Tartus university students rattled after bombings, ‘instructed to watch out for false rumors that will create panic’

On May 23, a series of suicide bombings rocked the highly secure coastal cities of Tartus and Jableh in northern Syria, killing more than 120 people and injuring dozens of others, Syria Direct reported.

The bombings in the heart of the Alawite heartland shocked residents of Tartus, also home to a Russian naval base in the first major attacks there since 2011.

Since the three suicide bombers discharged their explosives at a minibus station, Tartus has been on “high alert,” Osama, a pro-regime college student from the city who used a pseudonym, tells Syria Direct’s Bahira al-Zarier.

The situation is particularly tense at Tartus University, the city’s only institution of higher education, says Osama, a member of the university’s student government.

Students are cutting classes as “a sense of fear and terror pervades the campus,” he says.

 Photo courtesy of Tartous University.

Q: Describe the atmosphere on campus after the bombings.

The bombings created a state of anxiety and alarm among students. For the first few days after the bombings, a large number of students skipped classes, many people stayed in their homes and the streets were empty. Things are still bad. A sense of fear and terror pervades the campus. Many students continue to miss class out of fear of another attack. 

In an attempt to quell students’ fears, the National Union of Syrian Students (NUSS) decided to issue new security regulations.

Q: What are the new security regulations?

Students have to bring both their student ID card and personal ID to campus. It is forbidden to bring large bags on campus. Small handbags that will be searched are allowed. No weapons or sharp items are permitted.

Students must follow the search procedures.

Anyone not affiliated with the university is not allowed on campus. Gathering in front of the college entrance is forbidden. Anyone who violates the above-mentioned rules will face appropriate repercussions.

Q: Can you speak more about NUSS? What is its role? Is it a political organization? Does it support the regime?

NUSS manages student affairs and liaises between students, professors and the dean of the university. It supports the regime and exists in regime-controlled areas.

Students in the colleges and university elect the Tartus branch of NUSS. Elected members are also students.

NUSS’s role is purely administrative and non-political.

Q: Why have these security regulations been issued?

These strict security regulations were issued after the bombings in Tartus and Jableh on May 23. They came out of fear for the students’ safety from any terrorist attack that could occur inside the university, as it hosts a large number of students. If—God forbid—an attack were to occur, there would be a huge loss of lives. To avoid this, we decided to issue these regulations. Right now, the entire city is on high alert.

Q: Do these regulations exist only at the university or have they been applied elsewhere in Tartus?

These regulations are specific to Tartus University, but there are other regulations that have been imposed inside the city such as reporting any suspicious object or behavior.

In addition, people are instructed to watch out for false rumors that will create panic.

If an emergency should occur, students should remain calm and stay on campus.

Bahira al-Zarier

Bahira is from Damascus. She studied business and marketing before moving to Jordan in 2013. She did volunteer work in support of many refugee organizations before joining Syria Direct.