March 29, 2013

Abdulrahman Kadri is a 28-year-old architect originally from Halboon (Outer Damascus) and now living in Damascus. Kadri’s uncle was a prisoner of conscience during the regime of Hafez al-Assad. He’s an independent activist who helps distribute humanitarian aid to Syrians in Damascus. Nuha Shabaan spoke to him via Skype.

What’s life like in your corner of Damascus?

We’re hearing the sounds of bombardment in all of these areas: Eastern Ghouta and Western Ghouta. There’s fear inside Damascus, and what they call “soft migration” has started to take place. People have started to leave Syria to avoid catastrophe.

Where will these people go?

These are not displaced people, but those who are financially comfortable: Traders and middle-class people who can afford to travel to other countries. This is why we call it “soft migration,” because they are financially comfortable. Damascus is obviously going to face hard times. Right now we lack cooking gas, and it’s very hard to get petrol and diesel. Power is cut off more often and living conditions are currently difficult in the city. As rebels and sympathizers with the revolution, we’re okay with that. There’s a big class of people in Damascus that complains a lot, however, and members of that [upper] class are the ones who consider travelling.

When we spoke with other reporters, some of them said there were no clashes inside the city; there were only checkpoints and that it was safe and life was normal.

This is correct. Most of this is correct. It is safe. It’s not safe, but it looks safe. Checkpoints are everywhere and clashes are rare. Sometimes the regime starts small clashes in calm areas to cover for its big operations in the hot spots. As for safety, how could one feel safe when a MiG fighter is flying above them? It might not strike, but it’s still hovering over them. What safety with all the shells and rockets? Clashes are very limited in the heart of the city which is occupied by the army.

Now the Christian areas have now become part of this battle. As an activist inside Syria, tell us about the conditions of Christians in Damascus.

Christians who live near Jobar in the neighborhoods of al-Tijara and Bab Toma have started to leave these areas. None of the rebels have harmed them, and the regime has pressured them to take up arms but, thank God, Christians are acting wisely. They refused to take up arms when the regime tried to recruit militias among them in these areas.

As for the poor areas like Dwela, however, the regime succeeded in recruiting some of the Christians; not all. Most of them are thugs who took arms and money. Christians in general have been neutral about the revolution, but some have joined it.

Unfortunately, they’re acting like visitors, even though they’re Syrians like the rest of us. They’re providing some humanitarian aid. They’re good people but they’re afraid of getting involved in a holocaust. They fear they might be harmed by those who win if they side with their opponents.

As for the religious figures, they’re like our Sunni figures that supported the regime. That status quo was engineered by the regime a long time ago.