Trapped in Douma, Syria: I saw the faith that keeps Syrian protesters going
During the 14 days I spent in Syria last month, I saw the most horrendous acts of the Assad regime on its people. When I asked people what spurred them on amid such indiscriminate brutality, they all gave the same response: Their only hope is their faith in right and wrong.
(Page 2 of 3)
Most if not all Damascus suburbs are holding mudahara protests every night. I first witnessed a mudahara on Jan. 14, two days after I arrived in Syria, in the Damascus suburb of Qaboun. The regime’s irregular forces, the shabihas, attacked unarmed protesters in front of my eyes. Two or three minutes into the demonstrations, when people began chanting hurriyet, or “freedom,” regime security forces began shooting Kalashnikovs indiscriminately into the crowd.Skip to next paragraph
Gallery Monitor Political Cartoons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
My friends tried to protect me by hurrying me into a car, but it was too late for us to speed away from the scene. I saw shabihas dragging one protester, shot seconds before, into their car. (I was informed this protester died in the same night.) I saw several others arrested and given heavy beatings.
A middle-aged shabiha with white hair and a clean-shaven face yelled to us while shooting in the air, "On your honor, which side are you on? Al-Assad or the losers?" He let us go after our driver calmly explained that we were just passing through and had been stopped by the protesters and, of course, we added, "Long live Bashar al-Assad."
This was a lifetime’s worth of experience for me, but something protestors in Syria are going through every day.
A few days later on Jan. 21, I saw the atrocities continue. During a funeral in Douma the Syrian Regime Army savagely attacked civilians attendance, killing 6 and injuring many others. What triggered them to attack unarmed civilians who were joyfully praising their “martyr”? According to local people I talked to, it was the FSA’s promise to protect participants of the funeral against the regime’s troops.
Just to make an opposing point, the Syrian troops stormed into the scene, and in the daylight, began firing on the civilians. The scene was captured on video and broadcast throughout the world, all while my friends and I were desperately trying to find cover from the shootings.
For the first time, the FSA, which recruits the defectors of the Syrian Army and fit, young Syrians as well as some street gangs to overthrow the Assad regime, responded, taking action against the regime’s Army in the streets of Douma. At the end of Saturday, the regime forces had been forced to retreat from the streets, and instead were situated on the outskirts of the city.
By Sunday morning, a city of half a million, which is known for its rebellion against the Ottoman and French rule in the first part of the 20th century, appeared to be at the edge of another full-scale rebellion. Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Douma’s streets were being controlled fully by the FSA’s armed militias, claiming its aim to protect people from the Assad regime’s forces.
I had been trapped in Douma for several days, shuttling from safe house to safe house. The checkpoints in the city did not allow for us to leave and the savagery on Saturday during the funeral increased the tension around the city even further. The city, which is only 25 minutes or so far from Damascus by driving, was essentially under siege by the regime forces. Not only Douma, but also the suburbs of Saqba, Homeyra, Kafarbatna, and all of Gouta.
Even in the chaos, I saw the power of the faith and family that bind the Syrian people together in their cause for freedom.
At about noon on Sunday, we were hiding in a store right before reaching the ‘’freedom square.’’ Since there was a very weak Internet signal in this basement store, a friend from tensikiyat, a group of people who work on the PR wing of the Syrian Revolution, needed to go to a higher level to find a stronger signal for an Internet connection through a 3G cell-phone network.
On the third story of the same building, a neighbor opened up his doors to host these uninvited guests for an unknown period of time.