Tanks rolled on Douma, a suburb of Damascus, yesterday.
Though it was a holiday today, we had a meeting at the director’s house to (once again) discuss the possibility of evacuation and the possible plans for doing so. I and others were frustrated as it took valuable planning/holiday time and if we are not being evacuated then we are teaching tomorrow. Food was laid on, though, and it was a treat to see her house, which is a traditional Damascene house built around a central courtyard with fruit trees and water. We sat under a covered area of the courtyard in the shade on long cushioned benches where I could admire the afternoon sun warming the yellows, greens and oranges of stained glass from rooms around the courtyard. We have seen a few traditional houses before but none have been in such good condition. Usually, they are dilapidated and jaded somehow: a kind of nostalgic memory of the grand times before the world lost interest. Or something.
After the meeting, I cycled in to see my Arabic tutor in Bab Touma in the Old Town to catch up and tell her we might be leaving. She looked completely done in. Looking in to the dark bookshop where she works, I could tell before I even got off my bike how upset she was: it was in her whole body. Her shoulders were slumped and her face was paler than usual. Her family are in Douma, she told me. Their phones have been cut off. I already knew that they have not had food in the suburb for three weeks and that noone can go in or out of the suburb. I felt helpless.
Yesterday evening we had drinks we friends in the suburbs. We had the news on while we were there and talked about the disparity between the Syrian news and Aljazeera. It seems implausible that the government expects people to swallow the things they are feeding them, and even more implausible what people seem to be swallowing. When there was some â€˜trouble’ at the university Generic Cialis last week, for example; the party channel showed the main news of the issues but then said it was all a lie as part of the conspiracy. They then showed supposedly live footage of the university campus looking peaceful. One never knows which media to believe but there had been phone calls from university students to my workplace warning us. We were advised not to leave the building (about 10 mins walk from the university) until things had settled down.
Friends from minority groups have surprised us by attending pro government marches and putting comments on facebook criticising the foreign media. It is true that the western media are distorting the reality to increase the sense of drama as we discovered when phonecalls from home expected us to be dodging bullets on a day to day basis. Like I said in my last post, though, the streets are quiet. A little too quiet, possibly.
There are things that we hear of, things which don’t affect us directly but which affect people we know. While we were at our friends’ house a friend of theirs, also present, had a phonecall to tell him he is now a wanted man for attending a demonstration last Friday and that his friends had been arrested. How do they know who he is? I wanted to know. Because they film every demonstration and then arrest someone and do what they do until they get names.
Even amongst our very limited social circle there is such disparity between people’s opinions. Some people are very cynical and frustrated about the regime while others (and these are all intelligent, thinking people) are quick to point out what Assad has done for this country, how much safer it feels here now. There was so much crime, I am told, and now people feel safe to walk the streets. It’s true, it does feel safe here generally. Even as a woman walking home alone in the small hours of the morning through the middle of the city I feel relatively safe. Glowered at no doubt, but safe.