Citizens return to blockaded Moadimiyet e-Sham, Syrian television reports


February 5, 2014

TWILIGHT ZONE: A special “report” broadcast on official state television shows more than a dozen families returning to the town of Moadimiyet e-Sham in the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta, amidst rumors of a truce between the regime and rebel fighters.

The context-free field report purports to show happy Syrians praising the army and expressing joy to be returning to the “starving suburb” that has been bombed and starved into submission over the course of more than one year by the Syrian army.

Thousands of civilians have been trapped in the rebel-controlled town, with nothing going in or out due to the regime’s airtight encirclement. The town became known for videos of pale, skinny civilians foraging for grass and olives amidst once-proud groves.

But on Syrian state television, the pageantry provided only a snapshot of patriotic bliss – where these Syrians had been is not mentioned. “How does it get any better than this? Things are great,” an older man tells the camera.

Families “began returning four days ago” to the suburb, which has been under siege for over eight months. On October 31st, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) facilitated an evacuation of the village but were unable to deliver humanitarian aid despite residents’ assertions that only olives and leaves were keeping them from starvation.

A number of those evacuated on October 31st faced regime detention and questioning, said activists in Moadimiyet e-Sham.

Those who fled “left the violence committed by terrorist groups,” a female broadcaster says, with cheerful nationalist music playing in the background.

“I want to salute President Bashar al-Assad,” says a woman, who is allegedly returning to her home. “I left my home 10 months ago.”

No independent activists in Moadimiyet e-Sham confirmed that the Syrian army had agreed to a ceasefire with rebels in Moadimiyet, nor has the Syrian army advance in the village. Reality has never stopped Syrian state television from reporting its own version of events, with this report perhaps signaling a pending move to take the town.

On Tuesday, Moadimiyet e-Sham media activist Qusai Zakarya announced he would willingly end his weeks-long hunger strike in exchange for a face-to-face meeting with representatives from Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but he and other activists remain in Damascus awaiting the government’s response.

Video courtesy of Syrian News.

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