The Discovery of Oil in Eastern Ghouta

29 November 2015

The current siege on Ghouta has left many people desperate for food, money, and a new life. As a result, many youth have been resisting this deadly siege in creative ways. They create and invent new possibilities for themselves using what little materials they have access to. After all, isn’t necessity the mother of invention? Fifteen year old Musaab, and his older brother in Eastern Ghouta used salvaged plastic parts and creative thinking in order to produce fuel (oil, kerosene, and diesel).

Musaab never expected life to be as it is today. He was studying in Damascus when the revolution broke out. “Because of these obstacles, I’ve lived with my family in our village, Hamooria, and couldn’t continue my studies because of the siege and daily bombings. We are in a horrible situation.” says Musaab, “My family and I are alive, and well. Our living situation is not good or bad, but we are struggling to survive.”

Musaab from ‘Hamooria’ in Eastern Ghouta on his producing oil: Humans of Syria
Musaab from ‘Hamooria’ in Eastern Ghouta on his producing oil: Humans of Syria

To produce this fuel, they scavenge plastic and chop it into small pieces. These small pieces are then melted into a waxy liquid, and reheated until it begins to steam. It is then passed through cold water in order to reliquify. The first product is gasoline. The second and third are kerosene and diesel. At the end, they are left with a tar-like substance.

This factory, manned by two people, can produce 70-100 liters total every eight hours. They consume some of this, and sell the excess.

The most difficult aspect of the process is acquiring the plastic and the fuel to heat it with. At first, they were using recycled wood and old pieces of clothing. “There is a limited supply of plastic. Most of it is collected by young children, whom we pay, or from people that scavenge houses that have been destroyed,” says Musaab. “We select the good pieces of plastic and that results in a higher quality of oil.”

15 Year old Musaab in besieged Hamooria: Humans of Syria

There are risks behind this work, most notably the possibility of an explosion of these substances while they are under a lot of pressure. This puts those working on these projects at acute risk. They are forced to do this work because there are no alternatives, pushing them to carry on with their work even though it is a dangerous one. "There’s also a good feeling, being a person that works towards helping the farmers, and the families, providing them with fuel. At the same time I’m earning money for myself, and my family,” Musaab says. “It isn’t only the need to survive and work that forces us to do this dangerous job, it is also to help the besieged people to find an alternative energy source in besieged Eastern Ghouta. This is a very important material to help us survive and work in the midst of extreme difficulty that these areas are facing.”

This the most dangerous situation someone can be in. Faced with dying of hunger, or bombs being dropped on them, the people’s perception of safety is relative. They ignore the realities of areas that aren’t besieged. They’re racing death, just to grab a moment of life.

This article was created in a collaboration between SyriaUntold, Humans of Syria, and Radio SouriaLi.

This work is under a Creative Commons license. Attribution: Non commercial - ShareAlike 4.0. International license

Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad