols roam on a daily basis around Yalda, Babbila and Beit Sahm.
Many of the residents of the three areas explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that if the Babbila-Sayyidah Zaynab road remains shut, it could be a result of a Russian-Iranian dispute over influence in Syria.