DAMASCUS, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Electricity shortage has done what mortar shells or bombs couldn't: depriving the Damascus residents of Christmas, a day which they used to enjoy and is emblematic of the inspiring peace between the country's Muslims and Christians.
In the Bab Touma district, a part of the Old City of Damascus with deep historical roots in Christianity, people used to put up Christmas trees, warm lights, and lovely decorations in the streets and alleyways despite all the difficulties and fears.
But after peace and stability finally returned to the war-torn country, those who had expected a more festive and elaborate Christmas season were disappointed by the other face of the war. The country is undergoing economic hardship caused by years of havoc and Western-imposed sanctions. One of the most visible aspects of the hardship is the lack of electricity.
Xinhua reporter visited the Bab Touma, Qassa, and Bab Sharqi areas and discovered that Christmas this year appears to be much less cheerful, with only a few windows decorated. A passerby walking down the streets couldn't tell if it was Christmas at all. The usual beam of the holiday didn't reflect on people's faces. Everyone was busy making ends meet and securing basic needs amid skyrocketing prices.
Tarek Abu Heddo, a city photographer, waits excitedly every year for the holiday season to tour the city and snap photos of the decorations.
"When I dressed up, grabbed my camera, and started my tour in the city, I was surprised that last year's decorations were much brighter and more beautiful than this year, " he told Xinhua.
He and others blamed the lack of decorations and the absence of holiday spirit on the scarcity of electricity and the hard economic situation.
Amal Sameer, a housewife, told Xinhua that frequent and long power outages make it hard for them to operate their electric appliances, such as the washing machine and the refrigerator, while turning on the bright festival lights seems like an out-of-reach luxury.
"We lack electricity, and everything is so expensive," she lamented.
Last month, Syria's Internal Trade and Consumer Protection Minister Amr Salem blamed Western sanctions for the suffering of the Syrian people as the country is going through an unprecedented economic crisis.
He said sanctions are hindering the import of petroleum products, and hurting the lives of Syrians.
In August, the electricity ministry reported that the total direct and indirect losses of the electricity sector as a result of the war amounted to about 6.1 trillion Syrian pounds (24.4 billion U.S. dollars).
To address the power shortage, the Syrian government agreed to a deal with Jordan and Egypt to facilitate the flow of Egyptian natural gas through Jordan and the Syrian territories to Lebanon in exchange for getting a certain amount of gas for Syrian electricity plants.
The Syrian government has been accusing the United States of causing Syria's energy crisis, as the superpower controls major oil and gas fields in eastern Syria. The government has repeatedly called on the United Nations to exert pressure for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from eastern Syria. Enditem