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Opinion

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.

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Our tensikiyat guy quickly and creatively connected to the Internet. We were able to talk with friends and families, and let everyone know what is going on in the city.

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Kaseem, 7 years old and the grandkid of our host, with his soccer shirt and beautiful, black eyes, sat in the guest room trying to make a sense of what these strangers were doing in the house.

As hours passed by, the clashes outside sometimes grew louder and other times stopped. The house became crowded with neighbors joining our circle. Our driver, who was also a FSA connected guy, explained in Arabic with references from the Quran and the Prophet’s hadiths (sayings) how and why the city’s rebellion – it's fight for freedom and dignity – must go on according to the faith of Islam.

He talked about how the prophet Muhammad, with very few people, rose up against the powerful tribal regime and its culture in Mecca, which were suppressing people, especially women, daughters, and slaves. But the prophet never quit, he continued, finishing his talk by reminding the neighbors assembled around him of the victories in Tunisia and Libya. He insisted: Syrians are not lesser people than their brethren who just succeeded there in their fight against the tyrants.

In this suburb, even between the older folks, the conversation doesn’t happen only in the room but through Skype, with other parts of the world or with other Syrian cities. Everybody checks the latest news from their smart phones, commenting on what will happen next for the Syrian revolution or for the faith of the people of the city.

When the shooting got louder again, we were led into another room where the traditional Syrian dish – rice with roasted lamb, eggplant, yogurt, green onion, and some other local delicacies – was waiting for us. The wide, flat screen TV was broadcasting an English Premier League soccer game between Manchester United and Tottenham.

I have seen firsthand that it is times like this – the comfort of the family and neighborhood ties – that make the worst in Syria just a little bit more bearable.

I have seen nothing in the Syrian streets that can give more hope to Syrians rising against the state than their faith and families.

Maybe it will take a few weeks, months, or a year. It doesn’t matter to them. Every day they knit their future in the streets: people protesting, militias fighting, and computer geniuses spreading the word.

One step and hundreds of deaths a day. 

Ilhan Tanir is Washington correspondent for the Turkish Daily Vatan and columnist for the Turkish paper, the Hurriyet Daily News. An earlier version of this piece first appeared in the Hurriyet Daily News.

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