In be­sieged Aleppo, ne­ces­sity is the mother of in­ven­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Ped­alling power

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

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