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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.


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