Terrorism and international sanctions have conspired against the Syrian people, targeting almost every aspect of their life including their simplest means of living including ATMs, many of which were put out of service either because of mortar shells damaging them directly or because of the international sanctions that hinder their maintenance by making it difficult to procure spare parts.
A large segment of the Syrian people are reliant on ATMs, as state workers (who comprise a majority of the workforce in Syria), many private sector workers, and almost all pensioners depend on them to receive their monthly paychecks, not to mention businessmen and self-employed individuals who also make us of their services, which are not limited to dispensing cash but also include paying bills.
In addition to direct and indirect damage, a number of ATMs are located in hotspots which make it hard for maintenance teams to repair them or to even fill them with cash, with terrorists often targeting workers trying to repair or refill ATMs.
Um Mohammad, a retired teacher in her 60s, says terrorists not only stole money from several ATMs, but also burned a number of them or damaged them beyond repair.
“Those acts piled up on the difficulties we’re facing in receiving our payments, especially since some of us are old or suffer from chronic illnesses which make waiting in long lines and looking for working ATMs even harder,” Um Mohamed continued.
Abu Yusuf, an employee in his 40s, says the western sanctions against Syria that forbid companies from supplying spare parts for ATMs are directly targeting the Syrian people, namely employees who are working hard to earn a living and to serve the Syrian people.
“These countries not only fund terrorism, but also imposed sanctions that contradict their claim of protecting the Syrian people’s interests,” Abu Yusuf adds.
The hardships don’t stop here, as due to the number of damaged or out of reach ATMs, long lines form in front of working ATMs, with some having to wait for as much as 45 minutes.
“We wait for long time, yet that doesn’t mean we jostle; we cooperate instead and help each other out, standing in two lines in front of the ATM,” Louay, who was waiting in one such line, told us, then he laughed and added “western countries wanted this crisis to make the Syrian people fight each other, yet our cooperation has increased even though waiting for long time is boring and even excruciating to some.”
The Commercial Bank of Syria has formed administrative and technical work teams to redistribute and transfer ATMs located in dangerous areas to safe ones, in addition to utilizing spare parts from some deactivated ATMs to fix others.
The Commercial Bank also installed 46 new ATMS during the first half of 2014, in addition to signing a contract at the beginning of the year with a local company to provide maintenance and spare parts for ATMs.