News / Middle East

Darkness Brings Fear to Syrian Town

In this government hand-out image, Syrian security forces are said to be facing protesters in Douma, near Damascus, December 30, 2011.
In this government hand-out image, Syrian security forces are said to be facing protesters in Douma, near Damascus, December 30, 2011.
Elizabeth Arrott

Despite a 10-month crackdown on anti-government protests, Syrians in the town of Douma have kept up their defiance of a government many want overthrown.

By day, people in the town on the outskirts of Damascus try to go about their business. But nighttime, they say, holds a different story. This reporter was allowed into Douma by the Syrian government, but only in the presence of an official escort.  

The southern entrance to Douma is flanked by checkpoints. Security personnel search cars and trucks as they approach the town, while others stay behind sandbagged positions, manning their guns.

Tensions have run high here for months; the town is a continuing source of unrest on the edge of the capital, but people still must live their lives. Not far from the checkpoint, children walk past a long wall covered in graffiti, hastily painted over to obscure any possible anti-government slogans. Shops are open, though some are riddled with bullet holes.  

One shopkeeper looks around with dark resignation:

"You can see for yourself," he says. There is "as much madness as you want."

His friend, Mohammed, explains, disregarding the government minder at his side.

He says demonstrators come out during evening prayers, and security forces soon follow. Mohammed says they "just shoot at random," without trying to avoid targeting elderly men, children or women.  

The demonstrators' fear of what happens when darkness falls is shared by the other side.  

At the checkpoint, a young guard stands in the bright sunshine of a cold winter day.  

Daytime, he says, is calm, but when the sun starts to set, the "terrorists," as he and the Syrian government calls them” start to shoot.

To this guard and the government he serves, the opponents are extremists, and the uprising is a conspiracy fueled from abroad. For good measure, the guard says, drunks and drug dealers are also taking part. Officials say the town is dominated by Salafists.

There are no outward signs of Islamic fundamentalists. But Douma does appear conservative, at least when compared to the capital. Many women are covered completely in black cloth - even their eyes.

One young veiled woman declines to be interviewed, saying she cannot talk to a reporter even though her face is fully obscured. She offers only a passing comment: "The situation is disgusting."

Farther down the street, a man passing by in a truck opens the window to tell of the funeral of a "martyr" - a townsman killed in the unrest, that will get under way soon.

Mohammed predicts this will trigger more gunfire from the security forces.

Syria's uprising has been a conflict of attrition that neither side seems willing to concede. As for what happens next, Mohammed says he doesn't know.

As he has been speaking, a crowd has gathered. Some people call out what they think should happen next.  

A "no-fly zone,” says one.  

Another suggests a safe haven for the wounded.  

The crowd continues to grow. And nearby, security forces get ready for another night.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs