In besieged Aleppo, necessity is the mother of invention
Cigarettes stuffed with grape leaves instead of tobacco, gardens on bombed-out rooftops, and batteries powered by rusted bicycles: In Syria’s besieged eastern Aleppo, necessity is the mother of invention. More than 250,000 people have been under a government siege in the rebel-held side of the northern city since July, without access to aid, food, fuel, medicine or even cigarettes. The blockade has sparked severe shortages and exorbitant prices for the few basic goods available, and has forced residents to find innovative ways to cope.
“We’ve been forced back into the Stone Age,” says Khaled Kurdiyah, who lives in Aleppo’s eastern district of Karam Al-Jabal. Kurdiyah is the mastermind behind “the can”-a metal container outfitted with a fan to create a highly controlled wood fire that acts as a substitute for a gas stove. “I punched a hole in a used ghee can that we were going to throw away and fixed a fan on it,” he explains to AFP. The pudgy 25-year-old breaks up a few pieces of wood and tosses them into the dented container, lighting a fire and crowning it with a teapot. “This way, we can direct the flames from the wood in a certain direction to create an even bigger fire while rationing our firewood,” he says.
Like many basic goods, gasoline and diesel are increasingly precious in Aleppo’s east, where state-run electricity is mostly cut. Some residents have developed a system to melt scraps of plastic into fuel, which is then used to run electricity generators. But the process can produce unexpected explosions and be deadly. So Abu Rahmo has developed a cleaner form of energy, using the pedalling power of residents. In his workshop in the Ansari neighborhood, the 48-yearold mechanic welds a dynamo-the small generator used to charge car batteriesonto the back of an old bicycle.
“We have neither electricity nor generators... So I take the dynamos out of cars and fix them onto bicycles to charge car batteries,”he says. The batteries can then be used to turn on lights, charge phones, and “even power washing machines”, Abu Rahmo says. The balding Aleppan sells one bicycle every few days at a price of about 10,000 Syrian pounds ($20). Once the sale has been confirmed, he carries the contraption to the buyer’s house for a demonstration of how it works and any final adjustments. A lanky teenager slips his sandaled feet into the pedals of a recently sold bicycle, pumping until the attached lightbulb flickers on. — AFP