By Ahmad al-Sayegh.
This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Refining crude oil at home is a major business in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi border. And Islamic militias in charge here are selling the crude oil and regulating the refinery work done by locals.
Thick black columns of smoke rise from the Syrian villages along the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east of Syria. Anyone seeing the smoke might think that the villages are being shelled or that they’re on fire. But in fact, this smoke is coming out of the home-made refineries that the people of this area have built so that they can have the fuel that’s essential for cars and generators. They have also built them so they can have jobs.
This area – including the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Hasakah - has been free of Syrian government troops for over two years now. It is known for oil production and facilities were taken over by rebel groups, many of whom were affiliated with the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front. Some of the oil was given back to the local population and some of it was sold off for profit – but the overall result in local terms was a shortage of oil and rising prices.
So locals started setting up their own miniature refineries – both for themselves and in order to make money from the business. Now under each column of thick, black, polluting smoke there’s a family refining oil; the practice has become widespread through the two provinces and a popular way to make money.
Young Syrian man, Saeed al-Shammari, gets up early to start his “job”, driving his own tanker truck around 60 kilometres to the Ali Agha or Karhouk wells. He lines up in a long queue of tankers and cars and trucks carrying tanks. When he gets his share from the well he returns to the town of Khosa, about 40 kilometres away from the Yaarabiya border crossing into Iraq.
Al-Shamari confirms that most of the gunmen controlling the oil wells are members of the Al Nusra Front but that there are also wells controlled by less effective, local tribal militias.