Massive changes have taken place in the Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour since mid-2017. The ISIS militants that once had near-total grip over the province have been gradually pushed out, leaving them confined to few small pockets in the eastern and southern reaches of the province. Reconstruction efforts and economic revitalisation, which were once confined to the western reaches of the province, are now spreading eastwards, including to the town of Basira (also known as Busayrah or Baseera).
Located along the intersections of the Euphrates and Khabur Rivers, Basira occupies a location that is both strategic and vital to local economic life. The massive pumping stations of Basira feed water to much of the surrounding farmlands. Its size, as one of the larger towns in the region, makes it a hub of economic and social activity.
The town was under the control of ISIS militants until November 2017 upon which it came under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Years of ISIS rule and the subsequent fighting had caused significant damage to the town. However, since the defeat of ISIS militants, locals from Basira have been returning to their town and slowly rebuilding it. The town’s water pumps have since come back online, allowing recovery to spread beyond the immediate borders of Basira but towards the surrounding countryside.
The locals here say that things have been improving steadily ever since. They say that markets have reopened and many of the products they need are available. Shops, restaurants and the local clinic have also reopened. The streets of the town are bustling once again.
There are still a number of challenges that need overcoming. A portion of the town’s population remains displaced, with the locals hoping that they can return home. Security is also a concern. Although the security situation here is good, the town is fairly close to the ISIS pocket along the Iraqi border. With the redeployment of some SDF factions to Afrin and news of ISIS militants regrouping, there have been fears that the region may be subject to renewed fighting. In order to prevent getting caught unaware, the local authorities have been fortifying the town’s defences and have increased security measures.
Syrians across Deir ez-Zour and, indeed the whole country, have been through immeasurable difficulties over the past years. Here in Basira, the locals hope that the worst is in the past and that life can, once again, continue.