Thanks to yesterday’s rain and thunder storms a mere 65 were gunned down across Syria, a friend joked that God had saved many young martyrs “They don’t fear bullets here, but they don’t like the rain!”
The guy I’d come to see, the one I was visiting last year hasn’t been picking up his phone, is he avoiding me I wonder… or maybe he got picked-up after yesterdays protests… or even worse he could have been killed – In these dangerous revolutionary times these are all real possibilities.
Out of nowhere a young women grabs me in the street and starts kissing me, I am stunned and pleasantly overwhelmed for a moment, then I recognise her, she is a friend of the guy I’m here to see, “Where is he?” I ask “Maybe he was arrested yesterday” she says, after the protests that followed Friday prayers, we exchange numbers and she promises to help find him and I move on my way.
On the surface life in Damascus hasn’t really changed, people rushing around with their busy day, this isn’t a country at war, not yet anyway, but there is a nervousness when you stop to speak with people, most know that this problem isn’t going to go away.
Later I meet a close friend who has been on the front-line, we exchange horror stories of the deaths we have both witnessed first-hand in this wave of Arabic uprisings, he tells me stories of massacres here in Syria, and I of what I saw in Yemen last month, massacres which, it has to be said, went largely ignored in the Western media.
And is it a coincidence that in both Syria and the Yemen ‘plain-clothed’ snipers fire on the demonstrators from buildings, with both governments claiming that the gunmen are merely civilians, whilst those on the ground believe them to be the secret police or other government agents.
I am told that the Syrian government has been handing out arms to supporters of the president in order to create a loyal army who, with or without orders, are taking to the streets and firing on protesters after Friday payers whilst the army in uniform stand back, keeping their distance.
Today we watched pictures of families from a small town I visited the last time I was here crying over the dead children in their arms, the town was the scene of a massacre last week, my friend tells me that the unofficial death toll here is well over 500 and there are 800 or so people still missing; lifted, kidnapped from the street or their homes.
Despite the supposed lifting of emergency law in Syria people are still disappearing, “So what does the lifting of emergency law mean?” I ask, my friend laughs and tells me that following the lifting of the emergency law the government has told the people they can demonstrate but (like in England) they need to get permission first.
A lawyer friend of his recently went in-person to seek permission to organise a demonstration the day after the emergency law was lifted, to test the governments will, he hasn’t been seen since.