Syrians divided over regime and revolt
AMMAN / DAMASCUSAs the crisis in Syria continues to deepen, with thousands of refugees pouring into neighboring Turkey and Jordan, ordinary Syrians remain divided over the relative merits of the ruling al-Assad regime and the allegedly peaceful nature of the opposition.
“We gathered people from the villages and towns of Dera. Our aim was to break through the siege around the Omar Masjid [mosque] in central Dera. We walked with olive branches in our hands. We managed to enter the city and arrive at the square through different routes. Bullets suddenly began raining upon us, and I was wounded in my foot,” said Yesar Avir, an English teacher who played a prominent role in the “Bloody Wednesday” of March 23, 2011.
Avir took refuge in neighboring Jordan in January and remains adamant in his claim that the uprising is a peaceful one, although he did admit that as many as 3,500 Syrian security forces may have been killed thus far. He said he was called by the police after he met with observers from the Arab League. “They were going to capture me either dead or alive. I moved to Jordan [undercover]. I had been a Baath member for 20 years, before I resigned,” Avir said.
Life in Damascus
Some 10,000 Syrian families are officially registered as refugees in Jordan, according to Ahmed Abdülzuveyb, the head of the Scripture and Sunnah Community, while around 300 Syrian army deserters have begun residing in an old cement factory near the border in Mefrak. “They kidnapped my two sons in broad daylight. They raided [our] home and took them away, while their severed corpses were found two days later. The ‘liberators’ did this ... My sons were not involved in any political activities. They were not Baathists either. That is what they call a peaceful demonstration. My sons’ only guilt was to not join them,” 72-year-old Ebutamir said. Ebutamir, a Shiite, is among the 1 million Syrians who have ended up as internal refugees during the year-long uprising, when he moved from his native Homs to southern Damascus.
Despite all the glaring images of turmoil and bloodshed in Syria in the international media, Damascus is agleam with lights radiating from shops and entertainment venues. Al-Assad’s hold on Damascus seems strong, while controls from the Jordanian border into the Syrian capital are noticeably lax. “I see 50 armed people when I am returning back home. These are not troops who deserted the army. I know most of them from the neighborhood. They are unemployed, idling youths” İyad al-Masri, from Harasta in Damascus, said.