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ICC Note:

Syrians in the northwestern part of the country are forced to burn secondhand clothing for warmth as a cheap alternative to wood and diesel fuel. While tolerable during the day, the temperatures at night are routinely dipping below freezing. Because what little money families have is used towards purchasing food, families are instead left to warm their homes with whatever material they can find. That families are burning clothes shows what difficult day-to-day choices Syrians are left within their own country. Muslim background believers are especially vulnerable, as it can often be dangerous for them to publicly approach churches to receive aid.


12/10/2017 Syria (Syria Direct) –   As winter arrives in opposition-held northwestern Syria, residents are burning secondhand clothing for warmth as a cheaper alternative to more expensive firewood and diesel fuel.

When it began to get cold and rainy in the west Aleppo countryside town of Atareb last month, Abu Muhammad burned his bedroom set of furniture to keep his wife and seven children warm. When the furniture ran out, they went searching for any branches or discarded boxes to burn that might be left outside shops in the city, but “those are scarce,” he told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

Like many Syrian houses, Abu Muhammad’s residence on the outskirts of Atareb is fitted with a sobia, a wood-burning metal heater that is used for warmth or to heat water. During the war, it became increasingly common for people who cannot afford to buy firewood or diesel to roam the streets and countryside gathering boxes, plastic or pieces of shrubs to burn in the sobia.

This week, temperatures in the Aleppo countryside and neighboring Idlib province reached between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day but dipped to freezing overnight.

Abu Muhammad’s family shivered through a particularly cold night in their house a few days ago without anything to burn for warmth.“The next morning we burned some of our old clothes,” he said. Since then, Abu Muhammad buys cheap clothes by the pound at a local bala—a secondhand clothes store—with the salary he earns pouring concrete.

He is not the only one doing so. Today, families like Abu Muhammad’s are increasingly feeding their sobias with a new fuel: old clothing.

One kilogram of used clothing currently costs around SP200 (approximately $0.40) at secondhand shops across opposition-held Idlib and Aleppo, two residents told Syria Direct on Wednesday. A family might use four kilos of clothes for one day of heating, cooking and warming up water. In comparison, one liter of mazot diesel fuel costs around SP275 (approximately $0.50).

“We buy used clothes for heating, cooking and warming up water,” Maryam al-Abdullah told Syria Direct at her Atareb home. She fed a scrap of cloth into the opening of her sobia to feed the flames inside. Bags of used clothes including scraps of a blue and white sweater sit in her home for future use.

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