In Damascus, Syria, life is disappearing from the streets
Though President Bashar Assad seems to have a grip on Damascus, it’s unclear how strong it is as people go about their business behind closed doors.
« The level of calculation has risen, » said Moaz, a fellow activist.
« That and the caution, » Lena added.
Government security buildings and heavily guarded ministries throughout the city are surrounded by beefed-up protection. Concrete barriers block off entrances and, in some cases, entire streets.
Nevertheless, rebels said they had managed to enter a school used by government forces Tuesday and detonate nine explosive devices in the building and fuel barrels underneath it. The attack was timed to coincide with a weekly political training meeting, said Nabil al Amir, a spokesman for the Ahfad al Rasul brigade of the Free Syrian Army. He said the attack was in retaliation for the continued killing of civilians across the country.
The government played down the attack. An official news report said seven people were wounded and that damage was minor.
Dozens of new checkpoints in Damascus stall traffic and disrupt residents’ movements as a way demonstrating government strength. The fear of security officers and spies is such that activists worry about an act as innocuous as standing in the street in one spot for more than a few minutes.
A taxi driver who has worked the city’s streets for more than 30 years said days can go by without him being able to speak with his daughter, who lives in an embattled neighborhood.
« I’m not with anyone; I’m with stability. I want things to go to how they were, » he said. « I used to go out at 3 a.m. and there would be people in the streets and women walking, it was safe. Is this freedom? Every day I go out and see two or three dead bodies. »
Much of the destruction and death here has taken place far from the Sham City Center mall, mostly in poor, isolated districts in the southern part of the city where government shells land regularly. The shelling can be heard throughout the city and the sound of helicopters above warns of an attack somewhere.