Syria: Internet Shutdown Wreaks Havoc on Aleppo

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A female rebel fighter fixes the scope of her Belgium made FAL rifle at the Salaheddin district of the war-battered northern Syrian city of Aleppo on 2 October 2013. (Photo: AFP - Karam Al-Masri)

By: Basel Dayoub

Published Friday, October 4, 2013

It has been a month since the opposition Sharia Council decided to cut off Aleppo’s internet service, wreaking havoc in Syria’s second city on the administrative, economic and social levels.

For a variety of reasons, whether for extortion or to free prisoners detained by the regime, the opposition Sharia Council which controls parts of the northern city of Aleppo has decided to cut off internet service to millions of residents and displaced refugees living in the city.

Among the hardest hit are the banks and other financial institutions, particularly those that conduct money transfers, which are heavily reliant on the internet. It has also made the task of obtaining identification documents or conducting any government transactions – for residents and displaced alike – next to impossible.

Due to the internet shutdown, simple transaction like Mais Rajab’s attempt to register as a newly graduated lawyer with her union may now take months, instead of a few days. Many of the once vibrant city’s commercial establishments, which have been operating under extremely difficult conditions for two years now, have ground to a halt.

Many are resorting to an intermittent telephone service to reach other parts of Syria, while some enterprising internet service providers have resorted to accessing the internet by way of the mobile telephone network, although this has proven to be an extremely tedious and expensive route for many.

Internet cafe owner Samer explains that “opening email by way of mobile telephony is very expensive. The connection could cut off at any time and you have to start again from scratch – sometimes you have to try for hours in order to send a message.”

Others have taken to making the journey to the opposition-controlled eastern part of the city to access the internet, due to the presence of Turkish satellite internet service lines there. Companies that can afford to will send employees to nearby Latakia to conduct internet-related business from one of the hotels there.

As for individuals, many residents point out that they have relied heavily on the internet to follow political and security developments since the beginning of the crisis, by accessing a variety of sources to get an accurate picture of what is happening. Today, they are hostages of the warring satellite television stations, raising their anxiety levels to new and intolerable heights.


The Syrian regime has used the internet as a weapon it its war against Syrians from day one. The regime shut down the internet to disable communication between activists and stop them from sharing news and information about the regime's atrocities when it was killing civilian protestors across Syria. The regime also controls the internet infrastructure in Syria and use this to monitor Syrians'online activities which often led to arrests and killing of activists. About 60% of Syria does not have internet now due to damaged infrastructure cased by heavy alterlairy bombing and airstrikes (which only the regime has) as well as deliberate shut down of the service in areas such as Al Ghouta. The latest internet shutdown in Aleppo was caused by a damaged main cable in Aleppo. The damage was caused by clashes between regime forces and the rebels. Afterall, it was the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment maintenance crews that fixed the damage, which may have been arranged with the rebels. The claim here that the Sharia Council ordered a shutdown is a complete lie. The regimes crews would not have been able to access the area of the damaged cable without opposition approval because they control much of the city!

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