Abu Hadi is an activist who says he lives in the southern Midan district of Damascus. He describes what is being called the battle for Damascus as an intense struggle between combat units of the Free Syrian Army and the security forces of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Also, he disputes the official version of the Damascus blast earlier this week. Abu Hadi is not the author’s real name. Please read his account below.
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Abu Hadi, Damascus
The fighting has increased after reports of the bombing of a meeting at the National Security Building in Damascus Wednesday and the purported deaths of Syrian Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha and Assad’s brother-in-law and security chief Assef Shawkat.
On the morning of the reported blast, something did happen in Damascus in an area called al Rowda, an area for Syrian officials that was surrounded by government security forces. No one could enter this area because of the tight security.
So what happened, around 10:30 a.m. that morning, we heard a big explosion. And around that time, maybe after another 20 to 30 minutes, we heard another explosion in that area. We could not recognize which area the explosions came from.
“Two months ago, we heard reports that Assef Shawkat had been killed, so we sent someone to investigate in his village in the north of Syria…” – activist Abu Hadi, Damascus
Around 11 a.m., we heard from the government-run Syria TV news that some of the top officials in a meeting in the al Rowda area were killed in that explosion.
Then, Syria 1 television described what happened. I saw on television an interview with the minister of information and culture telling lies about what was going on. He said that some countries have sent money and arms to the Syrian opposition and they are responsible for this terror attack.
We sent some people to the place where the explosion happened in al Rowda and where the meeting was supposedly held. We did not find any trace of explosions in that particular building. We found that around 200 or 300 meters to the west of that building there was from broken windshields and windows from surrounding houses, which means that the explosion did not occur in the [National Security] building, but elsewhere. This was a false story from the government.
We investigated through contacts inside the government and discovered that two of the officials reported dead - the minister of defense and his assistant, Assef Shawkat – in fact, had been dead for two months.
When someone dies, we normally do the burial ceremony in that person’s town or village. Two months ago, we heard reports that Assef Shawkat had been killed, so we sent someone to investigate in his village in the north of Syria. All of his relatives in the village were wearing black. This was a big sign that Shawkat was dead.
Other activists had gone to Defense Minister Rajha’s village two months ago and saw his grave. That’s how we know these two men had in fact been killed. It was an opportunity for the government to make us believe that they had been killed in this explosion.
The situation in Midan
After the reported explosion the government gave an order through public address system speakers that people should leave, that people should evacuate their houses. Ninety percent of Midan has been evacuated following the instructions given by the government, the soldiers.
We, as activists here in Midan, we did not leave; we decided to stay and face the fire, face everything. We have about 20 to 30 families in each building.
“I am in the middle of what is happening. I can hear. I can see the civilians carrying sticks and knives to protect themselves” – activist Abu Hadi
I’m in the middle of the fighting, but I am inside because there’s no light; there is also no water because the well is too hot (presumably the author means overheated). We use [a portable] battery to charge our mobile phones to talk to the media. We use satellite internet because the government has cut off everything else.
So we are facing difficult things, and I am in the middle of what is happening. I can hear. I can see the civilians carrying sticks and knives to protect themselves. Also, I can see the defectors from the army. They took on protecting civilians as their job actually.
An S.O.S. to the world
I just want to send a message to the world that we are human beings. We have done nothing to this government. What we called for is freedom and democracy and there is nothing wrong with that.
We will continue to fight the government.
We are going to push this president aside. We no longer want this type of government, and we are asking the world to intervene. Civilians are dying every day. Nobody seems to care. We call upon the Security Council, we call upon the United Nations to do something.
This is nonsense.
Social media posts about Midan
Christina Howerton is a junior reporter and intern at VOA. She is completing her Master’s in International Media at American University in Washington, DC. With interests in new media, international relations and the Middle East and a background in journalism, she works with VOA's Middle East Voices team to report on issues and events in the region.