News / Middle East

Damascus Struggles to Carry On Amid Fighting

As fighting continues in and around Damascus, shops remain open and life appears surprisingly normal, September 27, 2012. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
As fighting continues in and around Damascus, shops remain open and life appears surprisingly normal, September 27, 2012. (Yuli Weeks/VOA)
Elizabeth Arrott
— Heavy fighting rages on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, but for residents of the city, life carries on, however precariously. 

A bride wearing sequins, shimmies as musicians herald her arrival at the wedding party. She and the groom are celebrating in the marble halls of a hotel; the mood is joyous and, for a moment, most seem to forget the sound of shelling and explosions that carry across the city night.

In the year and a half since a peaceful uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad became a brutal civil war, the people of Damascus have been spared the brunt of fighting that has devastated other parts of the country. 

Still, the city has suffered car bombs and assassinations, and the thick black smoke that rises as government mortars and bombs pound the outskirts keep residents on edge. 

No one knows the future, so the focus often shifts to immediate trials: the power cuts, the shortages of gas and oil, the sanctions that take their toll on daily life.

  • A veiled woman walks down the street in Damascus's old city. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • As fighting continues in and around the city, shops remain open and life appears surprisingly normal. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A vegetable vendor does brisk business in Damascus. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A child peers out of a micro bus window into traffic. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A poster of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad hangs in the rear window of a bus in Damascus. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A man crosses a busy street in Damascus. Though some streets are closed to traffic due to safety concerns, most of the roads remain open. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • Business appears normal in Damascus's old city. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A shop owner in a Christian neighborhood in Damascus's old city. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • Gray smoke rises over a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus, where fighting between government forces and rebels continues. Residents are learning to live with the sounds of distant explosions and gunfire. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A cobbler busy at work. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A man waits on the side of the street in a Damascus market with boxes full of goods. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A woman from Aleppo now lives in a government-run refugee center in a Damascus suburb. The center is now home to many refugees, many of whom are ethnic Turkmens. (J. Weeks/VOA)
  • A newlywed couple celebrates at an upscale Damascus hotel. (J. Weeks/VOA)

In the Hamadiya market of old Damascus, a scarf merchant rearranges his merchandise, waiting for a customer. He says the atmosphere is one of crisis.  He has cut prices to bring in business, but money is tight and few people are buying.  His stock of imported goods has dropped, as sanctions cut off supply.

Unwilling to predict an end to the seeming impasse between the government and the opposition, he falls back on his faith.

He says, simply, “it's in the hands of God.”

But even in this city under government control, cracks are surfacing. Long time members of the ruling Baath party acknowledge the situation is unsustainable.

Bassam Abu Abdullah heads a fledgling political research group in Damascus. 

“This regime -  when they are saying this regime should collapse - this regime is finished.  I am telling you, I am a member of the party Baath.  For me, in my psychology, this one party system is finished not because the party Baath is wrong, but because it's not working,” said Abdullah.

It's a qualified acknowledgement and far too late for many on the other side.

Abdullah talks of presidential elections in 2014, but how the country could move from battlefield to ballot box in so short of time remains far from clear. 

From the beginning, the government dismissed the indigenous uprising as the work of foreign militants.  In the chaos that followed, it became partly true; now, even the opposition acknowledges some ten percent of its fighters are from abroad. Many display a militant Islamist bent, anathema to those who have profited from the harsh yet secular government of this multi-confessional nation.

Bassam Abu Abdullah defines the type of change needed. “We will move ourselves from one dictatorship, if this is dictatorship, to worse dictatorship, which is a religious dictatorship,” said Abdullah.

Pressed on how to find a middle ground, he points to the civil war in Lebanon, and how eventually the parties reconciled.  But only, he concedes, after 15 years.

For many in Damascus and beyond, struggling to get through just the next day, such a prospect seems impossible.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid