By Raheel Ibrahim*
(Jaramana, Syria) – Nour, 38, is preparing to travel from her neighbourhood of Jaramana, on the outskirts of Damascus, to her hometown in Tartous for her daughter’s Duaa’s wedding. The wedding will finally take place at the end of September – it’s already been postponed twice: once in August, due to fighting between government forces and rebels in the province of Lattakia, and again when the United States threatened to attack Syria. The family was worried about staying in their home in the event the of US strikes – their home is in close proximity to a security headquarter believed to belong to Air Force Intelligence, and a checkpoint operated by the Popular Committees, a militia loyal to the regime.
Now that military strikes appear less likely, Nour says she feels reassured that the security situation has become “more stable,” and that her daughter and son-in-law will live near their family in Jaramana rather than moving to Tartous – their plan in case of military intervention in Syria.
In Jaramana, as well as Damascus and its suburbs, many of those who left to the coastal areas or Suweida fearing a military strike have returned, but the many Iraqis who were living there have mostly returned to their country.
Life seems to have returned to normal, according to the standards imposed by the state of war in Syria. The entrances to Jaramana are backed up due to checkpoints, and residents can be seen going about their business at the market paying no attention to the gunfire that can be heard from nearby Shebaa where clashes between the rebels and the army continue.
Jaramana saw some demonstrations against the regime in 2011, but has remained relatively safe despite several bombings carried out by unknown parties, and received thousands of displaced Syrians from other areas afflicted by fighting.
Loyalists and opposition supporters continue to hold different opinions on a military strike.
Suad, a 34-year-old nurse working at a hospital in Damascus, says she is not only opposed to the strikes, but was “ready to join the ranks of the Syrian army in defence of Syria.”
“I fled with my paralyzed father and my family from Sitt Zainab after the Free Syrian Army killed my brother,” she says. “They broke in with their weapons, stole and vandalized everything, shot my brother in the head and left.”
“If Syria is hit, we will all be killed all at the hands of the FSA,” she continues. “I can see our end every day; I can imagine the scene because I’ve lived it.”
Issam, 45, a dentist, opposes Assad and supports military action against the regime, but in the same breath accuses the president of being a “fallen liar” for agreeing to hand over his chemical weapons.
“The regime is selling chemical weapons just as it sold the Golan,” said Issam. “I feel [Assad] has betrayed our national security and made us vulnerable. Just because someone supports the opposition doesn’t mean he is against national security. Syria’s chemical weapons are the only thing that evens the playing field with Israel.”
Khodr, who holds a degree in Arabic literature but works in an electronics shop, considers himself neither loyalist nor opposition. He does not trust either side, he says, but at the same time he does not support foreign military intervention, having lived among Iraqis and seen their suffering and heard their stories of how they lost their homes after the disintegration of the Iraqi army. Khodr says many Iraqis have been living in Syria for more than 10 years and are still waiting to be granted asylum in the United States.
“America strikes us and then we ask for asylum in America!” he said, laughing sarcastically.
Khodr agrees with Issam that the loss of Syria’s chemical weapons is a blow, saying: “I felt better that the strike was cancelled, but at the same time I was disappointed. I am afraid that we have offered major concessions at the expense of our national security.
“Syria has been working on this program for 30 years, and we decided in a moment to destroy everything we have built,” he continued. “Who can guarantee that the West will not come back to threaten us, as they did Iraq?”
Faihaa, 35, a counsellor, says she opposes Assad’s regime but that any foreign military action would be an “aggression” that would serve the interests of America and Israel.
“We are against the tyranny that weakens our country, but we are also against any external aggression against the country,” she reasons.
Amer, 42, who was displaced from Aleppo and now lives in Jaramana, was disappointed the military strikes were called off against “a criminal regime that used chemical weapons against its own people.”
“The world has failed the Syrians,” he said.
Amer denies the strikes would make life worse for Syrians, believing that whatever negative impact the strike would have on Syrians could not be worse than what government forces have done so far.
“In my opinion, there is no difference between being hit with scud missiles or cruise missiles,” he says
Amer blames President Bashar al-Assad for the continuing crisis, saying: “If I were the president of Syria and someone gave me a choice between stepping down and destroying the country, of course I would have stepped down.”
* Raheel Ibrahim is a pseudonym of a journalist living inside Syria.