Laundry room in Syria’s Aleppo gathers women with loads of clothes, stories

ALEPPO (XINHUA) – Holding sacks of clothes over their shoulders, several Syrian women frequent a laundry room in eastern Aleppo to wash their clothes and share stories until the 45-minute machine cycle ends.

The laundry room was set up two years ago to meet local residents’ growing need for washing clothes amid the lack of electricity and economic hardship in Aleppo, as the residents continued to return to their homes following the defeat of the rebels in late 2016.

Despite the victory, the situation in eastern Aleppo is tough as the destruction caused by the war is massive, which makes the life of the returnees hard, worsened by lack of money after years of displacement.

Some initiatives were launched in coordination with international organisations to help the locals to cope with the life difficulties.

The laundry room was provided by a centre, called Arabesque, which was established in the Qadi Askar area in eastern Aleppo by the Syrian Society for Social Development and the United Nations (UN) refugee agency UNHCR to help local families.

A Syrian woman washes her laundry in a public laundry room set up in the eastern part of Aleppo city in northern Syria. PHOTO: XINHUA

Inside the room, a total of 12 washing machines are aligned next to each other with plastic buckets on top of them for people to empty their loads of clothes, towels and beddings. Local housewives come every day to register their names and take appointments, which are usually granted every week.

The only thing they are requested to do is to bring their laundry detergent as the centre only provides the washing machines.

Sanaa Ramleh, 40, saw the centre’s sign when she was walking down the street in Qadi Askar a year ago.

Since then, Ramleh has been patronising the centre every week since she registered her name, even though she has to travel a long distance from her home in the Myassar area near the airport road in Aleppo.

Speaking to Xinhua, Ramleh said the people suffer from the long hours of power outages in eastern Aleppo amid high price of fuel for power generation.

“I have neither a washing machine or power generator. I only get electricity two or three hours a day. I cannot hand wash the clothes, because I have an allergy, and my hands ache when I wash them in cold water,” she said.

She expressed gratitude for the laundry room which has benefitted many people. For Samira Rummaneh, 35, the lack of electricity and financial situation were not the only reasons she visits the laundry room. She lost her right-hand fingers in an accident, which disabled her from doing the laundry by hand.

“My house is close to this centre and I come here every week to wash my family’s clothes,” she said. Rummaneh told Xinhua she meets with her friends every week there for a chat, sharing happiness and sadness.

“We talk and listen to each other and spend a good time here. I have got a lot of friends so this is not only a room for doing laundry, but also a place where we get to meet new friends,” she said.

Rita Khawam, a coordinator in the Arabesque centre, said that two years ago, the initiative started after the urgent need of the local residents was assessed.

“When we first started, we pinpointed the urgent need of the people in this area and we found out that they had a problem in securing washing machines when they returned home,” Khawam told Xinhua. She said that around 200 families benefit from the centre’s services every week, noting that more people come in the winter due to the growing need for washing clothes.