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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid