Terror in Syria – Witnesses Speak

© RIA Novosti . Valeri Melnikov / Go to the mediabankSyria, Damascus
Syria, Damascus - Sputnik International
Only eye-witnesses know what is really going on in Syria. But even then the picture will not be complete because views on one and the same event may be different and much depends on the profession of those who describe them.

Only eye-witnesses know what is really going on in Syria. But even then the picture will not be complete because views on one and the same event may be different and much depends on the profession of those who describe them.

On the way from Damascus to Deraa and back, eye-witnesses described their daily life and told us what is happening in Syria. Everything began with journalist A. Moussa’s story.

In the last two months the situation in Damascus and its suburbs has become much worse. The first thing that catches the eye on arrival is the empty streets of the once busy capital. A double terror act on May 10 killed more than 50 people but this is only one of the reasons for fear.

On every night the city is shaken by shootings and explosions whereas in March it was difficult even to imagine that blood will be spilled every day several miles away from the city’s center. Local residents say that tensions have escalated after the arrival of foreign observers in the country. Practically every night, armed groups attack military control check points at the entry to Damascus and security forces. Not infrequently, civilians are killed in clashes. Districts and suburbs with their strictly conservative population are particularly dangerous.

Supporting the ideas of the armed opposition and trying to provoke nation-wide discontent, residents of these areas isolate suburbs from the city by blocking highways with burning tires several times per day. They often attack private cars and abduct people. The majority of people I spoke with consider these actions a provocation aimed at wrecking the plan of UN-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan. Everyone said that the massacre in Houla on May 25 is an outrageous provocation as well.

Indicatively, recent events have prompted many of my acquaintances to side with the authorities. Less than a year ago they did not want to hear about any conspiracy and blamed the Syrian government and the army for everything. Now they have changed their position. They are increasingly talking about the third force (terrorists funded from abroad) and feel compassion for the army. I won’t deny that some of those I polled (mostly Sunnis and Commuists) continue interpreting these events as the road to freedom and see terror as adequate response to the former actions by the authorities. They refuse to acknowledge the damage that civilians suffered from the actions of the opposition.

In the suburb where I live the situation is relatively stable. Not a single anti-government action has taken place here in 14 months since the start of the conflict but the city is being increasingly often attacked by residents of dangerous neighborhoods. Armed gangs have recently killed several of my neighbors, including a Syrian army general. On the day of my arrival, they murdered seven people in the city’s outskirts (pollution prevention officers and soldiers). Abduction cases have also been registered. We hear sounds of explosions and shootings from the suburbs every night.

Akhmad, a 40 years-old distributor from Damascus

The situation in Damascus has changed. A month ago or even a bit more it was an exception but now tensions are running high. In fact, they started last September. I deal with trade and for me everything began nine months ago. At that time I had six employees and shops in the capital were still working whereas now I have only two people left and it makes pointless to open the shops because everything has become too expensive.

On the other hand, some shops that closed down to express their position or support the strike after the massacre in Houla had to open their doors in order to show that everything is okay.

Nobody can buy anything; prices on everything have soared – even Turkish olive oil costs less than Syrian. People in Damascus are worried their living standards rather than security. They don’t know what will happen next.

Aisha, a 60 year-old housewife from Deraa

We almost never leave homes. We ask each other and neighbors whether it’s calm and rush to buy products, medicines or gas-bags that are now in short supply. Exorbitant prices do not allow an average family even to buy eggs (the cheapest product).

People are afraid, this is true. There was a moment when teenagers and adult men lost a sense of fear. We mothers do not allow our children to go into the street after sunset for fear of abduction or arrest.

Daraa is an agricultural area and we have always worked in the fields, but this year everything dried out because nobody wants to risk working in the fields. People don’t feel safe and they won’t leave their families on their own. They have started finding corpses in the fields.

Streets become empty by the evening. We are trying to keep our children away from school even in broad daylight. Nobody goes out after sunset.

Akhmad al-Khatib, a member of the Revolutionary Command Council in Damascus

Today, the biggest markets in Damascus are on strike. This is the first strike of this kind since Bashar Assad’s advent to power.

Before the strike many were afraid of the regime and kept their stores open but now they are looking at their neighbors. It is enough for one of them not to open his shop and others follow suit.

Shop owners have started to understand that they won’t be able to live with this regime and some of them have joined the protests. The economic situation is worsening with every day.

Things are different in Damascus because the majority of Assad’s supporters live there, mostly officials and officers. For the most part, common residents of Damascus live in the suburbs. Some people still visit cafes and restaurants but their number is decreasing.

Political commentator, Damascus

The regime is trying to exert economic pressure on people, to influence exchange rates or prices. It is suffering from this policy itself – tourism is stagnating and exports are even worse because of sanctions and relations with neighbors.

I won’t deny the presence of armed units – they are indeed involved in abductions (with a view to getting a ransom) and robbery of houses. They are acting against the Free Army of Syria. Many know that they have appeared because of the regime that has allowed complete chaos in the country. Many in Damascus have changed their attitude to the regime and the opposition after the massacre in Houla.

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