News / Middle East

Damascus Violence Forces Flight of Even Most Resolute

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare curtains to be erected as cover from snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Babeela area of suburban Damascus, March 30, 2013.
Free Syrian Army fighters prepare curtains to be erected as cover from snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Babeela area of suburban Damascus, March 30, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— A new exodus is flowing from Syria as fighting edges closer to the heart of Damascus — those who swore they would never flee are selling their belongings to escape a battle now raging on their doorsteps.
 
Many Syrians in the capital had long asserted that the uprising-turned-civil war would not breach the city center. Others insisted they would stay, no matter the consequences.
 
But fear has begun to grip even the most resolute residents.
 
For many the tipping point was a hail of mortar bombs and rockets that shook Damascus for several days last month as rebels and troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad brought tit-for-tat bombardments to the core of the capital.
 
March was the most violent month in Syria's two-year-old civil war, with an estimated 6,000 people killed after increased fighting around Damascus and the southern province of Deraa.
 
In response, families once determined to remain in the city are packing up and leaving. Others are scrambling to pull together limited resources and, with a heavy heart, are planning an indefinite absence from the only home they have known.
 
"My wife barely likes to go away on holiday," said Ibrahim, who owns a textile business that his family had run for generations in this ancient city. "And now, who would have thought we'd be packing to leave? God only knows when we'll be back."
 
More than 1 million Syrian refugees have already left, with thousands more fleeing daily. Aid groups operating in Syria say around 4 million others have been displaced inside the country, often having to move from place to place as violence spreads.
 
Ibrahim and his wife Lana, who asked for their family names to be withheld for security reasons, live in the middle class neighborhood of Rukn al-Din, where they raised four children.
 
Mortar and rocket fire has convulsed their once-tranquil district in the past few weeks. One huge blast killed several passersby outside their home and broke some of their windows.
 
"Things are only getting worse. Sometimes I hear the regime shells fly by our building on their way to the rebels. Then I sit and pray, thinking the retaliatory shelling is going to kill us," Lana said. "We have our 10-year-old daughter with us, and she's always afraid now. I can't take this anymore."
 
Strapped for cash, the couple sold their two cars to pay for air fares and perhaps a few months' rent in a new home in Egypt.
 
"Maybe in a few months things will have calmed down here, and we can return. God knows," said Lana.
 
She is taking her jewelry with her, which she estimates to be worth about $3,000 or $4,000, "in case we need extra cash."

Lana and Ibrahim are luckier than some.
 
Lives on hold
 
Another couple, Mayada and Yasser, are looking to flee again, months after they left their home in the suburb of Qudseya outside Damascus — now a ghost town and battleground.
 
Their move, to stay with parents in central Damascus, is typical of thousands of Syrians who fled fighting on the outskirts, only for the violence to edge ever closer.
 
Penury also looms for people like Yasser, a nutritionist and personal trainer, who has earned little in the past two years. Twice he was just meters from a mortar bomb explosion, he says.
 
"Both my wife and I care for our elderly parents, and we're very close to our siblings," said Yasser. "When we got married, we promised each other we'd never move abroad for these reasons. But now, things are so bad our parents are begging us to leave."
 
Mayada chimed in: "Our lives have been on hold for two years now. How long can we put up with this?"
 
They hope to fly to Jordan or the United Arab Emirates, depending on where they can get visas. Mayada plans to sell her jewelry to help keep them afloat for a few weeks.
 
Even the affluent have trouble now. Wafa and her husband Rasheed, a U.S.-trained physician, fled on Thursday from the posh neighborhood of Abu Rumaneh where they both grew up.
 
"We thought we just had to wait this war out," said Wafa, the young mother of two small boys. "Where would we go? Our home is here. Our parents are here. Our childhood memories. The clinic. We never thought we'd live anywhere else."
 
But shelling has struck Abu Rumaneh at least four times in the past month. One mortar round exploded in the park their home overlooks, another smashed into the dome of the local mosque down the block.
 
"It's been so frightening for us and our babies," said Wafa, sitting in her newly rented modest home in a Beirut suburb.
 
Her voice echoes in the sparsely furnished apartment. "Even living in a shack is better than the fright we've endured."

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid