Before the start of the Syrian conflict, the town of Rastan enjoyed a reputation as a wealthy suburb of Homs with strong ties to the Syrian army and business community. So much so that Rastan might be one of the last places in Syria where a local scion would turn against the regime that brought his family to power.
And yet, that’s what happened. On July 4, 2011, First Lieutenant Abdel Razaq Tlass—a relative of Rastan’s most famous son, former longtime Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass—announced his defection from the Syrian army. Tlass then formed the opposition brigade Katibat Farouq, now operating across rebel-held Syria.
As went the Tlass revolutionaries, so went the town. Protesters torched the statue of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in the city’s central square on April 17, and rebels claimed it shortly thereafter.
Regime forces have completely encircled Rastan and a handful of surrounding northern Homs towns for more than two years. Since January of this year, no food or medical aid has entered the city.
“We can’t live like this,” says a woman in Rastan surrounded by children. “If help doesn’t come, that’s it…we’re finished.”
This dispatch from Rastan was jointly produced by the Rastan Unified Media Center and Syria Direct.